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Top 15 Prospects - #15: Max Kepler | December

Max Kepler
(courtesy spox.com)

15. Max Kepler, OF, 17 years old

2010 stats: .286/.346/.343, 153 PA, 0 HR, 27/13 K/BB at GCL Twins (Rookie)
Last year’s rank: N/A
Acquired: Signed out of Germany in July 2009 for $800,000

After the publishing of 'Moneyball,' the advantage small-market teams gained by placing emphasis on on-base average has slowly decreased. Though the Twins are no longer surviving on small-market resources, they are joining the hunt for the next comparative advantage. It seems they've found it. Over the past couple of years, the Twins have done a phenomenal job of being active on the international market.

Minnesota won the rights to Japanese star Tsuyoshi Nishioka a few weeks ago, the latest in a string of moves that display their international scouting net, which appears to be increasing in size every day. Max Kepler-Rozycki is a young, athletic outfielder the Twins signed out of Germany last summer. While almost nothing is known about him, Kepler does have the raw athleticism Minnesota loves.

Scouts see all five tools in Kepler (power, hitting, throwing, fielding, and running) and think he could be an All-Star outfielder some day. Kepler is still just 17 years old, though, and has a long road to travel before he can even think about becoming the first German amateur to reach MLB.

Last year, Kepler saw far better pitching in the Gulf Coast League than he saw across the Atlantic Ocean. Kepler made good contact against opposing pitchers, and got on base at a great clip, but his power has yet to develop. Of course, Kepler just finished high school and is sure to fill out some as he grows in stature and maturity over the next few years.

Ideal scenario: Kepler will spend the ’11 season in Fort Myers, Florida. He'll receive plenty of individual coaching in extended Spring Training, and will play in the Gulf Coast League once again. If the Twins are feeling especially gutsy, Kepler could see time with the Elizabethton Twins, a team that is usually filled with recently-drafted college draft picks. It will certainly be a challenging step for the young outfielder, and this trial by fire will reveal the strengths and flaw of Kepler's game.

Path to the majors: Like any player with a legitimate claim to all five tools, Kepler has a very high ceiling. He has an extremely long way to go before any projections or comparables can be given, but there is a very real chance Kepler could be a regular in a major-league outfield in a few years.