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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP STATUS REPORT: MAX KEPLER

When you make the WRAPUP your daily home, it is time you get your own feature.  Such has been the case for 22-year-old Minnesota Twins rookie outfielder Max Kepler who has gone nuclear with his bat since becoming an everyday player at the beginning of June.  Kepler is a very interesting background guy as he is from Germany and went undrafted.  However last we saw Kepler, he was hitting his fourth home run in two days Tuesday night off Cleveland Indians ace Carlos Carrasco.  Heading into Wednesday's action, Kepler is arguably the most locked-in hitter in the game right now as he sits with a .259 average, 46 RBI, and 15 home runs in only 205 at-bats.  The power obviously jumps out as Kepler is on a pace to approach 40 with 550 at-bats and needless to say, nobody could have seen this coming as Kepler hit just ONE!!! home run in 128 at-bats at Triple-A before the Twins called him up in June and even in 2015 at Double-A, he hit 9 in just 482 at-bats.  So needless to say, the power is literally out of the blue with the kid.  So how could Kepler go all Babe Ruth in the majors and Denard Span in the minors?  A few things are at work.

The first and most overlooked is the unfamiliarity aspect of Kepler being a virtually unknown hitter coming out of the minors who pitchers have no clue on in terms of holes in his swing and how to approach him when he is in the batter's box.  We see this constantly and every season with young guys.  Eventually pitchers get enough video on a hitter to exploit and that is when the problems arise for the kids.  Remember Jeremy Hazelbaker at the start of the season?  Or Tommy Joseph in Philly right now after he too was a mediocre power guy on the farm?  Exactly.  This is what Kepler is going through now and while he no doubt has power, his profile suggests more 20-25 guy then 30-plus.

As far as the rest of the package is concerned, Kepler has a shaky .259 average but an unlucky .264 BABIP has held him back there.  Figure on some counterbalancing happening when the luck turns with the BABIP.  Yes the average will go up but it also will be hurt by pitchers getting a better read on his weaknesses.  What Kepler does do that is impressive for a young kid is walk a lot as his 11.1 BB/9 mark could attest.  Again that helps the batting average which will offset some of the pitcher advantages that will arrive.

Finally, Kepler has some speed as he has swiped 3 bags with the Twins and went for 18 at Double-A a year ago.  We are not saying Kepler is Scott Podsednik (always looking to reference PODS) but he can be Josh Reddick with 10-12.  In fact Reddick is a great comparison altogether as the new Dodgers outfielder is a decent but not great average guy who can hit 20-plus home runs and gather a few steals.  Very useful player but just in the outfielder 3 sense.

 

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