The Twins have announced a series of roster moves, with outfielder Max Kepler going on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to September 14, with a right wrist sprain. Fellow outfielder Matt Wallner has been selected to the club’s roster. To create space on the 40-man, right-hander Drew Strotman has been designated for assignment. Additionally, Louie Varland has been recalled to serve as the “29th man” for today’s doubleheader.
Kepler’s trip to the IL, his second of the year, will add to a very frustrating pile of injuries for the Twins this year. Kepler joins eight other position players who are currently on the shelf, in addition to eight pitchers, giving them a total of 17 players currently on the IL. The Twins spent months atop the AL Central division standings but have seen these mounting injuries drag them down to five games back of the Guardians, with the White Sox in between.
Kepler’s had a bit of a down year but will surely still be missed by the club. His batting line of .227/.318/.348 amounts to a 95 wRC+, or 5% below league average, but he’s still produced 2.0 wins above replacement in the eyes of FanGraphs due to his strong work in right field. Since the move is retroactive, Kepler can return in a week. However, with just over two weeks left on the schedule, there will be a narrow window for Kepler to work with.
Wallner, 24, was selected 39th overall by the Twins in the 2019 draft, climbing his way up the minor league ladder since then. This year, he’s split his time between Double-A and Triple-A, getting into 128 games between the two. In that time, he’s hit 27 home runs and has slashed .277/.412/.541, 144 wRC+. He’s walked in an impressive 17% of his plate appearances but also struck out in 29.8% of them. He’s been in the back half of Baseball America’s top 30 Minnesota prospects for the past few years but jumped up to #8 on their most recent iteration, thanks to his strong season here in 2022. FanGraphs views him similarly, putting him in the #10 slot. Both reports compliment his tremendous power but raise concerns about the whiffs. He’ll try his hand at major league pitching, beginning by starting in today’s game.
Strotman, 26, was drafted by the Rays but came over to the Twins in the Nelson Cruz deal last year. Though he was largely a starting pitcher in his first few professional seasons, he struggled enough after the trade that Minnesota tried moving him to the bullpen this year. Unfortunately, Strotman hasn’t taken to the switch so far, as he’s produced a 6.44 ERA in 50 1/3 Triple-A innings this season. That’s come with a strong 51.1% ground ball rate and 24.2% strikeout rate, but a dismal 13.8% walk rate. The control has been a nagging issue for Strotman, who’s posted double-digit walk rates in all of his recent stops.
Despite those command issues, Strotman has some promising traits and can still be optioned for the remainder of this year and one more season. Teams searching for pitching depth could take him on as a project and try to improve that control. With the trade deadline passed, the Twins will have to put Strotman on waivers in the coming days.