Last night the Twins’ Double-A affiliate, the Chattanooga Lookouts, won the Southern League championship, and within minutes of the game ending top outfield prospect and Southern League MVP Max Kepler was called up to Minnesota.
Kepler had a spectacular regular season, batting .322 with 54 extra-base hits and more walks (67) than strikeouts (63) in 112 games to lead the league in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage at age 22. And then he hit three home runs in the Southern League Championship Series.
Kepler is unlikely to see a lot of playing time down the stretch for the Twins because they already have a stud outfield prospect spending most of his time on the bench in Byron Buxton, as manager Paul Molitor has stuck with 40-year-old Torii Hunter as his near-everyday right fielder alongside Aaron Hicks in center field and Eddie Rosario in left field.
If nothing else Kepler gives Molitor a better late-inning pinch-hitting option than Danny Santana, the light-hitting shortstop who’s been getting too many high-leverage opportunities off the bench of late. And by the middle of next season the Twins will have a key decision to make regarding their long-term outfield alignment, as Kepler should be knocking on the door (or knocking down the door) to the majors to stay.