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Twins 2021 Position Analysis: Left Field


The Eddie Rosario era has ended. Minnesota's longtime mainstay in left field is gone, now playing for a division rival.

 

In 2021, a new era is set to get underway for the Twins, with top prospect Alex Kirilloff in line to overtake the position.

 

It's only a matter of when.Projected Starter: Alex Kirilloff

Likely Backup: Jake Cave

 

Depth: Luis Arráez, Brent Rooker

Prospects: Trevor Larnach, Matt Wallner

 

THE GOOD

 

The Twins lost a pair of quality players in Eddie Rosario and LaMonte Wade Jr., but still have no shortage of corner-outfield depth. Jake Cave is still around. Brent Rooker stepped in last year and showed his potent ability. Waiver pickup Kyle Garlick and non-roster invite Keon Broxton are making strong early impressions in camp. Top prospects Trevor Larnach and Matt Wallner aren't too far off.

 

But all of these names are secondary to THE top prospect, Alex Kirilloff, who is unquestionably on deck in left field. The Twins may opt to delay his arrival for a bit, but it's inevitable.

 

Once he's here, Kirilloff will very likely be sticking for good.

 

The Twins left no doubt as to their belief in his readiness, when they called up Kirilloff last September to make his major-league debut in a postseason elimination game. The 22-year-old rose to the occasion with a ringing single and a diving catch in right field.

 

 

When recently naming Kirilloff Twins Daily's No. 1 prospect, we listed off the many strengths that paint him as an immediate impact player. He's got a finely tuned swing and extremely advanced approach at the plate. He's strong, quick, and adaptive. While it's easy to fall into hyperbole and exaggerated expectations for a premium prospect of this caliber, it really does feel like his predecessor Rosario's career slash line – .277/.310/.478 – will eventually be Kirilloff's floor on a year-to-year basis. His ceiling is somewhere in Christian Yelich territory.

 

 

Kirilloff is gonna hit in the majors, and maybe right away. The question is when he will get his chance. The Twins stand to gain an extra year of control over the outfielder (his age-29 season) by waiting until late-April at least to call him up. Although Dan Hayes of The Athletic has reported that "the Twins are open-minded to promoting Kirilloff if he’s the best option," that's a very subjective "if." Given his lack of experience in the high minors, it's not a huge leap to say Kirilloff could use a bit more time – especially with the number of solid options on hand to serve as interim fill-ins.

 

The Twins could, say, platoon Cave and Garlick or Rooker for three weeks and have a perfectly adequate setup in left field. Or they could start Arráez out there regularly if the infield is healthy. (Though they don't seem inclined to do so.)

 

Like I said, no shortage of depth. And while that may or may not cost Kirilloff his chance to break camp with the Twins, it's a very good sign for the outlook of left field as a position.

 

THE BAD

 

It should be noted that left field is a relatively unfamiliar assignment for Kirilloff. Of his 2,077 professional innings played in the field as a professional, only 78 have been in left. He's made nine starts there compared to 181 in right and 35 at first base. In fact, he's made more career starts in center field (14) than in left.

 

Kirilloff's lone major-league start came in right field. Whenever he first jogs out down the third base line toward Target Field's home run porch this year, it'll be very unfamiliar territory.

 

The variances between baseball's two corner-outfield positions are not night-and-day, but also not insignificant. There's a learning curve involved with playing on the opposite side regularly, and also, there's a reason Kirilloff has played primarily in right: it's his better position.

 

With limited mobility and a good arm (albeit less good after Tommy John surgery), he profiles much better in right, or at first base. Kirilloff should be just fine in left, and Rosario hardly set a lofty standard, but this doesn't quite fit the front office's grand overall defensive vision.

 

Also, when you're a so-so defensive left fielder, the offensive bar is pretty high. Confident as I am in his abilities, it can't be assumed Kirilloff will flourish right off the bat. Even Yelich, whose name I generously invoked earlier as a high-end comp, took several years in the majors to become a truly special hitter.

 

Expectations should be kept in check for left field in 2021. Kirilloff might step in and take off, but there's a better chance he'll experience the same slumps and setbacks of any MLB rookie, and maybe even need some time at Triple-A, where has yet to take an at-bat.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

Long-term, Kirilloff probably won't stick in left field, barring some unexpected advances in terms of defensive range and skill. He projects as more of a right fielder or at first baseman, but those positions are both spoken for at the moment.

 

With Rosario's departure leaving left field wide open, the Twins will happily unleash their best prospect there. What's important is finding a way to get Kirilloff's bat into the lineup. That might not happen right away, but barring unforeseen events, it's gonna happen.

 

This is a transitional year for left field, albeit one bursting with upside and tantalizing promise.

 

READ OTHER 2021 POSITION ANALYSIS ARTICLES

 

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Having Buxton in CF should help him adjust to LF. Target Field isn't the most difficult of left fields to roam either.  If he even sniffs Yelich territory, he should be a lot of fun to watch. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what he can do.

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Kirillof SHOULD end up being very good. I just can’t consider it a foregone conclusion until he demonstrates it above A+. It would be much easier to believe if he had a period of 150 dominate ABs at AA or AAA.

 

I am also not inclined to believe Broxton is going to be a different hitter because he has had 12 great spring training ABs. He would not be the 1st guy to put it together after 1,000 MLB PAs but so far he is hard to believe in. Garlick actually has shown the ability to be an above average bat at the MLB level. I could see Broxton as the 5th OFer / pinch runner in place Cave.

 

Where LF is concerned, I would start the season with either Rooker or Garlick. Kirilloff gets the job as soon he is a better alternative.

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With Kirilloff having a quiet bat this spring and Broxton lighting it up, any chance they roll with Keon and let Kirilloff rediscover his swing in Ft Myers?

It's been 16 ABs so lets not read too far into his quiet bat. But Broxton isn't on the 40 man so there's very little chance he makes the team.

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With Kirilloff having a quiet bat this spring and Broxton lighting it up, any chance they roll with Keon and let Kirilloff rediscover his swing in Ft Myers?

I hope not - Broxton is hitting off prospects and fill ins and is starting to see his numbers go down as quality rises.  There is a reason he was available.  I like him, I am not his fan.  Kiriloff does not need to meet and early spring training numbers - the last three weeks of ST is when it starts to count unless you are a real fringe prospect or a minor league signing. 

 

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With Kirilloff having a quiet bat this spring and Broxton lighting it up, any chance they roll with Keon and let Kirilloff rediscover his swing in Ft Myers?

 

Lol, no. If Broxton makes the team, it is as a defensive backup CF. Which we do need.

 

(Plus, there's the 420 feet of not quiet from yesterday)

 

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I'm leaning towards starting Kirilloff from Day One, but I wouldn't cry about a short-term platoon of Cave/Rooker. I'd like to be able to keep Rooker's RH bat available.

 

From a defensive perspective would it make more sense to have Kepler take over in LF, since he has significantly better range? (I have plenty of confidence in his ability to figure it out) Or is this one of those deals where in the end it probably doesn't matter that much? With Kepler in RF and Buxton in CF, you certainly could shade Buxton towards LF to protect Kirilloff without really giving up much...

 

They way the hitters are moving up from the minors, the Twins should feel good about where they are at in terms of corner OF bats for a while. Larnach is really close too, but I still think they'll be able to find enough bats for everyone in 2022, since it seems unlikely Cruz comes back again, even if he keeps slappin' around Father Time.

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With Kirilloff having a quiet bat this spring and Broxton lighting it up, any chance they roll with Keon and let Kirilloff rediscover his swing in Ft Myers?

Personally, I do not think Broxton breaks with team.  He is hitting hot, but he has 5 years of mostly backup.  I would not put much stock in him doing a whole lot over a regular season.  

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I get LF and RF are different positions, but at Target Field, RF is harder to play I think than left.  It has much harder angles and harder surfaces to allow ball to bounce differently.  I do not know if Kirilloff lacks range and that is why been in RF, or because his arm was better suited for RF.  Either way I would not expect there will be much fall off defense wise with him in LF over RF.

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Kirilloff should definitely be the starting LF. I don’t get the logic that he’s ready to start an elimination game in the postseason, and he ended up getting two very hard hit balls (even though one was an out) and made a great defensive play, but he needs more time in the minors the next year. Even if he isn’t ready, he’s probably better than Cave.

 

About Rosario - The Twins lost a pair of quality players in Eddie Rosario and LaMonte Wade Jr., but still have no shortage of corner-outfield depth. Jake Cave is still around. Brent Rooker stepped in last year and showed his potent ability. Waiver pickup Kyle Garlick and non-roster invite Keon Broxton are making strong early impressions in camp. Top prospects Trevor Larnach and Matt Wallner aren't too far off.

 

Eddie is by no means a bad player. But I don’t think he’s as a good as a lot of people think. If you look past his raw “counting” numbers, (where you’ll see a ~.330 wOBA and a ~100 wRC+ the past 2/3 years, which is about average) you’ll see that he’s a slightly above league average hitter, who runs the bases horribly, has a great arm in the outfield but doesn’t use it intelligently. Unless Kirilloff completely sucks, I can’t see how his defense would be a downgrade from Rosario. I also don’t see why his bat would be a significant downgrade, even if at all a downgrade, unless he completely sucks.

 

Now let’s hope that Kirilloff doesn’t end up walking like Eddie...

 

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Rumors have it that Kirilloff crushed it at alternate site last summer, not alot to gain by having him at alternate site for first month of season. Time to let him play at MLB level, forget about service time issue. Backup is more the issue for me, Cave seems a lock but redundant LH bat, Rooker possible but sounds like Twins might be leaning toward 14 pitchers on 26 man roster. Cave going to him around .225-.250 with underrated defense, Rooker should hit in same range for average with more power but drop off defensively and only corner OF. Idealy have both of roster but if only one I would go with Rooker. Predict Twins go with Cave.

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Kirilloff should definitely be the starting LF. I don’t get the logic that he’s ready to start an elimination game in the postseason, and he ended up getting two very hard hit balls (even though one was an out) and made a great defensive play, but he needs more time in the minors the next year. Even if he isn’t ready, he’s probably better than Cave.

 

About Rosario - The Twins lost a pair of quality players in Eddie Rosario and LaMonte Wade Jr., but still have no shortage of corner-outfield depth. Jake Cave is still around. Brent Rooker stepped in last year and showed his potent ability. Waiver pickup Kyle Garlick and non-roster invite Keon Broxton are making strong early impressions in camp. Top prospects Trevor Larnach and Matt Wallner aren't too far off.

 

Eddie is by no means a bad player. But I don’t think he’s as a good as a lot of people think. If you look past his raw “counting” numbers, (where you’ll see a ~.330 wOBA and a ~100 wRC+ the past 2/3 years, which is about average) you’ll see that he’s a slightly above league average hitter, who runs the bases horribly, has a great arm in the outfield but doesn’t use it intelligently. Unless Kirilloff completely sucks, I can’t see how his defense would be a downgrade from Rosario. I also don’t see why his bat would be a significant downgrade, even if at all a downgrade, unless he completely sucks.

 

Now let’s hope that Kirilloff doesn’t end up walking like Eddie...

Not sure where you're getting your stats, but Eddie's wRC+ over the last 4 years are 117,114,103, and 110. I mean I guess those are close to 100, but context needs to be used and 115 puts you in the top 60ish hitters in baseball. So top 2 best hitters on a team. He was 74th in the league in wRC+ last year at 110 (88 in 2019, 66 in 2018, 51 in 2017). Certainly nothing to write home about, but he's absolutely a heart of the order bat for a major league team and pretty clearly a top 75 hitter in baseball. Rookies absolutely step in and put up impressive numbers, and Kirilloff looks to have every chance to come up and put up some very good numbers, but to expect any rookie to step in and immediately be a top 75 hitter in baseball is a pretty lofty expectation.

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Not sure where you're getting your stats, but Eddie's wRC+ over the last 4 years are 117,114,103, and 110. I mean I guess those are close to 100, but context needs to be used and 115 puts you in the top 60ish hitters in baseball. So top 2 best hitters on a team. He was 74th in the league in wRC+ last year at 110 (88 in 2019, 66 in 2018, 51 in 2017). Certainly nothing to write home about, but he's absolutely a heart of the order bat for a major league team and pretty clearly a top 75 hitter in baseball. Rookies absolutely step in and put up impressive numbers, and Kirilloff looks to have every chance to come up and put up some very good numbers, but to expect any rookie to step in and immediately be a top 75 hitter in baseball is a pretty lofty expectation.

 

Rosario had the 5th highest wRC+ on the Twins last year.  He was 11th on the team in wRC+ for 2019.

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Rosario had the 5th highest wRC+ on the Twins last year.  He was 11th on the team in wRC+ for 2019.

I guess I assumed people knew talent wasn't spread evenly across the teams and I was using top 2 hitter as with 30 teams the 60 best hitters would make the 2 best hitters on every team since wRC+ is a stat that compares players against the league that creates an "average" point to compare the talent across the league as a whole. 

 

If you go with guys with at least 200 PAs (not even halfway to qualifying for a batting title, fyi) he was #3 in 2017, #2 in 2018, #9 in 2019, and #2 in 2020. We can pick all kind of points to change his standings as we want. But none of that changes the fact that he has been above average (not average like the comment I responded to suggested) 3 of the last 4 years (I'll count 103 as basically average).

 

I said he wasn't anything to write home about, but to suggest Kirilloff has to just not "completely suck" to replace him is completely inaccurate. So I'll stick with expecting a rookie to come in and put up those numbers like it's nothing is a lofty expectation. Kirolloff has had a wonderful minor league career and looks like the real deal, but the post I replied to suggests its basically a foregone conclusion that Kirilloff can easily replace Eddie both offensively and defensively. That isn't an accurate assessment. He may be able to do it, and I wouldn't be overly surprised, but it shouldn't be assumed. Eddie was no MVP candidate, and I've even argued on these threads that he's overrated by many Twins fans, but he's also not easily replaced by Kirilloff just not "completely sucking."

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Call me contrarian but if I was running this team I'd definitely keep Kirilloff in the minors until May to "buy" that extra year of control and use the time to get a good look at Rooker in left and at the plate. If Rooker stumbles then no problem having someplace to play Kirrilloff when he comes up. If Rooker shines and Kirilloff struggles at AAA no pressure to rush the kid up to the majors. If they both shine the Twins will be in a strong trade position.

 

If you do it the other way around and bring Kirilloff up right away and he struggles you lose the extra year of control, Rooker doesn't get much playing time to prove he's the real deal and you got nothing for trade bait.

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Not sure where you're getting your stats, but Eddie's wRC+ over the last 4 years are 117,114,103, and 110. I mean I guess those are close to 100, but context needs to be used and 115 puts you in the top 60ish hitters in baseball. So top 2 best hitters on a team. He was 74th in the league in wRC+ last year at 110 (88 in 2019, 66 in 2018, 51 in 2017). Certainly nothing to write home about, but he's absolutely a heart of the order bat for a major league team and pretty clearly a top 75 hitter in baseball. Rookies absolutely step in and put up impressive numbers, and Kirilloff looks to have every chance to come up and put up some very good numbers, but to expect any rookie to step in and immediately be a top 75 hitter in baseball is a pretty lofty expectation.

 

I was mainly referring to 2019 and 2020 with the ~100 wRC+. In which he went 103 (2019) and 110 (2020). Also, yes, I agree it won't take nothing for Kirilloff to replace Rosario offensively (Not the case with defense, given how Rosario has sucked defensively, as long as Kirilloff isn't making boneheaded plays both in LF and on the bases), but I don't think it would be too lofty to expect a 100-110 wRC+ from Kirilloff, which is what Rosario has had the past 2 years.

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@chpettit19 is on target---Eddie R was not an average bat.  He is not an avg replacement. Alex K may end up being great, but we haven't seen a great prospect pan out in quite some time.  The road to success is not paved with potential.

 

I do hate to see in the article that "first base is currently taken".  When in the world are the TC Ballers going to quit being haunted by the ghost of Big Papi and move on from the failed experiment that is M Sano?  He is a liability at first and---lets be real here--does not put the ball in play enough to cater to his bat in the lineup.  Please, let's take our past lumps an move on!  Polanco and Kepler are streaky enough to alternate killing innings, we don't need a player who might as well take his glove with him when he comes to the plate with two outs!

 

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Call me contrarian but if I was running this team I'd definitely keep Kirilloff in the minors until May to "buy" that extra year of control and use the time to get a good look at Rooker in left and at the plate. If Rooker stumbles then no problem having someplace to play Kirrilloff when he comes up. If Rooker shines and Kirilloff struggles at AAA no pressure to rush the kid up to the majors. If they both shine the Twins will be in a strong trade position.

This seems perfectly reasonable to me. I think you can make a legit argument that it's more pointless to send Rooker to practice at the alternate site than Kirilloff, and it also doesn't make much sense to have Rooker sitting on the bench in the majors. 

Twins can very easily make this case for buying time with AK. 

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I go Rooker in left. Kiriloff to St. Paul to train at 1B. After a hot Sano start trade Sano. Plug Kiriloff in at 1B. Later in the season, provided he stays healthy that long, trade Buxton, Move Kepler to CF, plug in Larnach in right field. Next season plug in last year's top pick(I forgot his name) at DH. Or the next best hitting prospect that is not too good defensively.

 

You hopefully get pitching back in these transactions. If not, spend saved Buxton/Sano dollars on a top 3 starter.

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Baseball being the business that it is makes it difficult to justify the Twins keeping Kiriloff in the majors at the start. The entire control rule is stupid to begin with. So it will be Cave and either Rooker or Broxton to start. What some are saying about Kiriloff sounds like when I lived in NY and every CF was the next coming of Mantle. I hope he will be a solid ballplayer but it's a big reach to think he will be like Yelich. And Cave improved greatly on defense last year and even won a couple of games at the beginning of the season. Either way, we will miss Eddie's offense for at least this year.

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Guess I'm a little later to this party than intended, but at the same time, haven't we already been her 2 or 3 or 4 times already?

 

I WANT Kirilloff playing daily and mashing in LF/1B/RF on occasion, etc. I completely believe he is going to be a good to great hitter with solid OB numbers and probably crank somewhere around 60 XB every year. On a related note, I think Larnach is going to be the same and that Rooker can be a very nice ballplayer and have a good career as well, though he may lag behind defensively. I also think all 3 have a future, especially when we look at 2022 and beyond.

 

From all reports he was impressive in St Paul last year and showed real growth despite not playing a normal season. And his first hit and sliding catch in the playoff loss to Houston was exciting. But we have to remember he's still never had a single game played at the AAA level and was in that playoff game because the Twins were short of bodies. YES, they believe in him enough to give him that opportunity, but he's not there if not for injury.

 

And that doesn't take away anything from his ability or potential. Even with a season missed due to TJ surgery, had 2020 been a normal, full season, he very easily could have made his ML debut. But that's not the reality of what happened. Despite secondary sites, coaching, simulated games, etc, every single milb player lost a year of normal play and development.

 

IMO, this FO and coaching staff are not looking to play service time games. They are looking to build the best roster they can with the idea of WINNING. If Kirilloff looks fine both offensively and defensively and appears ready, he probably opens with the club. But service time arguement be damned, there are real and logical and logistical reasons for him not to. There is a real arguement to be made that him getting a little more time to hone a few things and ramp up are a positive. For that matter, what did Rooker display in his career thus far and his SSS last year to indicate he doesn't deserve a shot at some playing time?

 

I can easily see a scenario where AK opens 2021. But I can also see viable reasons for Rooker and Cave, maybe Arraez also, sharing LF come opening day from a purely baseball and roster situation. Personally, I disagree with Bonnes's thoughts that they will make an early decision on this. With about 2 1/2 weeks to go, I'd argue the best thing they could do for AK AND the roster is to let Kirilloff stick around for as long as possible for development and competition.

 

Baldelli and his staff are going to make what they believe is the right decision, whichever way it goes. And I don't believe it will bave anything more to do than simply putting the best initial roster together.

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