Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said before Game 1 on Tuesday. "It's a move that, once you get to know the player and the person, you're excited to make. He's a young guy. very mature guy." He added, "He doesn't seem to let very much affect him at all. A guy who worries about the things he can control, and that's it."
Baldelli was talking about Alex Kirilloff, the Twins first-round draft pick in 2016 out of Plum High School in Pittsburgh, the 15th overall pick that year. The day he was drafted, he led his team to the state championship game.
Kirilloff had committed to Liberty University, but he quickly signed with the Twins and went to Elizabethton where he made a strong first impression. In 55 games, he hit .306/.341/.454 (.794) with nine doubles and seven home runs.
Unfortunately, his season came to an end early when he hurt his elbow. In March of 2017, he had Tommy John surgery and missed that season.
Rehab went well, and he returned to the diamond in 2018. He hit like he hadn’t missed a beat. In 65 games with the Cedar Rapids Kernels, he hit .333/.391/.607 (.999) with 20 doubles, five triples and 13 home runs. He was promoted to Ft. Myers, where he also played 65 games and hit .362/.393/.550 (.943) with 24 doubles and seven home runs. He helped the Miracle to the 2018 Florida State League championship. He jumped up prospect rankings nationally and was ranked as high as #9 on MLB.com’s rankings.
In 2019, he was invited to his first big league spring training and went 8-for-26 (.308). He played 94 games for the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos. He hit .283/.343/.413 (.756) with 18 doubles and nine home runs. He also played 35 games at first base, a position he hadn’t played some he had done so on the national circuit during his summers in high school.
He was invited to Twins spring training this year for a second time. He went 9-for-21 (.429) with two doubles and two home runs.
Unfortunately, the global pandemic delayed the season. He was likely to head back to Double-A Pensacola for a short stint, or maybe even just would have started at Triple-A Rochester. Instead, he was added to the Twins 60-player pool for Summer Camp and has spent the past two months where he has continued to work in the outfield and at first base.
And on Monday night, Kirilloff got the phone call that every ballplayer dreams of. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli called him and told him that he was on the Twins Wild Card playoff roster.
Baldelli said, "Chatted with him for a little while and also told him that he was going to make our playoff roster. The tone on the other end of the line did not change a ton. I think he said, 'Oh yeah. That's awesome.' And that was essentially it. That's exactly what I expected to get from him. If I had gotten anything different from him, then I would have been concerned. But that's Alex Kirilloff, a really, really talented young player, and a guy we're going to see out there. I can see getting him into these games and helping us win."
Kirilloff acknowledged, "Sometimes my emotions don't match up with my reaction. I was surprised, and definitely happy and excited for the opportunity. We've stayed ready all summer."
It will be interesting to see what role he will play through the Twins playoff run, regardless of how long it lasts.
Kirilloff added, "If there's an opportunity where I'm needed, my job is just to stay ready and to do my best."
As a star throughout his baseball-playing career, Kirilloff has really never had to pinch hit much. "Pinch hitting is, I can't really say, is something I'm too familiar with. I am familiar with what I do to prepare in my approach throughout my at bat. That's something that I will lean upon as called upon."
Derek Falvey noted before Tuesday's game that with using just 13 pitchers on the 28-man roster. "Thinking about how we could maximize some of the potential matchups and opportunities over the course of a two or three game series, just felt like he could fit with Josh being clearly down and the ability to play the outfield. Rocco has a lot of options now as he works through managing a game, and we have some protection in a few spots. Also, he is a good hitter, and he's someone we think can help us."
After the phone call, he called his parents and his wife. His wife, Jordan, and their daughter were in St. Paul for a little over a month.
If he were to play during the series, he would become the first Twins player to make his Major League debut in the playoffs. Let’s take a quick look at his journey to the big leagues.
More On Alex Kirilloff
- Twins Daily Draft Preview: Alex Kirilloff (June 2016)
- Get To Know: Twins Outfield Prospect Alex Kirilloff (January 2017)
- Twins Daily 2018 Top Prospects: #3 Alex Kirilloff (February 2017)
- Seth’s Twins Talk (Episode 2) (January 2018)
- Twins Daily 2018 Top Prospects: #5 Alex Kirilloff (February 2018)
- Lewis, Kirilloff Provide High Character, Huge Potential (May 2018)
- Looking Back: Twins Take Four Prep Hitters Atop 2016 Draft (August 2018)
- Twins Daily 2019 Top Prospects: #2 Alex Kirilloff (February 2019)
- Alex Kirilloff Should Make his Twins Debut in 2020 (November 2019)
- Twins Daily 2020 Top Prospects: #2 Alex Kirilloff (February 2020)
- Twins’ Top Outfield Prospects Shine in Shortened Spring (April 2020)
- Reviewing Minnesota’s Recent First Round Picks (June 2020)
- Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach or Brent Rooker: Which Top Prospect Should the Twiins Call Up? (August 2020)
- Twins Most Impactful Roster Additions Will Likely Come from St. Paul (August 2020)