Twins Daily 2021 Top Prospects: #1 OF Alex Kirilloff
Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports (Graphic by Brock Beauchamp)Position: OF
Age: 23 (DOB: 11/9/1997)
2019 Stats (AA): 411 PA, .283/.343/.413, 9, 43 RBI
2020 Ranking: 2
2019 Ranking: 2
National Top 100 Rankings
BA: 18 | MLB: 26 | ATH: 7 | BP: 71 | ESPN: 22 | FG: 17
What's To Like
When tantalizing upside and MLB-readiness collide, you get an elite prospect who generates palpable excitement. That's Kirilloff. There's no more dreaming or distant projection required here. The 23-year-old is ready; the Twins left no doubt with the stunning decision to call him up and start him in right field for an elimination game in the playoffs last September.
Kirilloff faced an historically tall task in his MLB debut, but looked more than ready for it, collecting one of Minnesota's three hits in Game 2 to provide a glimmer of offensive positivity in their sweep-clinching loss. At age 22, he became the first player in history to record his first major-league hit in the postseason – a 106 MPH rocket yanked into right field.
It says a lot about Kirilloff that the Twins were compelled to make such a move, especially when they already had a perfectly solid, experienced option available in Jake Cave. The bold showing of confidence served to affirm glowing reviews that had been floating over from the alternate site for months.
"Rumors were flying last summer," wrote Phil Miller for the Star Tribune recently, "about what Kirilloff was doing to baseballs behind the closed and locked doors of CHS Field in St. Paul, where the Twins conducted private daily workouts and intrasquad games for their spare players."
Triple-A manager Toby Gardenhire, who oversaw those workouts and games, had this to say in Miller's article: "He was really ripping it up. I don't have the exact numbers in front of me, but he was basically hitting .500 all summer, and with some long home runs. No kidding."
While the Twins had a number of high-caliber prospects on hand in St. Paul, Kirilloff was just on a different level. His uncommon aptitude with the bat has been apparent for some time – ever since the first-rounder splashed onto the scene batting .306 as an 18-year-old during his 2016 rookie ball debut.
In total, Kirilloff has slashed .317/.365/.498 through 1,204 minor-league plate appearances, brushing aside a year lost to Tommy John surgery and developing a mighty reputation while tearing through the Twins system.
"He’s among the very best hitting prospects in baseball, thanks to a beautiful left-handed swing, an advanced approach to the strike zone, and all-fields power," writes The Athletic's Keith Law, who recently ranked the outfielder as the seventh-best prospect in all of baseball. Other sources share similar praise regarding Kirilloff's acumen.
Baseball America also pegs him as the top Twins prospect: "While some players might have better pure bat speed, Kirilloff combines a balanced lefthanded swing, strong hands, quick wrists and the ability to make adjustments mechanically and mentally at an elite level."
In other words, Kirilloff is very much ready to hit the ground running. The Twins, after allowing Eddie Rosario to walk during the offseason, appear (almost?) ready to let him off the leash.
What's Left to Work On
There's not much left for Kirilloff to prove in the minors. Even though he has played fewer than 100 games above Single-A, and his .756 OPS at Double-A in 2019 was nothing to write home about, there is little doubt among Twins officials that Kirilloff is ready. If he doesn't open in the majors, it won't be because he needs more seasoning. (More on that momentarily.)
There are of course no guarantees for the 23-year-old. While he has a relatively high floor due to his natural talent and adaptability, his defensive limitations equate to a lofty bar for offensive production if he's going to be an above-average regular, much less an All-Star. This applies even more if he winds up as a first baseman or mediocre defensive corner outfielder – both possible given his middling footspeed.
Two things to keep an eye on in Kirilloff's quest to become a truly feared MLB hitter:
1: Plate discipline. Kirilloff hasn't been strikeout-prone in the minors (16% K-rate) but he has also shown very little patience (6% walk rate). That's not exactly a problem – why take pitches when you're crushing everything? – but he'll need to develop a more discerning eye to thrive in the majors. Pitchers there are too good to be overcome by brute force.
2: Lifting the ball. Baseball America reports that Kirilloff's exit velocities were above average at Double-A, but his launch angles were below average. This, along with a nagging wrist issue, contributed to an underwhelming .413 slugging percentage in 2019. A lack of elevation is also reflected by Kirilloff hitting 20 home runs compared to 44 doubles during his breakout campaign at Single-A the prior year.
A healthy Kirilloff will almost certainly be a high-contact, line-drive machine in the majors. If he can prove valuable defensively, infuse some patience into his plate approach, and start lifting the ball to unlock his power potential, he will be a star.
Kirilloff is in line to take over the left field job in Minnesota. When that will happen remains to be seen. Service time is the elephant in the room; under the current CBA, the Twins stand to gain an additional year of MLB service from Kirilloff by having him spend the first few weeks of the season in Triple-A.
Given the young outfielder's lack of experience in the high minors, and Luis Arráez's presence as a readily available plug in left field, it wouldn't be overly conservative for the Twins to start Kirilloff at St. Paul, all other things aside.
But if they do that, it'll be a temporary arrangement. He's ready. No other player on our Top 20 list (save Ryan Jeffers) is poised to assume a regular major-league role more imminently, and few others can match Kirilloff's offensive ceiling.
When tantalizing upside and MLB-readiness collide, you get an elite prospect who generates palpable excitement. That's Kirilloff.
Twins 2021 Top 20 Prospects
20. Bailey Ober, RHP
19. José Miranda, 3B/2B
18. Alerick Soularie, UTIL
17. Ben Rortvedt, C
16. Edwar Colina, RHP
15. Cole Sands, RHP
14. Misael Urbina, OF
13. Matt Wallner, OF
12. Brent Rooker, OF/1B
11. Gilberto Celestino, OF
10. Blayne Enlow, RHP
9. Matt Canterino, RHP
8. Aaron Sabato, 1B
7. Keoni Cavaco, SS
6. Jordan Balazovic, RHP
5. Jhoan Duran, RHP
4. Ryan Jeffers, C
3. Trevor Larnach, OF
2. Royce Lewis, SS
1. Alex Kirilloff, OF
Check back tomorrow for a full recap and breakdown of the Twins system heading into the 2021 season!
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