What could the Minnesota Twins lineup look like in 2018?

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 08: Brian Dozier /
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6. RF Max Kepler

Thus far, the biggest surprise may be replacing Byron Buxton for Brian Dozier in the leadoff spot, but the no. 6 spot was the toughest decision for me. In reality, someone like Jorge Polanco deserves to be in this spot after a late-season surge. As matter of fact, consider him the top candidate to hit here when Max Kepler faces left-handed pitching. Not to mention, replace Mauer in the two hole if need be.

That being said, Kepler is indeed the man here and it’s due to the fact that he has the potential to be a mainstay in the middle of the Twins lineup for the foreseeable future. While the German right fielder hasn’t exactly lit up the world in large stints with Minnesota over the last two years, he’s shown the potential to be a star player.

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Basically, he does a lot of things you like in a 24-year-old player. First and foremost, he is a fantastic right fielder. Yet, what impressed me most about Kepler in 2017 was when he replaced Buxton in center field. In his place, he showed great range in center and made some fantastic catches. Of course, when Buxton’s healthy, Kepler is a long shot to play there, but it’s always nice to have a legitimate backup option in center field.

When it comes to hitting though, Kepler hasn’t reached his potential, but he’s shown glimpses of it. Specifically, he has hit 17 and 19 home runs, respectively, over the last two seasons and may have the best eye out of the young players on the roster. Based on the eye test, he has a calm approach at the plate and is less prone to swinging at pitches out of the strike zone. Even so, he’s mightily struggled against left-handed pitching, batting .176 against lefties since coming up to the Twins in 2015. Consequently, he has a career .239 average.

At only 24 years old, there’s no reason to believe he can’t figure it out against lefties though. Everything else about his game says he’s a full-time starter in the outfield with All-Star potential, but it really just comes down to improving against left-handers. Until he does, he’s likely to drop down to the eighth spot in the lineup against left-handed starters.

Nevertheless, with most starters being right-handed, Kepler warrants the sixth spot. His numbers versus righties speak for themselves: .261 average, 32 home runs, and 106 RBIs in 670 career at-bats.