Perhaps one of the most interesting prospects in the Minnesota Twins‘ minor league system is German-born outfielder, Max Kepler. The son of two professional ballet dancers, Kepler learned baseball at the JFK American school in Berlin. After turning down a scholarship to a tennis academy, Kepler excelled in baseball. The Twins have referred to the 6′ 4″ 220 pound German as the ‘toolsiest kid we’ve ever seen in Europe.’
The Twins signed Kepler when he was only 17 years-old. The contract included an $800,000 signing bonus–the highest ever given to a European born player. Kepler promptly moved to the United States and began playing rookie ball as a 17 year-old. His first two years of minor league ball were lackluster. Through Kepler’s first 87 games, he only went deep once while knocking in 35 runs. Although his batting average hovered in the respectable high .200s, the adjective ‘tooly’ didn’t come to mind.
But let’s not forget, while Americans Kepler’s age were raking high-school pitching, the 17 year-old German moved to a new country and was playing against professionals. In his third year of Minor League ball, Kepler appeared to turn a corner. The outfielder hit .297 with 10 bombs and 49 RBI. Perhaps most promisingly, he walked 27 times and struck out only 33 times in 269 plate appearances–a stark contrast from the 23 walks and 54 whiffs he had the year before in only 221 plate appearances.
Hopefully Kepler will continue to improve as a minor league ball player. He certainly has a lot of upside. At 19, he can move at his own pace through the minor league system and has the frame to be a big-leaguer someday. Kepler will start 2013 in the Twins’ A Cedar Rapids. He may not be patrolling Target Field’s outfield anytime soon but Max Kepler is a name that Twins fans should remember.