Pittsburgh Pirates: Top Five Position Player Trade Targets

Who are the top five position players the Pirates should pursue in trade?
Sep 10, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; San Diego Padres second baseman Ha-Seong Kim (7) bats during the
Sep 10, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; San Diego Padres second baseman Ha-Seong Kim (7) bats during the / Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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Number Four - Max Kepler

Max Kepler is coming off a quality year in Minnesota. The right fielder has been a stalwart for the Twins since the mid-2010s. But Kepler is in the last year of his deal, and the Twins might look to cut payroll. Kepler is a power hitter with good fielding prowess in right field, and could be a quality middle of the order hitter for the Bucs.

Kepler batted .260/.332/.484 last year with a 124 wRC+. The German lefty has always hit for good power and crushed 24 dingers while having a .224 isolated slugging percentage. He has never struck out much, and while his 21.4% strikeout rate was above the league average, it was a career worst for him. But he was able to offset that with a quality 9.2% walk rate.

Kepler started off the year ice cold, and going into June 20th, had just a .650 OPS. But he was also red hot for the Twins’ final 88 games of the season. He batted .297/.368/.545 with a .387 wOBA, and 151 wRC+ during this stretch. 

The Twins’ outfielder hit for the most raw power of his career by far. He finished the year with a 91.9 MPH exit velocity (89th percentile), 47.6% hard hit rate (83rd percentile), and 12.2% barrel rate (79th percentile). All were career bests for him. It was no wonder his numbers under the hood looked even better. Kepler clocked in with a .363 xwOBA, and .500 xSLG%.

Kepler has always been a good defensive right fielder and 2023 was no different. He racked up +2 defensive runs saved and +4 outs above average. He’s certainly had better seasons with the leather, but you can’t deny his consistency with the glove in right. Plus his +6.3 UZR/150 was one of the best remarks of his career thus far.

The only thing is that Kepler has just a single year of control remaining. It is a very cheap year of control, as the Twins will certainly pick up his $10 million team option. However, it is still only one season. But when Kepler is healthy, he’s probably the most underrated five-tool player in the league.