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Article: Report From The Fort: Kirilloff Excited For The 2018 Season

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#1 Seth Stohs

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 01:39 AM

FORT MYERS - The highs and the lows of life in sports. Alex Kirilloff is just 20-years-old, and he has experienced both sides of that coin already. In 2016, he became the first-round pick of the Minnesota Twins and his career started out very well in Elizabethton. The season ended with an elbow injury that cost him the entire 2017 season. However, through hard work, strong faith and his support system, Alex Kirilloff is looking forward to what the 2018 season will bring.Alex Kirilloff grew up near Pittsburgh. He became a known hitting prodigy at a young age, and in 2016, he helped lead Plum High School to the state’s championship game. A week earlier, the Twins made him their first-round draft pick. Upon the completion of his high school career, Kirilloff came to Minnesota and quickly signed with the Twins.

He soon reported to Elizabethton where he hit .306/.341/.454 (.794) with nine doubles and seven home runs. However, late in the season, he was removed from a game with elbow pain. They later found that he had a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament.

Kirilloff said, “My initial thought was to try to avoid going the surgical route and try to do a PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injection. I rehabbed the 2016 offseason. But unfortunately, come spring training time, when that rolled around my elbow wasn’t feeling like it should so my next option was to get Tommy John surgery. So, it was kind of a no-brainer for me to get the elbow fixed. I had the whole 2017 year and season to get it healthy and ready again.”

He had the Tommy John surgery in March. It was a long process of recovery. Kirilloff noted that he did not start throwing a baseball until July. He waited even longer to start swinging a bat.

“About five months post-op, I started swinging the bat again which was awesome. That was right around August. There definitely wasn’t any rush knowing I wasn’t rushing back to play. Just kind of take your time as you go, make sure your body is right as you leap over those hurdles. I had to be patient, and hopefully it all pays off.”

While Tommy John surgery is generally associated with pitchers, there is a program for hitters as well. “It was just like throwing. I followed the hitting progression. Started with dry swings. Eventually went to a tee. I did soft toss, front toss and then batting practice.”


FRUSTRATION AND SUPPORT

There’s only so much a player can do when rehabbing Tommy John. It came with a lot of frustrations.

“It was definitely tough and frustrating having an injury to cause me to miss significant time like I have, but I took it as a challenge and definitely think I became better from it. My body feels a lot stronger now.”

While the physical recovery from a surgery and its lengthy rehab can be difficult, the mental and emotional side of it can be even more trying at times. Kirilloff is blessed with a tremendous support system.

“It’s been great. From my wife to my parents. Friends and family, I couldn’t ask for a better support system for sure. They’ve been there for me the whole journey, encouraging me checking in on me. Definitely blessed to have those people in my life. It’s been a great support system.”

Along with family, friends and the organization, Kirillloff was also strengthened by a strong faith which helped him through some of the difficult times as well.

“It’s really helped me with the disappointment side of it. Staying grounded in my faith in Jesus Christ has been a staple in trying to stay positive and work through any type of injury or situation like that. Words can’t describe how important that is to me, staying grounded every day, doing your devotionals and putting your faith in Jesus Christ definitely encourages you to keep going and stay on the right path. That’s everything, and it’s definitely helped me a lot.”


LOOKING AHEAD

His Tommy John surgery is now in the rear-view mirror for Kirilloff and he’s looking forward to a full season in 2018. To do so, Kirilloff worked on strengthening the areas of his body that he could, with some limitations.

“I definitely wanted to get my total body stronger without putting on bad weight. At the same time, I tried to get more mobile (and get more) flexibility in areas needed. My whole body feels stronger than before. I’m happy about that.”

Right before Thanksgiving, Kirilloff was cleared. “I’m full go, no restrictions. I’m ready for 2018. I’m ready to get rolling.”

Leading up to the draft, there were many scouts around the league who believed Kirilloff was the best high school hitter in the draft. Others were surprised he got to the Twins with the 15th pick.

On the back fields on Tuesday morning, I ran into former Twins scouting directors Mike Radcliff and Deron Johnson. I mentioned the excitement a lot of fans have for the 2017 draft class. He agreed, but he also noted that the organization has a lot of belief in that 2016 draft class. In it, the Twins used their first four picks on high school bats, Kirilloff, Ben Rortvedt, Akil Baddoo and Jose Miranda.

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Kirilloff knows that is his biggest strength on the field right now. “Hitting would probably be my strongest tool. I just try to pride myself in being as well-rounded as I can. I have to say hitting is my biggest strength right now.”

Now that he’s able to work on more things in practices, there are areas that he would like to work on to improve his overall game.

“Getting faster. Getting quicker. Strength. It’s important. Defense in the outfield, running routes, tracking down fly balls, reading angles off the bat. I think I’ve come a long way, but hopefully I can continue to improve at that.”

What Kirilloff needs is time. Like all young players, he needs to get at-bats, and if healthy, he’s likely to get a lot of at-bats. From brief observations at spring training, it’s clear he has a plan at the plate. He stays down on the pitches well, even against left-handers. He’s got a beautiful swing, and he’s got the swing and the strength to hit for a lot of power in time.

Likewise, he needs reps out in right field. It’s clear he is a corner outfielder, so he just needs game action and live fly balls and line drives to continue to work on that craft.

He is willing to put in the work. He’s always had a strong work ethic, but he noted Elizabethton manager Ray Smith and hitting coach Jeff Reed and their help in his development.

“(There’s) A lot of knowledge dripping off of those guys for sure. They instilled a hard work ethic in all of us, day in and day out. Getting acclimated to professional baseball and being able to play every day. Establishing a routine was one of the big takeaways for me. I was very fortunate to have them as my first manager and coaches. It was great, for sure.”

Kirilloff is young, and he missed a year of development time, but that shouldn’t alter anyone’s excitement about the type of player, the type of potentially impactful bat that Alex Kirilloff possesses.

Consider the top of Toby Gardenhire’s potential lineup in Cedar Rapids this year. Kirilloff could bat third, after Akil Baddoo and Royce Lewis, and just ahead of the likes of Wander Javier, Jose Miranda and Trey Cabbage.

While it may be easy to try to project the type of season and stats that Kirilloff could put up in 2018, he’s got a couple of other goals in mind.

“My main focus this year is to stay healthy, stay on the field really. Just happy to be back, playing baseball again. As far as stats go, I just try to control what I can control, day in and day out, not get too high or too low throughout this process. I’m definitely looking forward to this season. I have a passion for the game. Looking forward to getting back to playing the game I love.”

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#2 twinstalker

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 04:41 AM

The timing looks right for him to replace Rosario or Kepler, though I'm not sure if Rosario lasts quite long enough for Alex K. to step right in.


#3 adorduan

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 06:32 AM

 

The timing looks right for him to replace Rosario or Kepler, though I'm not sure if Rosario lasts quite long enough for Alex K. to step right in.

You don't think Rosario can play another 2-3 years?Why?

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#4 rdehring

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 06:54 AM

Great article, Seth.Thanks!

 

Should be an important summer for him.Will be interesting to see if he can make up for lost time and earn a promotion to Fort Myers late in the year.And yes, Cedar Rapids should again battle for a championship.

 

Add me to those who don't understand why so many have Rosario out of here in a year or two.I look for him to be an important piece of Twins teams well into the future.

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#5 Thrylos

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 07:15 AM

I think that he can be impressive with the bat, but I just do not think that he is an OF.I saw him play this spring at RF.In addition to the bad routes that he admitted, the huge issue is his arm.He threw 3 times to the cut off man in the game I saw.Twice he bounced the ball once, the third time he bounced it twice.Not sure how much of that is TJ-related, but there were concerns about his arm even when healthy.From here it looks like first base might be his future and I suspect that he will start taking turns in that position as well....

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#6 Taildragger8791

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 07:18 AM

 

You don't think Rosario can play another 2-3 years?Why?

 

Probably meant he could be traded by then, or lost to free agency in 3 years. Alex being fully MLB-ready in 3 years would be fast for a guy who hasn't played in A ball yet. He'd have to conquer at least 1 level per year. Doable, but it would require good health and mean that he's on an elite prospect development timeline.

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#7 clutterheart

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 08:16 AM

 

I think that he can be impressive with the bat, but I just do not think that he is an OF.I saw him play this spring at RF.In addition to the bad routes that he admitted, the huge issue is his arm.He threw 3 times to the cut off man in the game I saw.Twice he bounced the ball once, the third time he bounced it twice.Not sure how much of that is TJ-related, but there were concerns about his arm even when healthy.From here it looks like first base might be his future and I suspect that he will start taking turns in that position as well....

 

If so he has to Mash.Hopefully the arm is TJ related.  


#8 mikelink45

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 11:35 AM

The pathway for young hitters is really difficult. I hope he can have a quick rise through the minors.There will be a lot of sorting out of prospects and current starters in 2 years.


#9 slash129

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 01:24 PM

 

The pathway for young hitters is really difficult. I hope he can have a quick rise through the minors.There will be a lot of sorting out of prospects and current starters in 2 years.

 

The Twins don't need quick risers in the OF right now.They especially don't need LH ones.The only OF prospect that needs to be added to the 40 at the end of the season is Wade.Youth is already being served in the form of Buxton, Rosario and Kepler, so these players like Baddoo, Kirilloff and Rooker need to get fully developed both with the bat and the glove before they even get a chance to displace anyone.None of those three even need to be added to the 40 until the end of 2020 season, so there is no reason to rush or fast track them, unless they go all Trout or Bryant on the higher levels of MiLB.Even then, it's smart for the small/mid-market Twins to play the control clock game.

 

It sounds like Kirilloff's defensive game leaves a lot to be desired.Hopefully, 2018 in CR, 2019 in Fort Myers and 2020 in Chattanooga followed by a spot on the 40-man can give him an opportunity to hone those skills.Then we'll have a new CBA before or after a strike and he'll still have zero service time going into whatever the new control rules happen to be.

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#10 jkcarew

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 02:21 PM

Thanks, Seth.Is that a decision that's been made:both Javier and Lewis start at Cedar Rapids?If so, that will be very interesting in terms of defensive lineups.The move of Lewis to CF comes quicker than many of us thought?

 

I'm interested to see two of our position prospects come back from missed seasons.Kirilloff and Luis Arraez.Arraez's on-base skills sure are intriguing, as are Kirilloff's overall hitting arsenal.

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#11 Dave The Dastardly

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 04:45 PM

That clinches it, I'm going to spend a weekend in Cedar Rapids this summer. Already downloaded the Kernels schedule. Anybody have any suggestions as to which series?

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#12 Seth Stohs

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 04:47 PM

 

I think that he can be impressive with the bat, but I just do not think that he is an OF.I saw him play this spring at RF.In addition to the bad routes that he admitted, the huge issue is his arm.He threw 3 times to the cut off man in the game I saw.Twice he bounced the ball once, the third time he bounced it twice.Not sure how much of that is TJ-related, but there were concerns about his arm even when healthy.From here it looks like first base might be his future and I suspect that he will start taking turns in that position as well....

 

I won't even disagree... Today he had a couple of really non-good throws too. But it's too early to give up on him getting better out there. He's quite talented and needs to be given that opportunity for a couple of years. 

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#13 Seth Stohs

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 04:53 PM

 

Thanks, Seth.Is that a decision that's been made:both Javier and Lewis start at Cedar Rapids?If so, that will be very interesting in terms of defensive lineups.The move of Lewis to CF comes quicker than many of us thought?

 

I'm interested to see two of our position prospects come back from missed seasons.Kirilloff and Luis Arraez.Arraez's on-base skills sure are intriguing, as are Kirilloff's overall hitting arsenal.

 

The minor league seasons don't start for a week after the major league season starts, so they haven't made any decisions official on placement. I'm sure they know, pending injuries. Like I wrote the other day, Wander Javier isn't hitting yet, but should in the next few days, so he could start in EST to get more ABs. 

 

Luis Arraez hasn't played, but he was taking ground balls yesterday. 


#14 Seth Stohs

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 04:54 PM

 

That clinches it, I'm going to spend a weekend in Cedar Rapids this summer. Already downloaded the Kernels schedule. Anybody have any suggestions as to which series?

 

The Royce Lewis bobblehead is the weekend of May 20th (can't remember which night)... that might be good. 


#15 slash129

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 08:26 PM

 

That clinches it, I'm going to spend a weekend in Cedar Rapids this summer. Already downloaded the Kernels schedule. Anybody have any suggestions as to which series?

 

I'm going when they play the Tigers and Indians affiliates.That way I can see what the competition is going to look like down the road.Tigers/Whitecaps are May 4-6. Indians/Captains are July 14-16.


#16 70charger

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 09:20 PM

Unimpressive with the bat with a less than 800 OPS in rookie ball.

 

Lost a ton of time with injury.

 

Couldn't even play defense as a teenager.

 

I can't tell you how unexcited I am about Kirilloff. It's only a matter of time before we talk about what a wasted pick it was. At least they got Baddoo.


#17 Mr. Brooks

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Posted 22 March 2018 - 06:17 AM

Unimpressive with the bat with a less than 800 OPS in rookie ball.

Lost a ton of time with injury.

Couldn't even play defense as a teenager.

I can't tell you how unexcited I am about Kirilloff. It's only a matter of time before we talk about what a wasted pick it was. At least they got Baddoo.


Well those lower levels are much more about tools than stats.
But, if he can't play the outfield, he's definitely much less of a prospect. He likely doesn't have Sano offensive tools that will play anywhere.

#18 Thrylos

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Posted 22 March 2018 - 08:34 AM

 

Unimpressive with the bat with a less than 800 OPS in rookie ball.

 

Lost a ton of time with injury.

 

Couldn't even play defense as a teenager.

 

I can't tell you how unexcited I am about Kirilloff. It's only a matter of time before we talk about what a wasted pick it was. At least they got Baddoo.

 

I have been accused of bias against Kirilloff, and have him ranked 13th, two spots behind Baddoo, in my Twins prospect list, but his hit tool is real.As a matter of fact, if I were to compare him with Max Kepler at the same age, I'd say that Kirilloff is ahead of where Kepler was then with the hit tool, they are pretty close as far as fielding and OF routes go, but Kepler had much better arm.I don't thing that he is a wasted pick at all, I just don't think that he is an OF (as Logan Morrison is not an OF, for example, but he is not a bad player)

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#19 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 22 March 2018 - 09:46 AM

 

Unimpressive with the bat with a less than 800 OPS in rookie ball.

 

Lost a ton of time with injury.

 

Couldn't even play defense as a teenager.

 

I can't tell you how unexcited I am about Kirilloff. It's only a matter of time before we talk about what a wasted pick it was. At least they got Baddoo.

 

Some kid named Buxton couldn't crack an .800 OPS in the advanced rookie league either. The injury hurts, I agree, but I'd hardly write him off at this point. He's definitely a bat first prospect, and I agree he loses a lot of helium if he moves out of the corner, but he's hardly a bad prospect.


#20 MN_ExPat

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Posted 22 March 2018 - 01:22 PM

 

Unimpressive with the bat with a less than 800 OPS in rookie ball.

 

Lost a ton of time with injury.

 

Couldn't even play defense as a teenager.

 

I can't tell you how unexcited I am about Kirilloff. It's only a matter of time before we talk about what a wasted pick it was. At least they got Baddoo.

Duuude! That's like... not cool man.




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