Twins option Kepler to Triple-A Rochester

Third-ranked prospect heads to International League for first time

Max Kepler was named Southern League MVP and led Chattanooga to the championship last year. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

By Alex Kraft / MiLB.com | March 25, 2016 7:15 PM

Max Kepler bypassed Triple-A Rochester on his way to the Majors last September. He'll make up for that lost time to start the season.

The Twins optioned their third-ranked prospect to Rochester on Friday as spring roster cuts. Kepler appeared in 15 Grapefruit League games in center field, right field and at first base. He hit .233 (7-for-30) with two RBIs, a walk, a stolen bases and six strikeouts.

"We feel like he has to go down there and play on a regular basis," Twins manager Paul Molitor told MLB.com. "I think we always look for guys to get more consistent. I think the one thing he's learning is about his role within a game and [having] awareness, whether it's in the batter's box or other situations."

The 23-year-old native of Germany will look to build on a breakout 2015 season. He slashed .322/.416/.531 in 112 games with Double-A Chattanooga, establishing career highs in nearly every offensive category. Kepler parlayed that success into a brief stint with Minnesota in September, going 1-for-7 in three games.

"They told me that I have to work on my situational hitting," MLB.com's No. 44 overall prospect said, "not just to go up there and hack. But this spring, something told me it was just Spring Training, so I didn't need to pay attention to situations as much as the season when everything counts. But now I know next spring, I need to act differently when those situations come up."

The Twins also released veteran outfielder Ryan Sweeney.

In other transactions:

Cubs

Chicago reassigned No. 5 prospect Albert Almora and eight other players to Minor League camp. The 2012 first-round pick batted .242 (8-for-33) with three doubles, an RBI and a stolen base in 17 Cactus League games, impressing manager Joe Maddon.

"The biggest thing I saw with him, and I told him this, is that he's at the point where he believes he belongs here and he can do this," the skipper told MLB.com. "I believe he isn't as wide-eyed. He played well last year. The difference is when you talk to him, he's not as wide-eyed about it."

Almora, MLB.com's No. 86 overall prospect, will be joined by the Cubs' reigning Minor League Pitcher of the Year, 19th-ranked prospect Ryan Williams. The right-hander pitched in three Cactus League games, scattering seven hits and fanning four while walking one over six scoreless innings.

Outfielders Matt Murton, John Andreoli and Juan Perez, infielders Kris Negron and Jesus Guzman and right-handers Brandon Gomes and Jean Machi also were reassigned to Minor League camp.

Alex Kraft is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow and chat with him on Twitter @Alex_Kraft21. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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