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  • Has Alex Kirilloff Played Himself Off the Opening Day Roster?


    Cody Christie

    In game performances during the spring typically have little bearing on a player’s roster spot, but the Twins were already in a tough spot with Alex Kirilloff. Has he played himself off the Opening Day roster?

    Image courtesy of © David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports

    Things have been complicated from the start with Alex Kirilloff. Under the baseball’s current CBA, it’s in a team’s best interest to keep a young player in the minor leagues so the club can pick up an extra year of service time. As a side note, MLB and the MLBPA will need to work out a new CBA and this issue is likely one that will be addressed and possibly changed.

     

    There has been some indication that the Twins were willing to ignore this current practice as they have said that Kirilloff will have every opportunity to make the Opening Day roster, but his performance hasn’t pushed him ahead of others.

     

    Entering play on Monday, he has gone 4-for-31 (.129 BA) with two extra-base hits and an eight to one strikeout to walk ratio. His lone home run was a massive 420 foot shot and it came off a left-handed pitcher, so that’s one offensive positive from the spring.

    https://twitter.com/SlangsOnSports/status/1370079829354237956?s=20

    Minnesota has clearly been getting their roster ready for Opening Day including lining up the rotation and using batting orders that will be similar to the regular season. In the last two “Opening Day” line-ups, Brent Rooker has been used as the starting left fielder and he has been having a much stronger spring. He is hitting .381/.391/.667 with three doubles and a home run. Rooker is considered a rookie too, but he is already 26-years old so there is less of an urgency to pick up an extra year of service time.

     

    Rooker isn’t the only option in left field as Kyle Garlick has been making his presence known in the Twins line-up. Entering play on Monday, he has gone 9-for-24 with four home runs and a double. This spring he leads the team in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, and OPS. Garlick and Rooker both have minor league options remaining, so that can play into the team’s decision as well.

     

    Another wrinkle in this equation is the fact that the Triple-A season was pushed back a month with Opening Day scheduled for May 4. This means Kirilloff can’t go to Triple-A to get in more work and he already missed a full season of development in 2020. St. Paul will be used as an alternate site before the Triple-A season starts, so he can get into a routine there and be called up whenever the team feels he is ready.

     

    Minnesota might be ready to see what Kirilloff can do at the big-league level. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli hasn’t been referring to Kirilloff in future tense anymore, because he has done almost everything he needs to prove he is MLB ready. "It's not exactly potential," Baldelli said. "He just hasn't had the opportunities yet at the Major League level to show what he can do. We think he's already a good offensive player. He's handled himself really well.”

     

    Kirilloff’s defensive flexibility might also help his chances of making the Opening Day roster. He is athletic enough to play in a corner outfield spot, but he also has a chance to be very good at first base. His defensive value is higher than Rooker and Garlick, so that might make up for his poor offensive numbers.

     

    Spring training offers such a small sample size that the numbers produced by players need to be taken with a grain of salt. Kirilloff has struggled, but he still has an opportunity to come north with the club for Opening Day.

     

    Do you think Kirilloff cracks the Opening Day roster? Are you worried about his spring performance? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

     

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    I'm not worried.  He'll make the team.  And Rooker should as well.  Garlick is deserving, but having options makes him a probable Triple A  designation.

     

    The other guy I think is closer than people think and should get a chance soon is Larnach.  And if Kepler doesn't figure it out pretty soon (or Sano for that matter) we may be seeing more of Kiriloff at 1B and Larnach and Rooker in the corner outfield spots 

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    If the current trend continues throughout the rest of the Spring, I think Rooker has earned the first chance (not what I anticipated at the beginning of ST).

     

    During the month before AAA, will they have simulated games at St. Paul like before? I hope so, otherwise it would be tough to have Kiriloff stagnate for a month.

     

     

    Also if Rooker starts and rakes, Kepler struggles and is unable to hit to all fields, and Kiriloff starts clicking.... gulp.... I think there should be a short fuse (1-2 months) for Kepler to take a step back (this coming from someone who though he'd be entrenched in the 3 spot and a pereninal allstar by now....)

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    I am sure that a lot more things are going to go into the decision than a batting or slugging average in a handful of spring training games. I guess they will be looking at all the things he must have been working with his coaches before deciding, and balance in the line up as well

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    Cave or Kiriloff haven't performed well. Rooker and Garlic have hit well in ST. Twins said they wanted to bring the best from ST, so that means that they should bring up Broxton. He has shown that he can hit as well playing great defense and speed. His talents will be very useful for us in LF, CF subbing, PR and late innings defensive sub. I'd leave the rest to Twins politics

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    I seriously doubt anyone in the Twins organizations viewed it as Kirilloff’s to lose. Rooker and Garlick are the more proven prospects and it’s not particularly close. The more appropriate speculation was could Kirilloff demonstrate during ST that he would be the most productive player from day 1 of the season.

     

    My guess is that they would have considered Kirilloff if he had performed like Garlick or Rooker especially if Rooker and Garlick performed like Kirilloff has performed. It would have been an interesting decision had they all performed like Garlick or all performed like Kirilloff. However, unless there is absolutely no such thing as competition for jobs in spring training, Kirilloff is not starting the season with the big league club.

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    With Rooker and Kirilloff both essentially rookies I say you go with the hot hand.  They are going to keep Cave so really only room for one more outfielder unless they move on from the turtle.  With the options Garlick, Rooker and Kirilloff have they can mix and match all season long.  Alex has been far from dominant this spring and while spring training doesn't mean much for veterans it still is used to evaluate the fringe players and rookies to some degree.  

     

    To me the thought was that Kirilloff's bat was going to be so good this spring it would look bad for the team to send him down.  Currently that is not the case.  Right now he almost looks overmatched at the plate I haven't even seen a lot of solid contact except for obviously the HR.  Do I think he is better than this, of course.  Do I want to wait for him to figure it out when we have better options, NO.  Send him down wait for whatever corrections need to be made and when someone on the big team starts to struggle bring him up.

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    Yes Kiriloff is off to a bad start - but let's look at the BA of some other Twins OF - beyond Garlick and Rooker:

     

    Kepler - 067 with a 111 OPS

    Buxton - .115 .143 .231 .374

    Cave - .158 .360 .211 .570

    Kiriloff - .129 .182 .258 .440

     

    Which of these players has played himself off the team?  Do we have a Garlick, Broxton, Rooker OF?

     

    https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1077317-mlb-12-reasons-spring-training-stats-dont-matter

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    The only reason he wouldn’t be on the opening day roster is reluctance with starting his service time clock. I hope we don’t resort to that. Kirilloff was selected out of several OF options at the alternate site to start an elimination playoff game. Claiming he’s not ready less than 8 months later is silly.

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    Yes Kiriloff is off to a bad start - but let's look at the BA of some other Twins OF - beyond Garlick and Rooker:

     

    Kepler - 067 with a 111 OPS

    Buxton - .115 .143 .231 .374

    Cave - .158 .360 .211 .570

    Kiriloff - .129 .182 .258 .440

     

    Which of these players has played himself off the team?  Do we have a Garlick, Broxton, Rooker OF?

     

    https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1077317-mlb-12-reasons-spring-training-stats-dont-matter

     

    While I get your point that Spring stats don't matter you are kind of comparing apples and oranges here.  Kepler, Cave and Buxton all have years of MLB experience and track record.  We all know they will have better stats than that during the regular season, well except maybe Kepler.  Also Buxton is a centerfielder and not really in competition with Kirilloff, but I digress. 

     

    With no "proven" MLB experience to rely on the next closest thing is Spring training where Kirilloff's competition is Rooker and Garlic who also have little to no MLB experience (apples to apples).  Who has performed better?  Who looks more ready to start the season?  If Kirilloff is so much better than those two where are the results?  For guys with no MLB track record you have to prove that you belong.  Kirilloff has only played about a half season of AA ball and hasn't had a big spring.  I think those results tell us he isn't as ready as his competition.

     

    Rooker had a very good MLB debut and is having a very good spring.  Garlick has been very good at AAA with an up and down track record in MLB but also having arguably the best spring of any hitter on the team.  Then you have Kirilloff who has been ho hum to this point.  In this game you can't live on reputation you have to prove you belong.  IMO Rooker and Garlick look more ready at this point in time than Alex and he should find his swing at AAA before bumping off two guys that look ready to go.

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    I think the biggest thing playing into this is the push back of AAA season to May.  If I was running the show, I would start Kirilloff and see how he does when games matter.  If he struggles early, you move him to alternate site.  

     

    That being said, I would not be upset if Rooker gets the start and Kirilloff goes to alternate site.  I do not put a lot of stock in ST numbers, but when there is a position battle, you have to use something.  If Rooker was not hitting like he is I would go with Kirilloff no doubt, but if Rooker can hit well that can help get some wins early. 

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    The only reason he wouldn’t be on the opening day roster is reluctance with starting his service time clock. I hope we don’t resort to that. Kirilloff was selected out of several OF options at the alternate site to start an elimination playoff game. Claiming he’s not ready less than 8 months later is silly.

     

    No. Saying he should start the season because he started one game is silly especially while ignoring his competition for this position were not available for that game. Ignoring that Rooker and Garlick are much more proven is silly. Suggesting a player that has never produced above A+ should start day 1 is silly when you have multiple options that are proven at AAA and in Garlick's case proven at the MLB level. Wasting a year of control on a player that is not ready when you have good options is not silly, it would be massive incompetence and I would lose a whole lot of confidence in this FO if they even considered Kirilloff at this point.

     

    The clinging to the fact he started a playoff game while ignoring absolutely everything else. including the fact he has sucked this spring is fanaticism at it's finest. You can't make a case based on performance so you are clinging to the fact he started ONE game when Rooker was hurt and Garlick / Broxton were not on the team.

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    Start him in St. Paul.  Between the union approved incentive for messing with his service time, plus being off to a slow start - fair or not, its a good long term business decision to let him get hot playing for the Saints instead of "playing thru it" as a Twin.  

    The issue with this is that St. Paul doesn't start playing till May 4th. Also, it's not that great of a long term business decision if it burns the bridge, creates a general animosity and distrust from the clubhouse, and reflects poorly on the organization to the public. 

    Nevertheless, he needed to force the issue in March and he hasn't. I do see the potential problem in how much it would sting if he's up with the Twins in April and looks lost at the plate like Aaron Hicks in 2013. 

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    The only reason he wouldn’t be on the opening day roster is reluctance with starting his service time clock. I hope we don’t resort to that. Kirilloff was selected out of several OF options at the alternate site to start an elimination playoff game. Claiming he’s not ready less than 8 months later is silly.

    Rooker was hurt then though, and Garlick wasn't on the team and OPS'ing 1.100. There are better options than AK at this moment.

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    The issue with this is that St. Paul doesn't start playing till May 4th. Also, it's not that great of a long term business decision if it burns the bridge, creates a general animosity and distrust from the clubhouse, and reflects poorly on the organization to the public. 

    Nevertheless, he needed to force the issue in March and he hasn't. I do see the potential problem in how much it would sting if he's up with the Twins in April and looks lost at the plate like Aaron Hicks in 2013. 

    The idea of it burning a bridge, creating animosity and distrust, and reflecting poorly to the public is way overblown. It's the same story people were spinning when they didn't call Buxton up in September a few years back and he's talking extension with the team now. It happens all over the game on any number of teams every year and players still sign extensions with those teams. If they treat him well over the next 7 years and give him a market value offer he isn't going to turn it down and go somewhere else because he had to sit in St Paul for 3 or 4 weeks to start this season after looking uncompetitive in most of his ST ABs. 

     

    The players know it's a business and it is still a business in 6 or 7 years when they hit free agency and they will make their decision based on a whole lot of factors. Service time manipulation is bad for the game, but doesn't have the "I'm leaving no matter what cuz you disrespected me!" affect that many fans claim it does. Especially if there's a legit reason for it like Rooker and Garlic looking much more prepared to start this year successfully (not talking numbers, talking how they look at the plate and how they're hitting the ball).

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    Four right handed hitters—Rooker, Broxton, Garlick and Astudillo—have hit very well. If Kirilloff makes the team, there’s probably only room for one. If Alex starts at St. Paul, there’s room for two.

    If Kiriklloff starts swinging well in the next few days, he can claim a spot, but I think it is up to him to do better. He has no absolute claim to a roster spot despite his #1 prospect status. Of note, as well, there is no backup for Sanó if Kirilloff is sent to the minors.

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    I could go along with just about any direction here. But the Twins' own evaluators need to decide which horses to bet on. Roughly going on ceiling, I think you have to stay committed to Kepler, and you have to make sure that Kirilloff is challenged and progressing. The harder question is what are you passing on if Rooker or Garlick are marginalized?

     

    But while we are in spring panic mode, should any of the uncertainty make us concerned about the coaching? This spring is showing a continuation of the production backsliding we saw all through the MLB lineup. I get that 2019 must have been an outlier for some Twins, and that the league may not have adjusted to the whole team approach, but should that really add up to regression in 8 out of nine players at once? Oh, for a larger sample size

     

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