Is it Finally Time for Max Kepler?

A .226/.315/.410 line isn’t much of a reason to get excited about a fantasy outfielder. Neither is 12 HR, 38 RBI, 46 R and 3 SB through 95 games. Hard as it is to trust a player who has delivered subpar numbers for over half the fantasy season, we have to remember that all that matters is what will occur in the games to come. Those who trusted in the underlying metrics that showed that Matt Carpenter was making much better contact than his early season numbers suggested have been rewarded beyond their wildest dreams in the last month.

For those in 12 team mixed leagues and any dynasty format I would like to suggest taking a good look at some of the numbers behind our mystery dud of an outfielder, Max Kepler. The young fellow from Germany has been a topic of discussion in fantasy for several years now, but has yet to put together a season to satisfy those who see greatness in his smooth lefty swing (on the plus side he hasn’t been nearly as maddening to own as fellow Twins outfielder Byron Buxton). However, there is reason to believe that Maximillian is growing as a hitter.

Kepler fits in well in the age of the free swinger with 93 and 114 whiffs in the last two seasons respectively with 59 already notched this year. However, his K% has dropped noticeably from 20.1% in 2017 to 15.6% in 2018. Perhaps this is a fluke, but combined with an improvement in BB% from 8.3% in 2017 to 11.6% in 2018 it sure seems like he has made some strides in plate discipline.

Further, when Max makes contact he is hitting the ball harder. His hard contact rate has jumped from 32.9% to 38.5%. He’s also getting the ball in the air more (perhaps tired of grounding out into the shift) bumping his fly-ball rate from 39.5% to 45.1% this season.

Even though he has two full years of big league experience Kepler is still relatively young (he turned 25 in February) which makes it easy to believe that true change is occurring here. I can’t say that this is a sure thing because I have been excited about Kepler before, but when a player starts making more contact, taking more walks and hitting the ball with more authority it’s hard not to wonder if we are seeing the start of a breakout. Especially, when we take into account career lows in BABIP (.240) and HR/FB% (9.7%) this season. If you have the opportunity for a stash or need to mix things up you could do worse than rolling the dice on Kepler.

Jake Blodgett

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Like most of you I am addicted to fantasy baseball. Since I spend most of my time talking about it, I figured I would write some of my thoughts down. I am a shameless promoter of Mike Trout and an even more shameless Shohei Ohtani apologist.