Max Kepler was called up in June and took over the everyday right field role, displaying a surge in power (17 home runs, including a three-homer game) that he hadn't shown in the minors. His growth in power shouldn't be unexpected since he was just 23 years old and may have a delayed development cycle since he started playing baseball late in his native Germany. Kepler draws walks at a good clip, made strong contact in the minors and has some speed on the basepaths. He has some areas to improve as he struggled against left-handed pitching (.595 OPS), had more strikeouts initially in the majors than his minor league track record would suggest and wore down in the final month (.538 OPS in September). He also struggled at times in right field despite good reviews of his defense in the minors. However, he should be set as an everyday outfielder for the Twins and could improve rapidly in his first full season in the majors.
Kepler (finger) is scheduled to play in Monday's Grapefruit League game against the Blue Jays, LaVelle Neal of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Kepler was able to perform all baseball activities with no limitations, so the Twins appear confident that the pinkie injury he sustained Saturday isn't a concern. The Twins may opt to use him in the outfield right away rather than at DH, as Robbie Grossman exited Sunday's game against the Red Sox with groin tightness and could be sidelined for at least a few days.
Kepler (finger) underwent X-rays after exiting Saturday's game, but the scan came back negative and the Twins are considering him day-to-day, MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger reports. This is encouraging news for Kepler and the Twins' young outfield corps after he was removed following a diving catch against the Red Sox. Robbie Grossman, who replaced Kepler in the outfield Saturday, could draw a couple starts in the coming days if the Twins opt to keep Kepler on the bench for a few games.
Kepler was removed from Saturday's game for precautionary reasons after suffering an abrasion on his glove hand, Mike Berardino of The Pioneer Press reports. Robbie Grossman has come on to replace Kepler after the young outfielder appeared to injure his hand making a diving catch in Saturday's game. Fortunately, the decision to remove Kepler was precautionary, so there isn't major concern over his injury at this time. Still, it will be worth monitoring whether Kepler is back in the lineup for Sunday's matchup with the Red Sox.
Kepler went 0-for-3 in Monday's spring training game. Despite hitting just .125 (2-for-16) this spring, he has the confidence of manager Paul Molitor. "He's looked really good, overall, to me, He's really picking up on the details on defense. He has a more aggressive mind-set and is trusting his swing. So far, I think he's had a good camp," Molitor told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Kepler is expected to be the everyday right fielder after hitting 17 home runs in his first extended time in the majors last season. Kepler draws walks at a good clip, made strong contact in the minors and has some speed on the basepaths, but needs to improve against left-handed pitching (.595 OPS last year) and make fewer errors in the outfield.
Kepler (neck) is back in the lineup Saturday against the Mariners, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports. It was reported Thursday that Kepler was diagnosed with a mild neck strain. Given the nature of the injury, it seemed likely Kepler would need a couple days, but he will slot back in Saturday after missing just one start. Kepler was riding high there for a while but has crashed back to earth in September with a .182/.217/.212 batting line.