Max Kepler made an impact with the Twins during his debut last season. But, can we believe in his success heading into 2017?
The Twins are quite the intriguing club. In years past, the team simply lacked talent, but the 2017 edition of the team will feature their fair share of fantasy assets. While he may not be their most valuable asset, Max Kepler should be of some considerable interest.
Kepler’s story has been well told, as the German native joined the Twins at only 17-years-old. He had a cup of coffee with the big league club in 2015, but last season served as his first true showing with the club. Over 113 games at the MLB level, he posted a .235/17 HR/63 RBI/6 SB/.734 OPS line.
All in all, a solid debut. The AVG is unsightly, but the power numbers were impressive for a guy that did not get consistent playing time until June. Once becoming a full-time starter in June, he would go on to post three consistent months of at least a .242 AVG/3 HR/15 RBI per month. He did struggle mightily in September, .207 AVG/1 HR, but fatigue had to be a factor.
Nonetheless, it was an impressive debut. His batted ball data leads to optimism as well. His 16% LD rate was pedestrian, but his 37% FB, 47% Med contact rate, and 33% Hard contact rates are solid. He definitely has some pop, so if he can lower his 47% GB rate, 25+ HR are easily on the table.
His 21% K rate and 9% BB are respectable and fall in line with what he showed in the minors. He posted an 80% contact rate in 2016, a solid number, but there is definitely room for him to develop there as well. The AVG woes last season stem from two places. One is his struggles against LHP, and the other were his Pull rate and GB Rate combined.
Kepler is not a slow guy by any means, but he is more of a glider. He only had a .261 BABIP, a well below clip for him. However, when you see a 47% GB rate combined with a 44% Pull rate, he was killing his AVG by rolling over right into the shift. With more LD and an uptick in his Oppo rate, which was only 20% in 2016, he should be able to creep back into the .260 AVG range next season.
The only real concern with his fantasy value are the struggles versus LHP. He only batted .203 against them in 2016, and it was the only thing that prevented him from really exploding. Fantasy owners can not expect a full rebound next season, but he has enough bat skill to at least raise it some moving forward.
His counting stats should be fine as well. Brian Dozier, Joe Mauer, Miguel Sano, and maybe even Byron Buxton, will all form a solid quartet of surrounding pieces. Therefore, helping solidify his RBI numbers, and help him maintain his run production.
Kepler has a few red flags, but the positives last season were truly encouraging. He is right on the verge of already being an OF3, but he should be comfortably targeted as an OF4 or starting UTIL player. Expect something around a .260/20-25 HR/80 RBI/10 SB type of line in 2017. Do not forget about him on draft day.