MAX Maximillian KEPLER
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Nickname:   N/A Position:   OF
Home: N/A Team:   TWINS
Height: 6' 4" Bats:   L
Weight: 220 Throws:   L
DOB: 2/10/1993 Agent: Paul Cobbe of Sosnick-Cobbe Sports
Uniform #: 26  
Birth City: Berlin, Germany
Draft: 2009 - Twins - Free agent - Out of Germany
YR LEA TEAM SAL(K) G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO OBP SLG AVG
2010 GCL GCL-Twins     140 15 40 6 1 0 11 6 1 13 27 .346 .343 .286
2011 APP ELIZABETHTON   50 191 29 50 11 3 1 24 1 1 23 54 .347 .366 .262
2012 APP ELIZABETHTON   59 232 40 69 16 5 10 49 7 0 27 33 .387 .539 .297
2014 FSL FORT MYERS   102 364 53 96 20 6 5 59 6 2 34 62 .333 .393 .264
2015 SL CHATTANOOGA   112 407 76 131 32 13 9 71 18 4 67 63 .416 .531 .322
2015 FSL FORT MYERS   6 24 4 6 2 0 0 0 1 0 2 5 .308 .333 .250
2015 AL TWINS   3 7 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .143 .143 .143
2016 AL TWINS   113 396 52 93 20 2 17 63 6 2 42 93 .309 .424 .235
2016 IL ROCHESTER   30 110 16 31 4 6 1 19 1 1 16 14 .367 .455 .282
2017 AL TWINS $547.00 147 511 67 124 32 2 19 69 6 1 47 114 .312 .425 .243
2018 AL TWINS $588.00 156 532 80 119 30 4 20 58 4 5 71 96 .319 .408 .224
2019 AL TWINS $6,200.00 134 524 98 132 32 0 36 90 1 5 60 99 .336 .519 .252
Personal
  • Kepler is from Berlin, the son of ballet dancers. His father is Polish and his mother is American. Scouts refer to Max as being graceful and he has the smooth graceful actions of a ballet dancer. He is a very athletic, very coordinated big man.

    Kepler's mother is from San Antonio. She joined the Berlin ballet in 1984, where she met her husband, ballet dancer and amateur soccer player Marek Rozycki, a native of Poland.

  • "My mom really got me into baseball," said Kepler, who was once offered a scholarship to the Steffi Graf Tennis Foundation. "She was putting me in all kinds of sports to see what I would like. I played baseball for a public team and had a great coach. I had great coaches with every team I played for in Germany." 

    His mother is from Texas and his father defected from Poland to Germany. Professional ballet dancers, they met while performing with the same company in Berlin. Kepler, obviously, comes by some of his athletic ability naturally. It was also passed on to his younger sister, formerly a top German golfer.  

    Neither was pushed to the ballet, for obvious reasons in the son's case.  "I was six-feet as an early teen," he said. "That's too tall for the ballet."  

    Kepler, now 6-feet-4, was introduced to baseball at age 6 while attending the John F. Kennedy American School in Berlin and played Little League before becoming part of Germany's national team at 14.  

    Soccer was his No. 1 team sport, though, and at first he didn't know what to think when he was first approached by the Twins. In fact, he didn't even really know what a scout was. Kepler, though, decided to put soccer and Germany behind him, heading to the country of his mother's birth, which he hardly knew.  

    "I don't think I realized how many had the dream of baseball in the United States and that I would just be one of so many," he said.  

  • Kepler attended a private school and training at an academy in Regensburg, Germany. After signing with the Twins at age 16, he moved to the United States and began his junior year at South Fort Myers High School in Florida, which is across the street from the Twins' training facility there.

    "I didn’t really spread the word that I played pro baseball,” Kepler said about his time in high school, “but it got out and I just kept it on the low because I didn’t want to cause a scene or anything. I just wanted to go there and finish school, and then go across the street and play baseball. But it was a good experience. American schools are a lot different than German schools, and it was fun.”

    In 2009 and 2010, Max spent 16 months earning his high school diploma, getting his driver's license, adapting to a foreign country—and learning baseball from the Twins.

  • In 2010, Baseball America rated Kepler as the 10th-best prospect in the Twins' organization. And he was at #11 in the winter before 2011 spring training. They had Max at #20 in the offseason before 2012 spring camps opened. And he moved back up, coming in at #8 in the winter before 2013 spring training.

    They had Max at #11 in the spring of 2014, and at #12 a year later in 2015. But Kepler worked his way all the way up to third-best Twins prospect in the offseason before 2016 spring training.

  • Kepler is the second German-raised Major Leaguer. The first was outfielder Donald Lutz, who was born in New York but moved to Germany at age 1. He made his big league debut with the Reds in 2013. (ESPN.com - 4/19/16)

  • Max is fluent in three languages.

  • In 2012, Kepler played for Germany in the World Baseball Classic Qualifier in Germany.

  • In 2012, Max led the Appalachian League in slugging (.539) and total bases (125) while ranking second in extra-base hits (31) and RBIs (49).

  • In 2015, Kepler led the Southern League in on-base percentage (.416) and slugging (.531) and ranked second in the batting race (.322) and with 54 extra-base hits. One scout said Kepler was the most big league-ready prospect in the league. He was the MVP of the SL in 2015.

  • Max's parents and sister come to the U.S. each summer to see him play, and he gets back to Germany for a month at Christmas.

    "It's good to go back home, but this is where I belong now," he said midway through the 2015 season. "I still have a lot to learn. I want to soak in everything I'm told and continue to get better so I can make the Major Leagues. That became my dream when I signed with the Twins."

  •  In 2015, Kepler was chosen to represent the Twins in the All-Star Futures Game.

  • MLB debut - September 27, 2015: After the very last game of his first season as Twins manager, Paul Molitor realized he had forgotten something.

    Young right fielder Max Kepler had stroked the first hit of his Major League career in the third inning of an otherwise forgettable loss to the Royals, so Molitor headed back into the home clubhouse at Target Field to commemorate the achievement.

    Clutching a baseball in his right hand, a smiling Molitor worked his way toward Kepler’s locker and made the presentation with a full contingent of media in the room. The 22-year-old rookie struggled to hold back his emotions as he gave a short speech to thank his teammates, even the ones that had forced him to sing Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” for the group.

    “It’s an honor to have a ball handed to you by Paul Molitor,” Kepler said later. “I’ll remember this day forever.”

    Not only did Kepler, son of Polish and American ballet dancers, become the first player born and raised in Germany to record a hit in the Major Leagues, he did so by ripping a full-count slider from Johnny Cueto.

    "He looks like he belongs,” Molitor said after watching Kepler during his 12-day call-up. “He’s just got that presence." (Mike Berardino - Baseball America - 1/15/2016)

  • Don't tell Mr. October. His ego hardly needs the help.

    However, something seemed to click for the Twins rookie Max Kepler after he received a brief tutorial from Reggie Jackson before a June 25, 2016 game at Yankee Stadium. Kepler's hitting explosion then produced 12 homers, 32 RBI's and a .649 slugging percentage in the next 31 games after he met Reggie. The message was about using batting practice to spray the ball around the field rather than seeing how far you can hit the ball to the pull side.

    "I'm 70 years old and I can do that," Jackson famously barked. "Let me see you go the other way."

    In his 31 games (and 89 at-bats) in 2016, prior to that summit, Kepler slugged just .416 with 2 homers and 12 RBI's. Any connection?

    "It enlightened me to work on different stuff in BP which could translate over into the games," Kepler said. "It's not like every day I remind myself what Reggie said, but I have a plan now." (Mike Beradino - St.Paul Pioneer Press - August 2, 2016)

  • March 2017: A German camera crew flew to Fort Myers, Florida to document Kepler as an Major League star in the making.

  • Max's youth coach said, "When I coached Max from a young age, I would put him in competitive environments, doesn’t matter what sport. I put him in a race against two track girls who ran 400 meters. They were 16, he was 12, and we did a training regimen called the running pyramid where you run one minute, take a minute break, run two minutes, take a minute break, and we were all four doing it together.

    And when the pyramid was going down? I was 28, and I was like, ‘I’m dying, I can’t do this anymore.’ And the girls were cruising. And Max was cruising alongside with me and I’m like, ‘Alright, I’m gonna see how competitive this kid is.’ And out of the blue I say, ‘Max, if you beat those two girls–who were already ahead of us, like 300 meters–‘If you beat those girls, I’ll give you my Roger Clemens rookie card.’ And the minute starts, and he takes off, beats them by a mile.” (Reuben Walker - The Hardball Times - March 19, 2019)

  • May 12, 2019: When Kepler was signed by the Twins and moved from Germany to Fort Myers, Fla., at age 17, his mother, Kathy, came across the Atlantic with him and remained in the United States until the young outfielder graduated from South Fort Myers High School. Kathy Kepler, a former ballet dancer, cooked and cleaned for Max and drove him around while he completed his studies and adjusted to life in the United States.

    "She sacrificed plenty of time where she could be doing other things to bring me to soccer practice, baseball practice, to go out of her way to make time for her children, which I think every mother should do," Kepler said. "I owe her big-time."

    Kathy Kepler lives in Germany again, but tries to fly out to the United States once or twice a year.

    "I wish they were closer," Max Kepler said. "I've been out of the house since I was 14, so I'm used to it. But parents are a big necessity in the upbringing of young people." (DH Park - MLB.com - May 12, 2019)

  • August 16, 2019:  Max’s fourth-inning blast may have come in the American heartland of Texas, but it wrote him into the international record books. Kepler’s 33 homers in 2019 set the single-season Major League record for most homers by a European-born player.

    With the two-run shot against Rangers left-hander Mike Minor, the German-born Kepler broke the record that belonged to Scotland native Bobby Thomson, who clubbed 32 homers for the New York Giants in 1951. You might have heard of Thomson’s final blast that season, the famous “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” against the Brooklyn Dodgers on Oct. 3, 1951, that clinched the National League pennant.  (Park - mlb.com)

  • Kepler's full name is actually Maximilian Kepler-Rozycki. It was the last name of his Polish father, Marek Rozycki. When he first came to the United States and began his baseball career, he considered using the hyphenated last name but stuck with only Kepler, his mother's name.

    TRANSACTIONS

  • July 2009: Kepler signed for $800,000 with the Twins, at age 16, as a free agent. Several scouts said Max was the best European prospect to come along in years. Max was signed by scouts Glen Godwin, Andy Johnson and Howard Norsetter. (Andy Johnson has known Max since he was 14 years old.)

    He was at a tournament in Germany when Kepler caught his eye. Kepler’s bonus could be the highest for a position player in European history—$775,000. Max has a San Francisco-based agent, Paul Cobbe of Sosnick-Cobbe Sports.

  • January 11, 2019: Max and the Twins avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year deal for $3.1 million.
Batting
  • Kepler has the tools to go far—all five tools.

  • Max has very good lefthanded power, especially to the gaps, and a sound, beautiful stroke. It is an easy, compact swing with terrific bat speed and strength. He has some loft in his swing.

    He has solid swing mechanics and a mature approach by using the whole field, staying back on breaking balls and rarely going outside his strike zone. He's balanced at the plate. And he has a knack for barreling the ball.

    Kepler has such a simple lefthanded swing, simply marvelous.

  • But lefthanded pitching gives him trouble.

  • He has good hand/eye coordination and strike-zone awareness. He doesn't have any problem working a pitcher deep into counts. He has a very good two-strike approach along with impressive pitch recognition. And Kepler has learned to do damage early in the count.

    He has a balanced swing with the ability to drive the ball to any part of the ballpark. His swing reminds people of former Diamondback Luis Gonzalez.

  • 2015 Improvements: Offensively, 2015 was different for Kepler. He has gotten more athletic, more aggressive with his swing, and Chattanooga’s hitting coach, former Twin Chad Allen, says that is no accident.

    “We made him do that,” Allen said referring to Kepler’s remodeled swing with a newly incorporated leg kick. There was an emphasis placed on getting him to drive the ball to the pull side without selling out. Increasing his power but without sacrificing his contact abilities.

    Kepler’s swing has come leaps and bounds since his days honing the craft in Berlin. At 16 years old, his mechanics were a crude iteration of what a baseball swing should be. His body lurched out over his front foot to get to the ball. The Twins worked hard to get him to stay back and wait for the ball to come to him. That resulted in a swing like the one he displayed while with the 2013 Glendale Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League, as seen below. Kepler would use the toe-tap method while keeping his weight back. The current version is one with an aggressive lower-half that is seeking to drive ball rather than just meet it.

    If you watch the progression, Kepler develops from a toolsy hack into an athletic and collected power hitter over the course of five years. He developed a better sense of when to pull the ball and when to go the other way working with hitting coach Chad Allen, and his strike-zone judgment and pitch recognition helped him make the adjustment.

  • Max has impressive strike-zone awareness and superb pitch recognition. In 2015, he walked (67) more than he struck out (63). That is impressive.

    "Just being more confident made me see the ball better. Mechanically, I worked on a leg kick. Every day I came out with the same mindset: ‘Just stay positive.’ Even if I went 0-for-4 or 0-for-6, I just came back every day, ready to work.”

  • Kepler isn’t subject to the same platoon-split issues that plague most lefthanded batters because he can shorten his swing with two strikes and take the ball to left field. He backspins the ball well. And in 2015, Chattanooga hitting coach Chad Allen taught him to pull the ball correctly, so he might develop more home run power.

  • June 12, 2016: Kepler became the fourth player in Twins history to have his first career homer come as a walk-off blast.

  • August 1, 2016: Coming up as one of the Twins' top prospects, one of the only concerns about Max was how much power he'd produce in the Majors. Kepler has put that to rest during his breakout rookie season of 2016, and it was especially evident as he hit three homers and drove in six runs in a 12-5 win over the Indians at Progressive Field.  

    Kepler had two chances to hit a fourth homer, but he grounded out to first against Andrew Miller in the eighth and singled off reliever Zach McAllister in the ninth.  

    It still marked the fifth three-homer game in Twins history, and the first since Justin Morneau hit three blasts against the White Sox on July 6, 2007. The other Twins to accomplish the feat are Bob Allison (1963), Harmon Killebrew (1963), and Tony Oliva (1973).  "It's definitely an honor to be added to that list," Kepler said. "Those guys are almost legend status."  

    "I'm not a home run hitter, so it's rare," Kepler said. "I'm just trying to hit singles. I'm just trying to put the ball in play and hit it hard. I'm thankful for the backspin I was blessed with." (Bollinger - MLB.com)

  • March 29, 2019: Does Max Kepler know his walk rate saw a noticeable increase last year, or that he took called third strikes on 37.5 percent of his strikeouts in 2018, the highest mark among the Twins' returning hitters? Did the latter educate his stated desire to be more aggressive earlier in counts this season?

    "No, I wasn't aware of that," Kepler said. "Thanks for making me aware. "I'm a simple guy. I'm not a very analytical person."

    Kepler says he doesn't pay any attention to numbers like that to guide his development. ("I'm just trying to go up there, see the ball and hit it.") But those underlying metrics do tell the story of a hitter whose plate approach and quality of at-bats have improved through his three seasons in the Major Leagues. Though the 26-year-old outfielder's counting stats haven't improved much in the past three years, the Twins are confident that those stats, too, will follow this season as he continues to mature as a hitter.

    "As a player, you can't control where the ball goes," hitting coach James Rowson said. "You can control how hard you hit it, are you swinging at strikes and are you taking balls? If he's doing those things, chances are he's going to have a pretty good year this year. "I think if you continue to do those things over time, you're going to have those breakout seasons and you're going to have those years that are far better than years that are not.

    Kepler's line didn't advance much in 2018, settling at .224/.319/.408, but the Statcast data shows he swung at more strikes than ever, chased fewer balls than ever and hit the ball harder than ever—and more frequently—last season. Rowson also cites Kepler's low BABIP of .236 last season as an indication that Kepler could have been unlucky with his balls in play.

    The Twins are confident in Kepler's ability to hit the ball hard—and he just wants to put himself in a position to do so more often this year. He has always been confident in his knowledge of the strike zone, but he said that he has gotten frustrated by watching hittable pitches go by early in counts. He specifically hopes to attack first-pitch strikes more often while maintaining his disciplined eye at the plate later in counts.

    "I think mixing the being aggressive part and also swinging at strikes, and being choosy with what I want to swing at, is the combination I'm going for," Kepler said. "It sounds like complete opposites because you want to be patient and aggressive at the same time, but that's putting together a good at-bat and swinging at pitches that you've planned on hitting, and that you're in control of hitting." 

  • The other promising step forward for Kepler was in how he handled lefthanded pitching in 2018. He posted a career-best .745 OPS with five homers in 167 plate appearances against southpaws. The previous two season, he had a .520 OPS in 271 plate appearances against lefties. According to Kepler, the reason for the improvement was simple: He was just getting more consistent chances. As he pointed out, he hadn't been a bad hitter against lefties in the minors—as attested to by his 1.027 OPS in Triple-A and .869 OPS in Double-A. And he benefited from expanded opportunities in the Majors.

    "If you see lefties regularly, you're going to hit them fine," Kepler said. "Years before, I didn't get to play as much against lefties, so it's harder to see."

    Rowson acknowledged the buzz that had existed surrounding Kepler's perceived struggles against left-handed pitching, but credited the young outfielder for shrugging that off and continuing to reinforce his efforts to get those results back to where they had been in the past.

    "He did a lot of work with lefthanded machine hitting, working off, just focusing on getting better in that aspect of his game," Rowson said. "I don't think he ever bought into the fact that he wasn't good at it. I think he knew he was good at it, but he just wanted to continue to work at it. And last year, it paid off."

    As a whole, the final piece to the puzzle is simply that Kepler is getting more at-bats under his belt at the Major League level. He's starting to see some of the pitchers in the division and around the league more times, he's adjusting his preparation accordingly, and he's learning what information—from coaches, scouting reports and otherwise—best helps him and what doesn't.

    "Young kid growing up in Germany, not playing a lot of baseball," chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said. "Very different level of plate appearance history compared to the kid in Southern California or Texas or Florida, so I think his maturation as a hitter is coming maybe a little later than some other kids. "I don't think he's the hitter he's going to be yet." (D H Park - MLB.com - March 29, 2019)  

  • July 13, 2019: Kepler’s homers in five consecutive at-bats against Bauer matched the longest streak by any batter off a single pitcher in the Expansion Era (since 1961), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Carlos Delgado hit five straight against Jorge Sosa from 2003-2004, while Frank Howard also accomplished the feat against Bob Hendley from 1963-1964.

    Kepler is the only player to hit all five consecutive homers in a single season.

  • Aug 17, 2019: Max Kepler’s fourth-inning blast may have come in the American heartland of Texas, but it wrote him into the international record books. Kepler’s 33 homers in 2019 set the single-season Major League record for most homers by a player born in Europe.

    "I'm super honored," Kepler said. "It's special. I would have never even dreamt of getting to this level a couple of years before. And to be doing this, it's living the dream."

    With a two-run shot against Rangers left-hander Mike Minor, the German-born Kepler broke the record that belonged to Scotland native Bobby Thomson, who clubbed 32 homers for the New York Giants in 1951. You might have heard of Thomson’s final blast that season, the famous “Shot Heard ’Round the World” against the Brooklyn Dodgers on Oct. 3, 1951, that clinched the National League pennant.

    Kepler actually hadn't.

    "No, I hadn't before last night," he said. "Had you guys heard of him before last night?"

  • As of the start of the 2020 season, Max's career Major League stats were: .238 batting average, 92 home runs and 469 hits with 280 RBI in 1,970 at-bats.
Fielding
  • Max has fast-twitch athleticism and graceful actions in the field. He does everything easily, gliding to balls in the outfield. That ease of motion comes naturally and gracefully, like his parents have from ballet.

  • He profiles well in left field. His arm is not strong enough to play well in right field. But his throws are accurate.
  • He also can play center field, the best spot for him.

    "He's a gifted athlete,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “He runs better than average. Max is probably faster than most people think he is. He’s a big kid. His body certainly has had tremendous development in the last 18 months or so. Twins player-development people say he’s adapting to learning the nuances of center field compared to the corners.”

  • Max has very fluid, very graceful movements around the first base bag. And he has the soft hands for the position.

    "Kepler's good defensively, he's good offensively, he's the real deal," said Twins' pitcher Tommy Milone during 2016 Spring Training. "It's exciting for young guys like that to get the opportunity up here and show what they can do." 

Running
  • Max runs well for a big man, possessing about average speed.
  • Max steals a few bases a year but gets caught too much. (2019)
Career Injury Report
  • April–June 20, 2013: Kepler needed nearly three months to heal from a strained throwing elbow injury. And he never really felt right all season.
  • July 22-29, 2014: Kepler was on the D.L.

  • July 9-16, 2015: Max was on the D.L. with a sore left shoulder. When he came off the D.L., he played more first base than outfield.

  • May 2016: Kepler was on the D.L. most of the month.

  • June 25, 2019: Max was removed after he was hit by a pitch in the right elbow area. Kepler sustained a right elbow contusion. X-rays were negative, and Kepler will have an MRI, manager Rocco Baldelli said.

    “He’s got some swelling, but it looks like we’re going to be OK,” Baldelli said. “It’s in a spot that probably maybe looks a little worse than it is. Obviously, he’s going to be uncomfortable for a little while and have to work through this, but the initial testing came back with nothing overly serious.”

  • Sept 24, 2019: Max Kepler participated in a successful pregame workout on the field, including fielding and batting practice, and he said that his plan is to return to the lineup no later than the beginning of a possible postseason series. Kepler, who also hit against a velocity machine, said he has been feeling good about his progress over the past several days and is feeling better about the status of the rhomboid strain in his left shoulder area.

    "We say this all the time, but you can tell by a guy’s demeanor and what he wants to do when he shows up to the field as kind of a telling sign of where he’s at," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "Kep’s feeling better. You can tell by what he’s been doing over the last few days, but hopefully we can keep ramping it up."

    Kepler is also focused on making sure he doesn't rush and hit a setback in his recovery. He last hit in the Twins' Sept. 14 doubleheader against Cleveland.