Jump to content

Providing independent coverage of the Minnesota Twins.
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

The Forums

The 5 Rule Draft

Twins Minor League Talk Yesterday, 11:24 PM
This year's Rule 5 draft we lost Akil Baddo and Tyler Wells. So I thought I'd check to see how they were doing. 1st I checked on Baddo, h...
Full topic ›

Why isn't Buxton on MLB OPS leaders list?

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 10:55 PM
Buxton is listed only on the MLB HR leaders list. Not on OPS or AVG or SLG or OBP. He should be the leader in several of these. He has as...
Full topic ›

2021 Regular Season Game Threads

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 08:40 PM
Welcome to the 2021 edition of Twins' Baseball. Twins Daily plans to have a game thread during the regular season for every game (one thr...
Full topic ›

Morneau

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 06:58 PM
I thought he was was really good last year. Maybe I'm on an opening day high (Not high) but he is so good.Who would have thought he would...
Full topic ›

Fun with Numbers 2021

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 06:27 PM
Nelson Cruz is on pace to hit over 150 home runs if he gets 500 at bats.   Josh Donaldson slash line:1.000/1.000/2.000/3.000
Full topic ›

The Twins Should Make Alex Kirilloff the Opening Day Left Fielder

Alex Kirilloff is 23 years old. He’s not a phenom who threatens to hit free agency at 27 and cash in beyond the Twins’ means. If he has a good spring training, he should be on the Opening Day roster.
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily
If Minnesota’s front office manipulates Kirilloff’s service time by having him open the year in St. Paul, the year of team control they will gain over their former first-round pick is 2027. That year, Kirilloff will be 29 years old. The chances that Kirilloff will be a valuable player at that age are quite slim, and if he will be, the team will have plenty of time to offer him a contract extension that renders his service time moot.

Let me defend that assertion — that it’s unlikely Kirilloff will be good enough in 2027 to sweat over this decision now — a bit, because it might seem shocking. It’s true, though, and not just because of the inherent uncertainty associated with players who have yet to prove they can hit big-league pitching over a full season. In today’s game, it’s rare to find a player with Kirilloff’s profile thriving past their mid-20s.

I used Stathead, from Baseball Reference, to find the number of players in each season of baseball history who met the following criteria:
  • Batted left-handed
  • Played primarily in a corner outfield spot
  • Qualified for the batting title
  • Had an OPS+ of at least 115
  • Were 29 years old or older
Since the most recent expansion in 1998, there have been some clear trends. From 1998-2002, there were 29 such player-seasons, or about six per year. From 2003-07, there were 25 such player seasons, averaging five per year. From 2008-12, after the league began testing not only for steroids and human growth hormone but for amphetamines (and as the PITCHf/x Era changed the batter-pitcher interaction forever), the number fell to 19, an average of just under four per season.

Since 2013, there have been just 18 player-seasons meeting the criteria above, an average of a bit over two per year. Only Arizona’s Kole Calhoun met these criteria in 2020. Only Charlie Blackmon and Michael Brantley did so in 2019. Brantley is the only guy to make the list in two separate seasons since Andre Ethier, who managed it in 2011 and 2012. That underscores the unpredictability here; even guys who ostensibly attain and cling to a solid everyday job through 29 rarely produce consistently thereafter. For more evidence of that, note the non-tenders of Kyle Schwarber (28 next month) and Eddie Rosario (29) this winter, and the tepid market for the services of Joc Pederson, also 29.

There are many reasons for this, going beyond the ones to which I alluded already. Defensive shifts disproportionately affect the production of this type of player. Accelerating and changing trends in pitcher usage have made it a younger man’s game all the time. So, too, have impressive advancements in the realm of player development. There’s even the fact that, as hitters seek to lift the ball more often, outfield defense has incrementally increased in importance, leading to a stronger preference for young, fresh legs in the corner spots than the industry has had in decades.

If Kirilloff is able to overcome these odds and become such a hitter, obviously, he’s more valuable than ever. By the time he’s even 25 or 26, though, it should be obvious whether or not he has that potential. That’s when the Twins could approach him with a contract extension, and benefit from the goodwill they would engender by giving him a job on Opening Day. The talk of the baseball world is the contract to which the Padres just signed Fernando Tatís, Jr., but not enough attention has been paid to the fact that San Diego set the stage for the deal two years ago.

They installed Tatís, then 20, as their Opening Day shortstop in 2019, even though it cost them control of his age-27 season in 2025. Once he proved to be a superstar in the making, they were happy to shell out huge dollars to keep him (more or less) forever. The Twins wouldn’t even need to go to the same lengths for Kirilloff, for the reasons I explore above.

In fact, I’m not even in favor of the remedy to this dilemma some have suggested, which is extending Kirilloff now. Actuarially (as we have seen), he’s unlikely to be worth much in the latter, most expensive seasons of such a deal. If he and his representatives were willing to consider a deal that reshaped his earning curve, getting him higher salaries sooner but selling his arbitration-eligible seasons at a below-market price, and if the Twins could get multiple team options at the end of the deal, it would be worth their while, but otherwise, they should just skip the manipulation, press pause on any contract considerations, and install him in the majors right away.

To close, let me acknowledge one truth, and stress two others. First, the acknowledgement: Kirilloff has never played in Triple A, and only has limited time in Double A. Because of that, there is some case to be made that having him open the season in St. Paul wouldn’t be manipulating his service time, but rather, the natural choice for a player with his experience. I understand that line of thinking, but reject it. This is 2021. We all know why he didn’t get the reps he’d normally have gotten at the upper levels of the minors in 2020.

We all also know that that justification crumbles the moment the team calls him up in early May, because really, what difference does one month make? What is Kirilloff likely to learn over such a span? Moreover, and here’s the first fact I want to stress and reiterate: Kirilloff is 23. He’s only still waiting to crack the roster because last season was truncated, and because of injury issues earlier in his professional career. If he’s going to be anywhere near as good as the Twins hope he will be, he needs to hurry up and do it. The Twins also need to be able to evaluate him against big-league pitching right away. A month of at-bats in St. Paul proves nothing. A month of at-bats in Minneapolis lets the team start deciding how important Trevor Larnach is to their future, whether Luis Arraez is likely to be needed often in left field, and how they should construct their lineup on a day-to-day basis to maximize its output.

The other thing I want to emphasize is that this is all predicated on Kirilloff having a strong spring training. The indications that he is or isn’t ready for the majors, for which some would have the team look only once he lands in St. Paul, will be noticeable before the end of Grapefruit League play. They won’t place any value on his stats in exhibition games, of course, but they should and will be able to assess his readiness based on data they collect there, the expert judgment of coaches and scouts, and conversations with the player himself.

Since we can’t know whether Kirilloff will have that kind of impressive camp or not, one could argue that the conversation should be put off for a few weeks. I disagree. To get this narrative right, and to shape the argument properly, we need to premeditate upon and look at these threads of argument now. Once one does so, it becomes easier to respond in an informed way if the facts on the ground change. Barring something unforeseen, I’m confident in my belief that Kirilloff belongs on Minnesota’s Opening Day roster.

This article first went out Sunday morning, as a piece for subscribers to my email newsletter, Penning Bull. If you're interested in that newsletter, which costs $11.11 per year and covers the whole league, you can find out more and sign up at penningbull.com.

MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
— Latest Twins coverage from our writers
— Recent Twins discussion in our forums
— Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email

  • Mike Frasier Law, h2oface, SockNet and 4 others like this

  • Share:
  • submit to reddit
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

35 Comments

Photo
Nine of twelve
Feb 24 2021 06:24 AM

 

Does anyone believe that service time, as it currently exists, will survive the next cba?

 

Someone else alluded to the matter of whether there will be any grandfathering regarding any speculated changes in the service time provisions of the next CBA. The FO seems smart enough to take this into account. In any case it seems apparent that their philosophy is to do what they think is best for the franchise as a whole, and I expect they will make decisions on Kirilloff and the rest of the roster based on that.

 

No question.

It’s just silly for anyone to say he’s ready to start a playoff game against the Astros, but he’s not ready to play opening day.

.........

What if you miss home field advantage, lose the division, or even miss the playoffs by one game and he would’ve made the difference, since we’re dealing in hypotheticals?

Darius, you nailed it. Couldn't have said it better.

 

Add in that we let Rosario go - it's not like there's an established 30 HR 100+ RBI guy currently playing in RF. We're talking Cave/Arraez here.

    • segagenesisgenius likes this

A lot of mention of Kirilloff starting a playoff game proving he should be the opening day LFer. Seem to be completely ignoring the fact that there were multiple injuries on that team that lead to him getting the call. If Buxton were healthy Kirilloff never comes over from St Paul. If Rooker is healthy, and still hitting, Kirilloff never comes over from St Paul. People make it sound like Kirilloff got the start over a number of current players and thus the team thought he was better. He started over Cave so you can make that argument there, but he didn't start over Buxton, Rooker, or Arraez. Buxton doesn't matter in this conversation, but Rooker and Arraez do. Shoot, even Marwan would've started over him if Donaldson was healthy.

 

As for the new CBA changing service time rules (I really hope it does), there is no way the league gives them a change in those rules but doesn't demand current players be grandfathered in. They aren't simply going to give up those cost controlled years. In fact, agents of big time prospects who are probably a year or 2 away are probably crossing their fingers they don't get called up this year so they aren't stuck in the old system. 

 

As fans we always want the best players we can get on our team for every game every year. As players and coaches they are always looking to win as many games as possible every year, but even Rocco looks to the future somewhat by giving guys as much rest as he does. But as FO personnel they need to keep an eye on the future. If you think a prospect is a utility guy/backup you call them up when you need them with no concern to service time. If you think they're a league average everyday guy you call them up without much concern to service time. If you think they're a top 100 MLB player with superstar upside that can hit in the heart of a championship order you have to be concerned with service time. Even the Dodgers and Yankees play these games. It's annoying, and as fans we shouldn't like it. But it's smart and the way good teams run their organizations.

    • Major League Ready and DocBauer like this
Photo
In My La-Z-boy
Feb 24 2021 08:41 AM

 

Does anyone believe that service time, as it currently exists, will survive the next cba?

The Twins need to field their best team, whatever that looks like, from Day 1. Rosario was cut loose to apportion funds elsewhere and open a spot for competition amongst a slew of solid players. May the best player or platoon system prevail.

This is the proper way to look at this, and I am guessing this is how it plays out. I am hoping we see the Arraez bat from 2019 in spring training and he starts day 1 in LF and bats leadoff. Within a month he will be playing all over the field with days off and injuries, and at that time we can deem Kirilloff or Rooker the everyday LF'er.

    • LA VIkes Fan likes this

I have been calling for no manipulation all winter.Glad you got data to help back that up.I was more on the optics side of why making clear manipulation of players is bad for CBA.Already the game has shifted as this article points out to younger players and 29 plus guys not getting the long term deals they used to.  

 

This has upset the players that used to get the 7 year deals at age 29 to 31.Now they are getting 2 year deals for much less money overall.It used to be if you can be good until your FA year you could cash in, and the mega stars would sign long term deals with opt outs at age 30, expecting another mega deal.Well FO rules changed learning there was a lot of bad money in those contracts and they have basically stopped.

 

Throw in the manipulation of a year of service time and you get really upset players because you take one year of big money from them.Work stoppage will happen, and if teams are still manipulating service time it will just make players even more upset.If Kirilloff hits well in ST he needs to break with team to have the best lineup out there all season.Lets worry about 6 years from now, 6 years from now. 

 

Darius, you nailed it. Couldn't have said it better.

 

Add in that we let Rosario go - it's not like there's an established 30 HR 100+ RBI guy currently playing in RF. We're talking Cave/Arraez here.

 

While I've made the same "he started in the playoffs means they think he's ready" argument, sadly I don't even buy it myself.

 

I think he started in the playoffs because they were desperate and hoped to catch lightning in a bottle. And it depresses me. It's very off-topic, but I want the team to play playoff baseball the same way they play in the season. Don't get cute and overthink every single decision. Do what has worked.

 

I think starting Kirilloff was along the same lines as using all 3 catchers in game 1 and pulling Maeda so early: making moves for the sake of making moves.

I would like Kirilloff to be the opening day left fielder. But I understand why that might not happen from a business standpoint. I have no issues with the FO taking advantage of rule that was collectively bargained with the players. Still, it’s probably fair to say there is risk with either side of that decision for the FO.

Photo
nicksaviking
Feb 24 2021 01:49 PM

I might get behind Kirilloff if Rooker wasn't also an option. Rooker is more advanced, has been just as impressive in the minors and most importantly bats right handed. Kirilloff has the pedigree and the prospect rankings on his side, but I think Rooker is the right option at the moment. 

 

 

    • Twins33 likes this
Photo
Channing1964
Feb 24 2021 08:09 PM
I can make it brutally simple for everybody. If he beats out Cave, Larnach, Rooker, and Celestino then pencil him in at lf batting 6th and extend his ass until 2027. If not, send him down and tell him what to keep working on.

 

I might get behind Kirilloff if Rooker wasn't also an option. Rooker is more advanced, has been just as impressive in the minors and most importantly bats right handed. Kirilloff has the pedigree and the prospect rankings on his side, but I think Rooker is the right option at the moment. 

These are my thoughts too and I’m glad I wasn’t the only one thinking it. Rooker has absolutely nothing to prove in the minors anymore. It is my belief that Kirilloff wouldn’t have been called up if Rooker never got injured. He needs to be with the Twins or traded because his bat is ready and he’s already 26. 
 

I really like Kirilloff, he’s my number one prospect but I think he could use more time in the minors. I don’t think he needs a whole year down there but half a year wouldn’t be too bad. He “struggled” a bit a few years ago because of a wrist injury and I’d like to see him go back to killing it.

 

And this has nothing to do with service time for me. I would pick Rooker over Kirilloff right now service time or not. That extra year is just a bonus on top. Unless Rooker looks completely clueless in ST, he deserves the job. Kirilloff can be very close by in St Paul if injury strikes or someone is playing bad. 

    • Major League Ready likes this