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Twins Daily 2021 Top Prospects: #1 OF Alex Kirilloff

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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 24 February 2021 - 09:02 PM

How much can a prospect raise his stock in a year where there is no minor-league season and he doesn't make a regular-season appearance in the majors?

In Alex Kirilloff's case ... a fair amount.Position: OF
Age: 23 (DOB: 11/9/1997)
2019 Stats (AA): 411 PA, .283/.343/.413, 9, 43 RBI
ETA: 2021
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.

What's Next

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
Honorable Mentions
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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#2 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 24 February 2021 - 09:19 PM

Holy crap, what does BP have against Kirilloff? That's a huge gap between the next lowest and BP in the top 100 rankings.

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#3 Nick Nelson

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Posted 24 February 2021 - 09:25 PM

 

Holy crap, what does BP have against Kirilloff? That's a huge gap between the next lowest and BP in the top 100 rankings.

Definitely a weird outlier. Here's an excerpt from their report on him: "His performance on the field in 2018 was quite good, but the underlying swing had us skeptical about just how loud the hit and power tools would be given the corner profile ... There’s the potential for a plus-or-better hit tool with plus power, but he can get pull-power-happy and out of sync, leading to suboptimal contact. And he doesn’t consistently lift the ball either, struggling to hit for corner bat game power above Low-A."

It's well known that he could stand to lift he ball more, but I can't remember seeing anyone else criticize his swing fundamentally. They're either gonna end up looking really smart or really dumb. 

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#4 Monkeypaws

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Posted 24 February 2021 - 10:09 PM

Rod Carew didn't lift the ball much either.

 

Sometimes these analysts get so hung up on a single facet.

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#5 jkcarew

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Posted 24 February 2021 - 10:14 PM

 

Definitely a weird outlier. Here's an excerpt from their report on him: "His performance on the field in 2018 was quite good, but the underlying swing had us skeptical about just how loud the hit and power tools would be given the corner profile ... There’s the potential for a plus-or-better hit tool with plus power, but he can get pull-power-happy and out of sync, leading to suboptimal contact. And he doesn’t consistently lift the ball either, struggling to hit for corner bat game power above Low-A."

And yet, they rank Lewis high (relative to the other services). The only reasonable conclusion can be that they see Lewis as the next incarnation of Ozzie Smith in the middle of the infield, because if they don’t like Kirilloff’s swing...

 

I guess we should consider ourselves lucky if they’ve got both right...or both wrong.


#6 Danchat

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Posted 24 February 2021 - 11:29 PM

Here's hoping Kirilloff will be a quality bat in the middle of our lineup for a long time. Just don't get hurt!!

 

Also, Terry Ryan's final draft in 2016 looks like a pretty decent one on paper. The names:

 

1st: OF Kirilloff

2nd: C Rortvedt

2nd: 3B Miranda

2nd: OF Baddoo (Rule 5 claimed by DET)

5th: SP Balazovic

15th: RP Wells (Rule 5 claimed by BAL)

19th: RP Poppen

32nd: OF Wallner (went on to be a 1st rounder in 2019)

38th: OF Rooker (went on to be a 1st rounder in 2017)

 

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#7 Seth Stohs

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Posted 24 February 2021 - 11:32 PM

 

Here's hoping Kirilloff will be a quality bat in the middle of our lineup for a long time. Just don't get hurt!!

 

Also, Terry Ryan's final draft in 2016 looks like a pretty decent one on paper. The names:

 

1st: OF Kirilloff

2nd: C Rortvedt

2nd: 3B Miranda

2nd: OF Baddoo (Rule 5 claimed by DET)

5th: SP Balazovic

15th: RP Wells (Rule 5 claimed by BAL)

19th: RP Poppen

32nd: OF Wallner (went on to be a 1st rounder in 2019)

38th: OF Rooker (went on to be a 1st rounder in 2017)

 

This was Deron Johnson's last draft as the Director of Scouting. He got promoted after that year and Sean Johnson was promoted to the position. Most of the scouts are the same (plus and minus a few). The scouting leadership is the same. 

 

I think the biggest difference, from what I've heard, is the amount of communication and info/video shared between the scouts and the front office, the minor league coaches/coordinators, the big league coaches and others. 

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#8 Doctor Gast

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 05:08 AM

Kiriloff is ready for the big show. It'll be fun to watch.

#9 Seth Stohs

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 05:52 AM

Our Rankings: 

 

Seth: 2

Nick: 1

Tom: 2

Cody: 1


#10 Channing1964

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 06:51 AM

I'm excited for him...i just worry that if he slumps or doesn't work out in 2021 that we lose another season of serious contention. The way we just cut Rosario loose for nothing must mean the FO is banking on his major league readiness. I sure hope they are right.

#11 ashbury

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 07:41 AM

Our Rankings: 

 

Seth: 2

Nick: 1

Tom: 2

Cody: 1

I wanted to ask yesterday too: how did you break what appears to be a tie?
 

Sarcasm. Just one of the many fine services I offer.


#12 Seth Stohs

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 08:24 AM

 

I wanted to ask yesterday too: how did you break what appears to be a tie?
 

 

We polled the rest of the Twins Daily writers...

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#13 rdehring

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 08:39 AM

Wanted to copy what I wrote in John's Out of Left Field post:

 

With what we have seen from the Pohlads the last year, everything they have done has been positive. When teams weren't paying their minor league guys, the Twins paid them the entire season. When teams were laying off employees, the Twins didn't. When local teams were donating dollars to social causes, the Twins tripled or better their donations.

 

Recently there were comments that they would not be cutting payroll this year to make back losses from last year. The Twins are a 'class' organization, so I will say that I don't expect them to manipulate AK's service time. He may start at AAA, but if he does it will be because that is where his play this spring says is the best place for him to be.

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#14 Shaitan

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 09:56 AM

Let's hope we have a new #1 next year because he graduated.

 

Technically I don't think he has his first MLB hit because post-season stats don't count, right?

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#15 Dman

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 10:02 AM

 

Here's hoping Kirilloff will be a quality bat in the middle of our lineup for a long time. Just don't get hurt!!

 

Also, Terry Ryan's final draft in 2016 looks like a pretty decent one on paper. The names:

 

1st: OF Kirilloff

2nd: C Rortvedt

2nd: 3B Miranda

2nd: OF Baddoo (Rule 5 claimed by DET)

5th: SP Balazovic

15th: RP Wells (Rule 5 claimed by BAL)

19th: RP Poppen

32nd: OF Wallner (went on to be a 1st rounder in 2019)

38th: OF Rooker (went on to be a 1st rounder in 2017)

 

And 2018 might be as good or better than 2016 with 

 

Larnach

Jeffers

Sands

Winder

Willie Joe Gary

Schulfer

Smith,LaRon 

Neff

 

And they did that one without their supplemental 2nd and third round picks.A ways to go to see how 2018 pans out but there is a chance it could be as good.Right now though I would have to say 2016 is my all time favorite draft for the Twins. Having three 2nd rounders certainly helped that draft along with getting a little lucky with Balazovich in the 5th roundThey surprisingly went mainly high upside high school players early which is unusual but payed off that year..


#16 Trov

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 10:13 AM

I would wait to say he needs to work on plate discipline, if you are attacking strikes early in counts and putting them in play you will not walk or strike out.So I would not look at those rates.Is he chasing pitches, that is what matters.If he is taking balls and hitting strikes who cares that he is not walking.

 

I always hated when Joe would work count 3-0 with runners in scoring position then take a strike right down middle, then walk on next pitch.Sure his stats looked better because his OBP and walks were up, but he passed up on a good chance to drive a ball.What let a good pitch pass by?Joe would do it 0-0 too he would almost never swing.That was how he was, but as Ted Williams said key to hitting is to get a good pitch to hit and not miss.Sometimes that is 0-0, sometimes it is 3-2.Do not take good pitches to hit and do not swing at pitches you cannot hit.That to me equals good plate discipline. 

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#17 blindeke

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 11:26 AM

"...collecting one of Minnesota's three hits..."

 

sigh

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#18 wsnydes

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 12:23 PM

 

We polled the rest of the Twins Daily writers...

It seems like these things should be decided by a Whiffle Ball game, not something as logical as asking the other writers! 

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#19 High heat

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 02:18 PM

A read a lot of the same things about Delmon Young while a Devil Rays prospect!

There is still as many questions marks on Kiriloff as Lewis. Kirilloff just has to show it at the majors! His meal ticket is his hit tool.

#20 mikelink45

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 05:04 PM

Nice article, but after Lewis got his write up and then went down I am worried that there is something else going on.Let's hope TD does not take over the old Sports Illustrated jinx.




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