Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach both made top-100 prospect lists on their way to the big leagues. Minnesota expected both players to be in the middle of the order for the next decade. Over the last 12 months, Matt Wallner has put himself on the prospect map, and he may have altered the team’s future outfield outlook.
2022 Stats (45 G): .250/.290/.361 (.651), 7 2B, 3 HR, 36 K, 5 BB
Kirilloff’s 2022 season was plagued by a wrist injury that eventually required surgery. Each of his first two seasons has been cut short because of a wrist injury. His wrist surgery this season is unique in the fact that they are shortening his ulna, which is something that few MLB players have had done. Kirilloff showed signs of being able to play through the injury as he dominated at Triple-A with a 1.106 OPS in 35 games. Eventually, he wasn’t able to play through the injury.
"Any time you're talking about shaving a bone down or shortening a bone, I mean that's a substantial procedure," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "But we're hopeful that by getting it done now gives us a chance to use the offseason to get right, to start swinging the bat again, to feel good and to start getting ready for next year."
Minnesota hopes Kirilloff is ready for the start of spring training, but there is no guarantee with this type of surgery. Out of these players, Kirilloff was seen as the best prospect, because Baseball America and MLB.com had him in their top-15 prospects leading into the 2019 campaign. Entering his age-25 season, questions will continue to follow him regarding his wrist and whether or not he can get his career back on track.
2022 Stats (51 G): .231/.306/.406 (.712), 13 2B, 5 HR, 57 K, 18 BB
Like Kirilloff, injuries have impacted Larnach’s first two seasons in the majors. Last year, he posted an .806 OPS through his first 50 games, but things went south. His OPS dropped to .672 before the team eventually demoted him to Triple-A. He eventually revealed that a hand injury had bothered him through part of the season.
Larnach started the 2022 season well and was one of the team’s best hitters during May as he posted a 1.077 OPS. By the end of June, his performance had suffered and the team announced he’d undergo a bilateral surgical repair to treat the core muscle strain. At the time, the team announced that he’d need about 6-8 weeks before returning, but he learned that he needed more time to recover.
“You learn really quick that that’s not really even reasonable, especially for a professional athlete trying to play at their highest level,” Larnach said. “It wasn’t really relevant to me. I had to take a step back to look at what I needed to do to feel really good. I did that, and I learned a lot from it."
During his rehab with the Saints, Larnach suffered a wrist injury that will end his season. He seemed close to returning, so this is likely a frustrating end for the 24-year-old. He has been limited to 130 games in his first two seasons, and injuries have stopped him from producing like he did in the minors.
2022 Stats (AA/AAA 128 G): .277/.412/.542 (.953), 32 2B, 4 3B, 27 HR, 170 K, 97 BB
Unlike Larnach and Kirilloff, Wallner is coming off a tremendous season where he played well in the upper minors and made his big-league debut. In 128 minor league games, Wallner posted a .953 OPS on his way to being named the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year. Kirilloff (2018) and Larnach (2019) were both previous winners of this award, but Wallner’s stock is on the rise. He’s seen limited action at the big-league level, but he has been on base over 30% of the time and three of his eight hits have been for extra bases.
Wallner used last year’s Arizona Fall League to make adjustments for the 2022 season. “It’s just cool to bounce ideas off different guys and strategies that they have going into the game, at the plate, in the field, whatever,” Wallner said during last year’s AFL. “I’ve definitely learned a lot since I’ve been out here, even in a short six weeks. So, it’s definitely been good for me.”
All three outfielders will be entering their age-25 season in 2023. Kirilloff and Larnach were seen as better prospects in the minors with both making top-100 lists before debuting. Now, Wallner may have passed them by, especially with the injury concerns facing the other two outfielders. There's no question that Minnesota’s future line-up is better with all three bats being healthy and hitting in the middle of the order.
Do you think Wallner has passed Kirilloff and Larnach this season? Will all three players be able to stay healthy in 2023? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.