Monday, July 11, 2016

Contemplating Max Kepler

Kennys Vargas awaits Max Kepler (26) as Kepler
brings his grand slam home Sunday.
Max Kepler hit his eighth homer of his major league season Sunday. Considering that his minor league high is nine, and he's clubbed these eight four-baggers in less than 170 plate appearances, it's a logical question: What's going on here?

Some players arrive with an obvious shape to their futures. Kennys Vargas, for example -- you can look at him and know he is not destined to be a leadoff hitter or a shortstop. Some show up with a lot of possible templates and directions, and Kepler is one of them.

He's tall (listed at 6-feet-4). Right now he's slender (listed at 205), but you can imagine him bulking up. He is graceful and athletic, as one might expect from the son of two high-level ballet dancers (his mother is from Texas, his father from Poland, and they met and married while dancing in Berlin). And, because Kepler was raised in Germany, he wasn't exposed to a high level of baseball until the Twins signed him -- in the same summer as Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco -- and he came to the United States.

I'm not sure Kepler really has a right fielder's throwing arm, and I'm quite sure he's not going to dislodge Byron Buxton from center field. He's had some elbow issues in the past, and if they flare up again he might wind up at first base. But there's a wide range of defensive positions that could be in his future: Center if Buxton fails, right field (his current spot), left field, first base if his arm fails.

As a hitter, who knows? This power outburst may be sustainable even though he's never hit like this before. He's just 23 and he was starting from a low baseline of experience. His breakout minor league season last year in Chattanooga (Double A) featured a high average with gap power; this year that gap power is translating into over-the-fence power, but he hasn't hit for the impressive average.

It isn't easy to discern his template, but it also isn't necessary. He'll develop that, and we'll just get to enjoy it.

1 comment:

  1. It will be great if he does not start to overthink his success.