Scouting report debunked: Twins’ Kepler raking against LHP

Max Kepler has a .357 batting average this season against left-handed pitchers.

Max Kepler wasn’t supposed to be able to hit left-handed pitchers.

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That was the scouting report on the Minnesota Twins’ 25-year-old outfielder heading into 2018, anyway.

Kepler was coming off a solid 2017 campaign in which he hammered a career-best 19 homers and a .243/.312/.425 slash line, but the numbers were deflated by a dismal .152 average against southpaws.

It didn’t take long to turn around that storyline this spring.

In 31 plate appearances vs. lefties this season, Kepler has compiled 10 hits — four doubles and two homers — as well as three walks and five RBI. That’s good for a .357 batting average, debunking his greatest weakness as a big-league hitter.

It’s a trend that’s followed him around his entire professional career. Kepler struggled against lefties in Single-A ball (.117 average) in 2013 before lifting it to .318 in Double-A two years later.

YEAR LEVEL AB AVG OBP SLG
2013 Single-A 60 .117 .232 .133
2014 Single-A (advanced) 77 .273 .301 .390
2015 Double-A 88 .318 .392 .477
2016 MLB 118 .203 .273 .322
2017 MLB 125 .152 .213 .240
2018 MLB 28 .357 .419 .714

Kepler has contributed to the Twins’ .266 average as a team against lefties, which is much improved from their .239 average against right-handers. That’s a +.027 difference between the two splits, the biggest gap in MLB.

NOTABLE

— Angel Stadium is yielding the most combined home runs per game this season (3.12). The Twins and Angels combined to hit five Thursday night.

Lance Lynn is averaging 10 strikeouts per nine innings, his highest mark since he had a 10.4 K/9 as a rookie in 2011.

Joe Mauer has swung at the first pitch just three times this season — in other words, 2.2 percent of his plate appearances.

–Twenty-seven of Minnesota’s 39 homers this season have come with the bases empty.

Statistics courtesy STATS, baseball-reference.com