When initially coming back to the lineup from his stint on the Injured List, Kirilloff noted that he would be playing through pain, and it was all about tolerance. Surgery was never ruled out, and as can be the case with these types of injuries, it seemed like a matter of when, not if. Through 47 games back in the lineup, Minnesota’s rookie slashed .260/.316/.387. The first two numbers aren’t bad, but the slugging percentage leaves plenty to be desired from a guy who has shown so much more power potential.
The “more” is why 2022 looks to be a really exciting opportunity for Kirilloff. Assuming surgery goes well, and rehab is straightforward, the inputs for substantially better outputs are already there. Kirilloff’s xwOBA in 2021 sits at .365, nearly 60 points higher than his .308 mark. His .288 xBA is more than 30 points higher than his .251 avg, and his xSLG at .532 is a far cry more impressive than the actual .432 mark he compiled.
In the Statcast numbers, we can see what he can become, or maybe even should’ve been. Kirilloff crushed opposing pitching to a similar tune as teammate Nelson Cruz. The difference is that one has a healthier (Cruz dealt with a ruptured tendon in recent seasons) wrist, which enables strength through the point of contact.
Looking at Kirilloff’s assessment of projected and actual outcomes, we can see a stark difference between what was and what is. Notably, the max exit velocity and hard-hit percentage are substantially lower than what you’d expect for someone with consistent exit velocity and a high barrel rate. It’s why, and you can gravitate towards any batter’s expected outcomes, there’s reason to believe that future reality skews more towards the expected than actual production.
So, what does that mean for the Twins and their star rookie? If there’s a positive when it comes to such an injury, it’s that a cleaner bill of health should allow runway for a loftier set of expectations to be reached. I wouldn’t put it past Kirilloff to contend for a batting title; his swing is that pure. What should be a near-certain bet is multiple 30 homer seasons once settling in at the highest level.
The Twins look to have played this timeline correctly. Kirilloff more than got his feet wet this season and was able to adjust to the opposition on the fly. He now has an entire offseason to rehab and get right while also understanding what lies ahead in terms of competition. The results aren’t where he’d have liked them to be, and surgery isn’t an ideal scenario, but he’s best equipped to attack the competition in the season ahead. Bet on Alex bouncing back well, and those expected outcomes should soon start to become a reality.