Has Alex Kirilloff Played Himself Off the Opening Day Roster?
Image courtesy of © David Dermer-USA TODAY SportsThings have been complicated from the start with Alex Kirilloff. Under the baseball’s current CBA, it’s in a team’s best interest to keep a young player in the minor leagues so the club can pick up an extra year of service time. As a side note, MLB and the MLBPA will need to work out a new CBA and this issue is likely one that will be addressed and possibly changed.
There has been some indication that the Twins were willing to ignore this current practice as they have said that Kirilloff will have every opportunity to make the Opening Day roster, but his performance hasn’t pushed him ahead of others.
Entering play on Monday, he has gone 4-for-31 (.129 BA) with two extra-base hits and an eight to one strikeout to walk ratio. His lone home run was a massive 420 foot shot and it came off a left-handed pitcher, so that’s one offensive positive from the spring.
Minnesota has clearly been getting their roster ready for Opening Day including lining up the rotation and using batting orders that will be similar to the regular season. In the last two “Opening Day” line-ups, Brent Rooker has been used as the starting left fielder and he has been having a much stronger spring. He is hitting .381/.391/.667 with three doubles and a home run. Rooker is considered a rookie too, but he is already 26-years old so there is less of an urgency to pick up an extra year of service time.
Rooker isn’t the only option in left field as Kyle Garlick has been making his presence known in the Twins line-up. Entering play on Monday, he has gone 9-for-24 with four home runs and a double. This spring he leads the team in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, and OPS. Garlick and Rooker both have minor league options remaining, so that can play into the team’s decision as well.
Another wrinkle in this equation is the fact that the Triple-A season was pushed back a month with Opening Day scheduled for May 4. This means Kirilloff can’t go to Triple-A to get in more work and he already missed a full season of development in 2020. St. Paul will be used as an alternate site before the Triple-A season starts, so he can get into a routine there and be called up whenever the team feels he is ready.
Minnesota might be ready to see what Kirilloff can do at the big-league level. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli hasn’t been referring to Kirilloff in future tense anymore, because he has done almost everything he needs to prove he is MLB ready. "It's not exactly potential," Baldelli said. "He just hasn't had the opportunities yet at the Major League level to show what he can do. We think he's already a good offensive player. He's handled himself really well.”
Kirilloff’s defensive flexibility might also help his chances of making the Opening Day roster. He is athletic enough to play in a corner outfield spot, but he also has a chance to be very good at first base. His defensive value is higher than Rooker and Garlick, so that might make up for his poor offensive numbers.
Spring training offers such a small sample size that the numbers produced by players need to be taken with a grain of salt. Kirilloff has struggled, but he still has an opportunity to come north with the club for Opening Day.
Do you think Kirilloff cracks the Opening Day roster? Are you worried about his spring performance? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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