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  • Finding a Silver Lining in Kirilloff's Surgery


    Ted Schwerzler

    On Wednesday, the Minnesota Twins announced that rookie Alex Kirilloff would undergo surgery on his ailing wrist. It looks to be virtually season-ending, but the return provides plenty of reason for promise.

    Image courtesy of © Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

    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.

    Statcast.PNG.36ee26bb99011de50274b8c8805763b0.PNG

    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.

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    I mean, the best news from this is Kirilloff is expected to have about an 8 week or 56 day recovery time so it shouldn't be a factor for him in 2022.

    Since Kirilloff remains on the 10 day IL, it does seem like the Twins are hoping for a quicker than normal recovery so he can get back onto the field this year despite the rumors his season is officially done. There are also some news the Twins may look for opportunities for Kirilloff to get some winter ball time if he's not able to make it back for the regular season. Even if he has recovered a little early, it'd be awfully unexpected for him to be ready in time for a rehab assignment while the MiLB season was still ongoing.

    Rough break for a guy the Twins really need to pan out.

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    14 minutes ago, bean5302 said:

    I mean, the best news from this is Kirilloff is expected to have about an 8 week or 56 day recovery time so it shouldn't be a factor for him in 2022.

    Since Kirilloff remains on the 10 day IL, it does seem like the Twins are hoping for a quicker than normal recovery so he can get back onto the field this year despite the rumors his season is officially done. There are also some news the Twins may look for opportunities for Kirilloff to get some winter ball time if he's not able to make it back for the regular season. Even if he has recovered a little early, it'd be awfully unexpected for him to be ready in time for a rehab assignment while the MiLB season was still ongoing.

    Rough break for a guy the Twins really need to pan out.

    I figure that they went the 10 day route in case he does heal up quickly.  They can still move him to the 60 day if they need or want to, but can't go the other direction.  There's no reason to rush him though.  

    I certainly don't expect to see him again this season.  I am glad that it was decided to deal with this now instead of the offseason though.  No reason for him to keep playing with the injury this season.

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    Is this the same wrist he injured in the minors? And did he have surgery that time to correct the problem as well, or was that a rest & recovery move?

    I love him as a hitter and really hope we're not seeing the start of a recurring problem.

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