StaTuesday: Twins’ Kepler tops prospects list

Minnesota Twins outfielder Max Kepler is one of the top prospects in baseball according to Fangraphs' KATOH rankings.

Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Twins prospect Max Kepler may not have made much of an impact during his brief MLB debut last season, registering just one hit in seven place appearances, but according to at least one analyst he’s going to be turning heads in Minnesota sooner rather than later.

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Fangraphs analyst Chris Mitchell released his top 100 prospects list on Monday, calculated via his KATOH projection system, and the results were promising for Kepler fans.

The system ranks players who racked up at least 300 plate appearances or batters faced in 2015 and bases it on their projected WAR (wins above replacement) rating through age 28.

The 22-year-old was good — very good — in the minors last season, batting .322 in 112 games with Double-A Chatanooga while racking up 18 steals on 22 attempts, before earning his shot with the big club during the final two weeks of the season.

Kepler’s big season was enough to earn him top marks courtesy of KATOH, as the big-bodied German checked in at No. 1 per Mitchell’s system, with a WAR through 28 rating of 19.6.

And he isn’t alone.

While the Twins may have been beaten in the AL Central last season, they’re winning the arms race down on the farm, placing four players in the top 100, while Kansas City managed three, Cleveland and Chicago White Sox checked in with two and Detroit had just one.

Pitching prospect Jose Berrios slotted in at No. 18 after posting a 2.62 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 12 starts for Triple-A Rochester last season, followed by outfielder Byron Buxton at No. 47, shortstop Nick Gordon at No. 82 and infielder Jorge Polanco at No. 89.

The most familiar face on the list for Twins fans, Buxton was overshadowed by fellow rookie Miguel Sano last season after posting a .209 batting average and just 16 runs through 46 games.

Meanwhile, Minnesota fans were clamoring for Berrios’ debut just a few months ago after watching the 21-year-old excel in the minors, but Twins manager Terry Ryan opted to let Berrios finish out the season in Triple-A instead.