Prospect Notebook: Kepler Called Up, Winkler Debuts

It was quite a night for Max Kepler.

Shortly after helping the Chattanooga Lookouts win the Southern League championship, the 22-year-old German native was called up by the Twins, who remain on the outskirts of the AL wild-card race.

Kepler hit nine homers in the regular season but blasted another three in the playoffs. After six years in the system, Kepler blossomed this season and had the best campaign of any Twins minor league position prospect, with 32 doubles, 12 triples and 58 walks with just 59 strikeouts.

"Nobody here ever gave up on him" during five years of adjustment to the U.S., Mike Radcliff, the Twins' vice president of player personnel told BA correspondent Phil Miller. "He can spray the ball to all fields. He's got the talent to be a middle-of-the-order guy."

Scouts say Kepler’s swing can get long and that his plate setup can have too much movement. He’s a good athlete, and played all three outfield spots this season as well as first base.

Winkler Debuts For Braves

The Braves knew, when they grabbed Dan Winkler in the Rule 5 Draft in December, that they had to be patient.

Winkler was just coming off Tommy John surgery and was expected to miss all of 2015. That created a situation where, in order to fulfill the Rule 5 obligation of keeping a player on their major league roster for 90 days, the Braves might have to keep Winkler—healthy or not—on the roster in 2016 or offer him back to the Rockies.

But for a righthander with a funky delivery and excellent command, he was worth a gamble, and Winkler made his organization debut Monday night—in the majors.

Winkler pitched two-thirds of an inning, striking out two and walking one in a 4-0 loss to the Mets. It was his first game action of any kind in 15 months.

"Nerves obviously got to me and I was a little up,” he told reporters. “I walked that guy (after getting ahead) 0-2; that's one thing that's kind of frustrating. But yeah, I'm happy with the results. It's been 15 months since I've been in a game, so I'm definitely pleased with it."

Winkler said he was appreciative of the Braves’ patience with him and was thrilled to get right into a game with no minor league rehab time.

"Yeah, it's been such a rollercoaster ride. The Braves giving me such a blessing, giving me time to take my time and … I can't even think them enough. And then to give me this opportunity, like I said it's just a blessing. It's been a rollercoaster, and I'd rather have it no other way. It's been great."

Cubs Begin Instructional League Play

2015 first-round pick Ian Happ and outfielder Eloy Jimenez were among top prospects participating in instructional league for the Cubs as play began on Monday. The Cubs will also have an “advanced” instructional league squad that will include top prospects such as Gleyber Torres and pitcher Duane Underwood.

Mateo Might Play Some Second Base

Shortstop Jorge Mateo, the Yankees’ No. 3 prospect at midseason ($), is likely to get some time at second base in Yankees’ instructs, BA correspondent George King reported. The Yankees aren’t giving up on Mateo at short, King reports, rather they see second base as a position of need and Mateo as someone who could move quickly through the system.