How the Minnesota Twins will improve before any offseason moves are made
By Nate Palmer
Max Kepler and Lefties
When the Twins signed Max Kepler out of Germany he was an extraordinary athlete who needed to be groomed as a baseball player. The more and more he got used to the game of baseball, the more his skills were raved about and the more he was celebrated as a baseball player, not just an athlete. Kepler didn’t fail to impress once he put on a Twins uniform. One potential weakness began to be exposed and found itself center stage in 2017, Kepler routinely struggled with hitting left-handers.
This offseason most of the baseball world (us here at Puckett’s Pond included) has assumed the Twins need to find a right-handed bat to platoon with Kepler and his outfield counterpart Eddie Rosario, but there was a glimmer of hope at the end of the 2017 season that Kepler may be able to hit lefties. Making that right-handed bat a lower priority than before.
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Kepler’s first real months of substantial major league at-bats were June and July of 2016. In both those months, he batted .229 and .267 respectively. Not batting title averages, but solid numbers especially in a minority scenario in baseball. The problem became from August 2016 through August 2017 when Kepler’s average stayed below .200 against left-handers. His performance against left-handers hit a low point in July when he only hit .067.
In September something began to happen differently as Kepler hit left-handers similarily to his start in the majors holding a .231 average for the rest of the season. To this point in Kepler’s career, we have 166 plate appearances in that bad stretch against lefties. Those three good months represent 100 plate appearances. If the good approach against southpaw opponents has returned then an improved Kepler keeps the Twins solid outfield trio together on a more everyday basis.
Next: Twins free agent profile: CC Sabathia
All that said, if the Twins do not follow through with some offseason additions the winter months will be considered a failure. What is encouraging about this Twins team is there is plenty of places the team should improve through natural progression.