ESPN.com’s Jim Caple provides some interesting background on Twins prospect Max Kepler, ranging from his professional ballet-dancing parents to his unlikely introduction to the game of baseball in Germany. Needless to say, the old ballgame still doesn’t have a very high profile in the European nation, but it may surprise some to learn that there’s a fairly notable niche of enthusiasts. As Kepler puts it, “I think since I started playing as a small kid, when it was mainly Americans who were playing baseball, now it’s actually Germans who are starting to play.” No doubt, Kepler’s own career could have a significant impact in driving future growth. (By the way, if you’re interested in the topic, check out this MLBTR podcast episode from last fall, when I chatted with Euroball expert Josh Chetwynd.)
Here’s more from the American League Central:
- Mat Latos has paid huge dividends to the White Sox cin his first three starts for the organization, as Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune writes. Since signing for just $3MM in an effort to rebuild his career, Latos has spun 18 1/3 innings in which he’s allowed just six hits and one earned run. While there are plenty of indicators suggesting that Latos hasn’t been quite as dominant as those results would suggest, and his velocity is back down, he’s been in the zone more than ever before and has still managed to induce a lot of easy outs (35.3% soft contact rate; 11.8% line-drive rate).
- The Royals activated Jarrod Dyson from the DL yesterday after he missed the first several weeks of the season with a strained oblique. Manager Ned Yost says he’ll be deployed in a “loose platoon” with Paulo Orlando, Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star tweet. Of course, the left-handed-hitting speedster figures to get a solid majority of the action in that arrangement.
- Meanwhile, the Royals’ vaunted bullpen hasn’t been quite the well-oiled machine thus far in 2016 that it was in the recent past, as Dodd explores. Really, it’s mostly a matter of some early struggles from Joakim Soria, who has allowed six earned runs on ten hits and five walks over his first seven frames. Notably, he’s only managed to get hitters to chase pitches out of the zone 14.7% of the time, which is less than half his career rate. For now, at least, the club isn’t ready to move him out of the primary set-up job, though Kelvin Herrera and Luke Hochevar have both looked strong. “Our roles are set until we need to change our roles,” Yost says.
- The Tigers received fairly promising news on the injury front yesterday, as manager Brad Ausmus noted in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link). Catcher James McCann’s absence is expected to land “on the shorter side of the two to four week timetable” that he’d been given for a sprained ankle. (Though it’s fair to note that Jarrod Saltalamacchia has filled in admirably in his stead.) Also, outfielder Cameron Maybin is nearly ready to make his season debut, opening up some options with Anthony Gose off to a slow start.