|Max Kepler takes a swing Monday night in the|
When prospect watchers ranked the players in the Twins farm system last winter, Max Kepler was a consensus No. 10 -- one of many young, athletic outfielders in the system, albeit one with a fascinating back story (born and raised in Germany the son of two ballet dancers, one American, one Polish).
He showed up this spring with a wonky elbow, however, and he spent the first half of the season in extended spring training. He was cleared to play and assigned to Cedar Rapids about a week before Byron Buxton was moved up the ladder to Fort Myers.
Jim Crikket, the Knuckleballs blogger who is a regular at Kernels games, tells me that Kepler has been decidedly unimpressive as an outfielder. He's had bad breaks on balls, run poor routes, and his throwing has been so weak that Crikket suspects the elbow is still a problem.
Kepler played first base in the two games I've seen, and that may be his ultimate position. To play first, of course, he's got to hit. He was hitless both Sunday and Monday, but he hit at least three balls hard. He also faced two left-handed starters, and the left-handed Kepler hasn't a lot of experience against anybody, much less southpaws. Crikket says Kepler's numbers against lefties are poor, and off the at-bats I saw, I'll believe him.
Kepler has obvious athletic ability and showed good range at first, but he also committed an error Monday born of inexperience. He broke for a grounder the second baseman handled and then had trouble finding the base. I thought he still got the out, but the umpire ruled that he missed the bag. Whether the call was right or not, Kepler made it easy for the ump to rule against him. The misplay cost the Kernels a run.
Kepler's 0-fer Monday knocked his batting average under .250, and I rather expect at this point that he'll repeat the Midwest League next season. That's not ideal, especially since he repeated Elizabethton as well, but he always figured to be a late developer, considering how little baseball he got to play as a kid in Berlin.