During the 2021 season, Alex Kirilloff showcased some impressive hitting skills that made him one of the organization's top prospects. In 59 games, he posted a .722 OPS while combining for 20 extra-base hits. However, a wrist injury during the season sapped a lot of his power, and he made a tough decision. Minnesota was out of the playoff contention, so it made sense to shut down Kirilloff and get him the surgery he needed to be a more effective player.
The Twins hoped the surgery and an offseason of recovery would do wonders for Kirilloff's ailing wrist, but things didn't go as planned to start 2022. In 10 big-league games, he went 5-for-29 with no extra-base hits and a 12-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. Something wasn't clicking with Kirilloff's swing, and the team decided to option him to St. Paul. He wasn't adding much to Minnesota's line-up with his swing at the time, and this allowed him to rediscover his swing in a less pressure-filled environment.
It took time and a demotion, but Kirilloff's swing has returned at Triple-A. In 19 games, he is hitting .387/.477/.693 (1.171) with five doubles and six home runs. Entering play on Monday, he was in the middle of an eight-game hit streak, slugging 1.031 with a 1.570 OPS. He's also only 24-years-old so all but seven of his at-bats have come against older pitchers. Kirilloff is destroying the baseball, and he has multiple assets he can add back to the Twins' roster.
Minnesota has been experimenting with multiple parts of the roster this season, including regularly playing Luis Arraez at first base. Arraez has gotten off to the best start to his big-league career, so the Twins continue to find ways to get him in the line-up. However, Minnesota's overall production at first base has been poor. The Twins' WAR production ranks 21st among first basemen, according to FanGraphs. Kirilloff's powerful swing can help improve those numbers, and his defense at first is considered very good.
Now the question remains, where does Kirilloff fit into the current team's roster? Minnesota's outfield already has five players seeing regular playing time in Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Trevor Larnach, Kyle Garlick, and Gilberto Celestino. Each of those players brings specific skills that it's hard to imagine Kirilloff taking playing time away from any of them. José Miranda seems to fit a similar skillset to Kirilloff, but he's posted a 1.101 OPS over his last 11 games. Kirilloff and Jose Miranda also bat from different sides of the plate, so that is likely something the team considers before making a move.
Roster depth is critical for any contending team, so having Kirilloff mashing the ball at Triple-A is definitely a good sign. He is part of the team's long-term plan, but his place on the current roster is a bit of a puzzle. Minnesota needs more production from first base, but some of Arraez's success this season might be tied to him not changing defensive positions every day. In the end, Kirilloff will be back at some point in 2022, but there isn't a rush to react to a sample size of Triple-A games.
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