Pending Prospects: Which Outfielder Will Be Called up First?
Image courtesy of © Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports (photo of Luke Raley)Alex Kirilloff
Kirilloff was selected by the Twins with the 15th overall pick in the 2016 draft as an 18-year-old. He was scouted as a great hitter and average defender with the ability to play first base. He played in 55 rookie games for Elizabethton after the draft and hit .306/.341/.454. Kirilloff missed the 2017 season after Tommy John surgery and was a question mark going into 2018.
Kirilloff started the year in Cedar Rapids and was excellent, hitting .333/.391/.607 with 13 home runs in 65 games. The great first half propelled him to Fort Myers, where he hit .362 with a .943 OPS in the second half of 2018. This incredible bounceback drove MLB Pipeline to rank him as baseball’s 10th best prospect heading into 2019.
The Twins started the 21-year-old at Double-A Pensacola, challenging him against older and more talented pitching. Kirilloff missed April with a wrist injury and returned rusty, hitting just .240 with a .682 OPS in May. Kirilloff battled back to hit .300/.338/.434 from June through August. He also caught fire in the playoffs, showing serious power potential with four home runs in four postseason games:
Rooker slugged .810 with 23 home runs in 67 games in his junior season at Mississippi State and was named the National Player of the Year. Rooker was picked by the Twins shortly after, going 35th overall in the 2017 draft. Rooker finished that season in the minors, posting a hefty .930 OPS and 18 home runs in 62 games between Elizabethton and Fort Myers.
Rooker began his age-23 season at Double-A Chattanooga. 2018 was a considerable step back as he hit just .254/.333/.465 in 130 games. The power played as Rooker smacked 22 more home runs, but he struck out in 26% of plate appearances with a 9.8% walk rate. His path to the majors became murkier when Kirilloff broke out during the same year.
Rooker started 2019 at Triple-A Rochester and played very well before a groin contusion knocked him out in July. Rooker hit .281/.398/.535 in 65 games with the Red Wings. Rooker participated in the Premier 12 championship this month and hit .300/.333/.800 with three home runs, including this miraculous blast in an elimination game:
Raley, Logan Forsythe and Devin Smeltzer were traded from the Dodgers to the Twins for Brian Dozier at the deadline in 2018. Raley was a 23-year-old hitting .275/.345/.477 with 17 home runs in 93 games at Double-A Tulsa. Smeltzer has already provided value to the Twins, making numerous starts last summer, but Raley remains in the minors.
Raley was off to a blistering start in 2019 at Triple-A Rochester, batting .302/.362/.516 with seven home runs in 33 games. In May, he injured his left ankle and was forced to undergo surgery to repair the dislocated tendon. He returned for a short rehab assignment in the GCL in September but ran out of time to return to Rochester.
Raley played with top prospect Royce Lewis in the Arizona Fall League for the Salt River Rafters. He hit just .244/.312/.439 in 23 games, but had a few very strong showings, including a 4-for-4 effort on October 19th. Raley hit two home runs with 3 RBIs in an 8-1 victory. He has clear power from the left side and was recently added to the Twins 40-man roster. Here is a clip of him at 2019 Spring Training:
In 2018, Larnach hit a game-winning two-run home run in the College World Series, making him an instant legend at Oregon State. Larnach hit .348/.463/.652 with 22 home runs and led the Beavers to a National Championship. The Twins responded by drafting him with the 20th overall pick and sending him quickly to the minors. He hit .303/.390/.500 in 42 games between Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids.
Larnach started 2019 in Fort Myers and played 84 games for the Miracle, hitting .316 with an .842 OPS and 26 doubles. He was called up to Double-A Pensacola to play in 43 games for the Blue Wahoos. He kept it up, hitting .295/.387/.455 with seven home runs. Larnach won the Florida State Player of the Year award for his brilliance at the dish.
Additionally, MLB Pipeline named him as the Twins’ Hitting Prospect of the Year. Entering his age-22 season, Larnach is picking up steam as a global name, and is currently ranked as the No.77 prospect in baseball. He should start 2020 in Pensacola, but could quickly move up to Rochester or even Minneapolis. Here are Larnach’s 15 hits in the 2018 College World Series, including that game-winner against Arkansas:
All four of these guys could have very bright futures in the majors, with Kirilloff and Larnach carrying more upside. Rooker and Raley have played at Triple-A, and they seem more major league ready. With the Twins in championship mode, they have serious considerations to make regarding these outstanding players. This chart shows that Rooker posted the highest OPS and would likely have been called up instead of LaMonte Wade Jr. in 2019, if not for the injury.
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