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  • Twins Minor League Report (5/18): Steer Walks It Off for Wichita, Four Hits for Kirilloff


    Andrew Mahlke

    St. Paul and Wichita each played extra-inning games. Fort Myers played a double-header. A top-seven pitcher made a start and was very solid. One player who desperately needed to show some power broke out of a slump in a significant way. A top-20 prospect delivered a walk-off homer. Read all about them and more in tonight’s Minor League Report.

    Image courtesy of Ed Bailey, Wichita Wind Surge

    A couple of Twins affiliates played extra-inning games. Alex Kirilloff had his best game of the year. Louie Varland was outstanding once again. Noah Miller had a multi extra-base-hit day. And Spencer Steer has ice in his veins.

    In addition, we saw one Twins' top prospects continue to transition to his role as a starter masterfully.

    Let’s see what happened this Wednesday in the Twins organization without further ado. 

    TRANSACTIONS

    SAINTS (AAA)
    St. Paul 7, Omaha 8
    Box Score

    On Wednesday, the St. Paul Saints fell to the Omaha Storm Chasers 8 to 7, but Alex Kirilloff showed some very encouraging signs. After an extra-base-hit hiatus of 73 plate appearances to begin his 2022 season, Kirilloff recorded two extra-base hits on Wednesday to show some signs of power that many thought he lost due to a lingering wrist injury.

    Jake Faria made his seventh start of the 2022 season for the Saints and struggled again, only going three innings of work. Faria allowed four runs on four hits and three walks in those three innings while striking out two batters. His season ERA increased to 7.77 in the lackluster performance.

    The Saints stranded Kirilloff at second base in the first inning after his double, and Faria struggled. Faria gave up three runs on two hits and three walks in the first, but he stranded two runners thanks to a clutch 5-4-3 double play.

    In the third inning, the Storm Chasers scored another run thanks to a two-out homer from Brewer Hicklen. The Saints responded in the top half of the fourth with the Kirilloff homer and got another run when Jake Cave scored on a Jermaine Palacios single, but the Saints left runs on the table and stranded the bases loaded.

    Daniel Gossett came on to relieve Faria in the fourth and immediately gave up a homer to JaCoby Jones. Gossett settled in and worked three innings of relief while allowing two runs on two hits and two walks while striking out four batters.

    Cave scored again in the top of the sixth, this time on a single from David Banuelos to pull the game within two runs. The Storm Chasers responded with one in the bottom of the sixth to extend their lead back to three.

    In the seventh, the Cave show continued when he clubbed his first homer of the year to pull the game back within two runs. Drew Strotman came on in relief in the bottom of the seventh and threw one and ⅓ scoreless innings, allowing one hit while striking out two batters.

    In the top of the eighth, the Saints put together an incredible rally when Elliot Soto and Mark Contreras led off with back-to-back singles, and Curtis Terry drew a walk to give Kirilloff bases loaded with no outs. Kirilloff responded by hitting a two-run single to knot the game up at six, followed by Terry scoring on a balk to give the Saints a 7 to 6 lead.

    Strotman gave up a leadoff double in the bottom of the eighth and struck out Hicklen before being replaced by Jordan Gore. The first batter Gore faced hit an RBI single, and the Cardinals tied the game again.

    After an uneventful ninth, the Saints couldn’t get anything going offensively in the tenth inning. Jake Petricka came on in relief in the bottom half, and the first batter he faced singled, ending the game due to a runner starting on second base.

    The Saints fell to 15-20 with the loss. Kirilloff was 4-for-6 with a double, a homer, and three RBI. Cave went 2-for-6 with a homer and three runs scored. Roy Morales went 2-for-5, and Soto reached base four times due to two hits and two walks.

    WIND SURGE (AA)
    Wichita 7, Springfield 6
    Box Score

    The Wichita Wind Surge were victorious over the Springfield Cardinals on Wednesday by a score of 7-6. Twins Daily #12 prospect Louie Varland made a start for the Wind Surge, and he pitched well, throwing six innings, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks while striking out eight batters. He decreased his season ERA to 3.58 and continued to be an excellent minor league pitcher.

    The Wind Surge took an early 2-0 lead in the first inning behind four straight singles from Austin Martin, Alex Isola, Andrew Bechtold, and Matt Wallner. Martin scored on Bechtold’s single, while Isola came in to score on a double play later in the inning.

    Varland gave up a homer to MLB.com’s #27 overall prospect Jordan Walker to tie the game at two in the third inning. The game remained a stalemate for a couple more innings until the bottom of the fifth when Wallner came up clutch with a two-out, two-strike, two-run single to give the Wind Surge a 4-2 lead.

    In the top of the seventh, reliever Osiris German wriggled out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam to keep the score at 4-2. The Wind Surge couldn’t muster anything offensively in the seventh or eighth innings, so the Wind Surge turned to Alex Scherff to close the game down. Thanks to three walks, an error, and a hit-by-pitch, the Cardinals tied the game in the ninth.

    Austin Schulfer came in the ninth to clean up the mess and continued working into the tenth, as he recorded a 1-2-3 frame in the tenth. Wallner was intentionally walked to set up the double play in the bottom half of the inning, and it worked, as Michael Helman bunted into a fielder's choice. DaShawn Keirsey struck out with runners on the corners and two outs to send the game into the eleventh.

    Ben Gross came in to work the eleventh inning, and the first batter he faced singled, setting up runners on the corners and nobody out. The next batter hit into a double play, but the go-ahead run came in to score. The Cardinals hit a homer with two outs to make it 6-4.

    In the bottom of the eleventh, Chris Williams worked a leadoff walk. The Wind Surge then called on their best hitter, Spencer Steer, who had the night off. Steer got the count to 2-2, then unloaded on a fastball to left field for a three-run, walk-off homer, his seventh homer.

    The Wind Surge improved their record to 21-12 on the season thanks to heroics from their star player. Isola went 2-for-3 with two walks and a run scored. Wallner was 2-for-3 with two RBI, two walks, and a stolen base. Williams was 2-for-3 with two walks. And the hero, Steer, was 1-for-1 with a homer and three RBI. Gross picked up his third win as his record improved to 3-0.

    KERNELS (HIGH-A)
    Cedar Rapids 2, Lake County 4
    Box Score

    On Wednesday night, the Cedar Rapids Kernels fell to the Lake County Captains 4 to 2. Aaron Rozek toed the rubber for the Kernels as he went three and ⅓ innings, allowing three runs on five hits and two walks while striking out three batters. He took his first loss as his record went to 4 and 1. He now has a 5.1 ERA.

    The Captains started the game quickly, getting a home run from the game's second batter. Twins Daily #18 prospect Christian Encarnacion-Strand roped a double in the bottom half of the first but was stranded at third base.

    Rozek allowed two runs after a walk, single, RBI double, and sacrifice fly in the top of the third. The Kernels faced a three-run deficit going into the bottom of the third, but they responded. Willie Joe Garry Jr. led off the inning with a walk, and Will Holland tripled on the first pitch of his at-bat; driving in Garry Jr., Anthony Prato hit a sacrifice fly to score Holland, and the Kernels deficit was down to one run after the third inning.

    Bradley Hanner came on in relief of Rozek and threw one and ⅔ innings of scoreless relief while striking out three batters. Hanner’s ERA is down to a minuscule 0.54 on the year. In the bottom of the fifth, Holland hit a double for his second extra-base hit of the game but was stranded at second base. Ryan Shreve came in to relieve Hanner and let up a home run in the top of the sixth to increase the Kernel deficit to two runs.

    In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Kernels threatened after a leadoff double from Prato and a single from Aaron Sabato. Still, they failed to capitalize, leaving these runners stranded at first and third.

    In the ninth inning, the Kernels got the tying run to the plate, but Holland struck out to end the game, and the Kernels lost 4 to 2. With the loss, the Kernels fall to 24-11. They went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, which ultimately decided the game. Holland was 2-for-4 with a double and a triple, and Encarnacion-Strand was 1-for-3 with a double and a walk. Cody Laweryson threw two innings of scoreless relief with three strikeouts, and Miguel Rodriguez pitched a scoreless inning.

    MIGHTY MUSSELS (LOW-A)
    GAME 1: Fort Myers 5, Clearwater 10
    Box Score

    The Mighty Mussels dropped game one of the double-header with Clearwater. Right-hander Pierson Ohl made his sixth start of the year for Fort Myers. Ohl went four innings, allowing five runs on eight hits and one walk while striking out three batters.

    Clearwater started the scoring at the bottom of the first with back-to-back hits to take a 1-0 lead. The Mighty Mussels responded with a run in the top of the second when a pitch hit Dylan Neuse, Neuse stole second base, and Luis Baez had a clutch two-out single to drive in Neuse. However, Clearwater retook the lead in the bottom half of the second when Ohl allowed a two-out solo home run.

    In the top of the third, the Mighty Mussels got a one-out walk from Twins Daily #10 prospect Emmanuel Rodriguez walked, stole second, and scored on a Mikey Perez double. When the Mighty Mussels needed a shutdown inning in response, Ohl could not deliver as he allowed three hits, a walk, and a hit-by-pitch which led to three runs, and the Mighty Mussels trailed 5-2 after three innings.

    After an uneventful fourth inning, Jake Rucker led off the top of the fifth with a single and stole second base. After Rucker moved up to third on a groundout, Rodriguez drew another walk and promptly stole second base for the second time of the game. Former first-round pick Keoni Cavaco singled with two outs to score Rucker and put the Mighty Mussels within two runs of the lead. Jackson Hicks replaced Ohl on the mound in the bottom of the fifth. After an error, two walks, a hit-by-pitch, a single, a ground-rule double, and a wild pitch, Hicks had given up five runs and was pulled from the game after only collecting two outs. The score was 10-3 when Hicks came out, and the game was all but over. John Wilson replaced Hicks and pitched one and ⅓ innings of perfect baseball to finish off the game for the Mighty Mussels.

    In the top of the seventh, Rucker walked, followed by a two-run home run by 2021 first-round pick Noah Miller, his second of the year. The game ended after seven innings, and the Mighty Mussels lost game one of the double-header, 10-5. Miller went 2-for-4 with a home run and 2 RBI, and Rucker went 2-for-3 with a walk.

    GAME 2: Fort Myers 2, Clearwater 0
    Box Score
    Game two was a much different story for the boys in Fort Myers. The Mighty Mussels turned to right-hander Mike Paredes to try to salvage a split in the double-header. Paredes turned in an excellent outing for the Mighty Mussels, going four shutout innings while striking out three batters. The only baserunner Paredes allowed was a single in the first inning, and he only threw 45 pitches. Paredes was primarily used in a relief role to start the season, but his last two appearances have been starts, and that is a role Paredes seems to thrive in, as he has only allowed one hit through seven innings as a starter.

    The game was deadlocked at zero until the fourth inning. Fresh off a multi-hit performance, Miller was in an 0-2 count with one out in the fourth when he hit his second triple of the year to get the first runner in scoring position of the game. After a strikeout of Noah Cardenas, Perez came up in another RBI spot, and he delivered, cranking his fourth home run of the season to give the Mighty Mussels a 2-0 lead.

    After the Perez homer, the Mussels couldn’t manage any more hits and relied on their defense and pitching to win them the game. In the top of the fifth, Niklas Rimmel replaced Paredes and threw two great innings of relief, holding the opposition scoreless and striking out three.

    Fort Myers turned to Regi Grace in the top of the seventh to close the game out, and he pitched phenomenally, striking out all three batters he faced on only 12 pitches to earn his second save of the season.

    After the double-header split, the Mighty Mussels record is 22-12. Mikey Perez finished the game 2-for-3 with the game-winning homer, and Noah Miller went 1-for-3 with a triple and a run scored. These were the only three hits of the game for Fort Myers, but they proved to be enough.

    TWINS DAILY MINOR LEAGUE PLAYERS OF THE DAY
    Pitcher of the Day
    Mike Paredes (Fort Myers) - 4 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 0 BB, 3 K
    Hitter of the DayAlex Kirilloff (St. Paul) - 4-for-6, R, 2B, HR, 3 RBI

    PROSPECT SUMMARY
    We will again keep tabs on the Twins top prospects. You’ll probably read about them in the team sections, but if they aren’t there, you’ll see how they did here

    Here’s a look at how the current Twins Daily Top 20 performed:

    #2 - Austin Martin (Wichita) - 1-for-4, R, HBP
    #4 - Jose Miranda (Minnesota) - 0-for-1, HBP
    #8 - Jhoan Duran (Minnesota) - 1 IP, 2 H, 2 K
    #10 - Emmanuel Rodriguez (Ft. Myers) - 0-for-2, 2 BB, 2 K, 2 SB (9)
    #11 - Noah Miller (Ft. Myers) - 3-for-7, HR (2), 3B (2), 2 R, 2 RBI
    #12 - Louie Varland (Wichita) - 6 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 8 K
    #16 - Spencer Steer (Wichita) - 1-for-1, HR (7), 3 RBI, R
    #18 - Christian Encarnacion-Strand (Cedar Rapids) - 1-for-3, 2B (7), BB

    THURSDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS
    St. Paul @ Omaha (6:35 CST) - RHP Jordan Balazovic (0-0, 4.76 ERA)
    Springfield @ Wichita (7:05 CST) - RHP Simeon Woods Richardson (2-1, 2.20 ERA) 
    Lake County @ Cedar Rapids (6:35 PM CST) - LHP Cade Povich (2-2, 4.03 ERA) 

    Please feel free to ask questions and discuss Wednesday’s games!

    Thank you for reading, and Go Twins!

     

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    I think Alex wants back in Minneapolis.  I hope both he and Larnach add to the offense soon.  How long does Kiriloff stay in St Paul?  He has had a few really good games.  Is that enough?   Based on Lewis demotion it might not be.

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    It sure looks like we are building depth from which to trade from and keep improving. Great line up in the making by mid season. Kirilloff at 1B, Lewis at 3B, Larnach in LF. Is Steer an even better version of Brian Dozier? He looks to be starting in St Paul by July. Ft Myers and Cedar Rapids show great promise for the next wave in 3-4 years. Good stuff happening!

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    Great, detailed summary, Andrew.  Three thoughts.  First, by far the best news of the night is Kirilloff's performance.  It would be such a boost to the Twins if he starts driving the ball with authority.  Second, when I looked at the box score of the suspended game from a couple of days ago, I noticed at the date of the start of the suspended game, Miller was hitting .214.  Now, just a few weeks later, he is at .295 and playing superbly.  The kid is a prospect for sure.  Finally, I hope Steer gets moved up.  He certainly deserves it.  BTW, it will a fun night to watch MiLB TV tonight with Balazovic, SWR and Povich all on the mound.

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    Will second the many comments from above stating that the biggest news of the night was the game Alex Kirilloff had.  The Twins needed to see him begin hitting the ball hard, and getting results.  That appears to have started a couple games ago and last night was a BOOMING success.  I don't expect him to get called up tomorrow, but sure hope he keeps it going and returns soon.  That will enable them to put AK at first and send Miranda back to St. Paul with a great experience from which to build on.  With AK, Royce and Larnach in the lineup, may have to watch the Saints game tonight.

    Austin Schulfer sure seems to be developing into a shut-down late inning reliever.  Can he continue doing that soon with the Saints?  With the Twins?  Do any of you guys know, Andrew, how hard this kid throws?

    And another great day from Noah Miller.  Kid sure looks to be the real deal, eh?  Will he be a future Twins shortstop?  Or with Royce at shortstop, will he be Jorge Polanco's replacement at second three or four years from now?  He's what, 19?  Will he get moved up to Cedar Rapids at some point this spring/summer?

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    Huh, I wonder what's going on with Kiriloff. That's a very dramatic turnaround! Did his wrist just suddenly get better? Did he revamp his swing overnight? Is AAA pitching just that much easier for him to hit than MLB pitching?

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    4 hours ago, mikelink45 said:

    I think Alex wants back in Minneapolis.  I hope both he and Larnach add to the offense soon.  How long does Kiriloff stay in St Paul?  He has had a few really good games.  Is that enough?   Based on Lewis demotion it might not be.

    I think Kirilloff will need to show a sustained run of solid at-bats.  I doubt is about the stat line, but how is his swing looking.  All year at MLB level it was terrible with no good hard contact and everything into the ground.  Even his hits were weak.  With having some extra base hits maybe he is figuring out how to live with his writs, or maybe he just had a couple good games.  I would give him another week or two before making in moves, unless there is another injury to someone at MLB level.  We can use an offensive boost, but not so bad that we rush him back.  Let him take the time figure out his swing again.  

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    One that is starting to pop a bit is Holland.   Another double and triple last night.  Has an OPS over .900 for May with what I understand is pretty good defense.    

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    5 hours ago, mikelink45 said:

    I think Alex wants back in Minneapolis.  I hope both he and Larnach add to the offense soon.  How long does Kiriloff stay in St Paul?  He has had a few really good games.  Is that enough?   Based on Lewis demotion it might not be.

    If there aren't any injuries before then, Kirilloff and Lewis will be competing for the 13th position player slot that opens up in June.  Lewis will have more defensive versatility just from his overall athleticism. But Kirilloff is the guy we would have expected to have the spot prior to the season starting, and they might be a little more willing to play him in a slightly less than full time role.

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    2 hours ago, roger said:

    And another great day from Noah Miller.  Kid sure looks to be the real deal, eh?  Will he be a future Twins shortstop?  Or with Royce at shortstop, will he be Jorge Polanco's replacement at second three or four years from now?  He's what, 19?  Will he get moved up to Cedar Rapids at some point this spring/summer?

    I've only seen a little bit of his play, but I'm a big believer in Miller's defensive chops from what I've seen.  It's possible he ends up pushing Lewis down the defensive ladder in the future.  I think Miller's arm is one of his better assets so maybe he could be a great defensive third baseman as well.

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    5 hours ago, mikelink45 said:

    I think Alex wants back in Minneapolis.  I hope both he and Larnach add to the offense soon.  How long does Kiriloff stay in St Paul?  He has had a few really good games.  Is that enough?   Based on Lewis demotion it might not be.

    Kirilloff has a place to play on the major league team, Lewis does not. 

    I agree that Kirilloff driving the ball and getting two extra-base hits is the most important news of the night in the minors. In his last three games he has eight hits, so maybe the turnaround came in the doubleheader on Tuesday. I would expect that he will have to both pass the "eye test" of finding his swing and sustain the hard hit balls before the Twins would consider his recall in a week to two weeks. 

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    Steer maybe should be in AAA.

    And I  say maybe only because he looks ready to crush MLB pitching, but we're already having difficulties fitting the middle infielders into the MLB roster.

    And if Alex Isola ends up being a +offensive catcher at the MLB level after being selected in the 29th round, there's a scout out there who needs his xmas bonus quadrupled.

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    So Steer is given the night off but the Manager has the presence of mind to use him in extra innings to win a ballgame?

     How can this be?? He lacked the many, many hours of game prep and the thousand or so swings in the cage to prepare him for a pinch hitting appearance. Remarkable!!

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    9 hours ago, roger said:

    Will second the many comments from above stating that the biggest news of the night was the game Alex Kirilloff had.  The Twins needed to see him begin hitting the ball hard, and getting results.  That appears to have started a couple games ago and last night was a BOOMING success.  I don't expect him to get called up tomorrow, but sure hope he keeps it going and returns soon.  That will enable them to put AK at first and send Miranda back to St. Paul with a great experience from which to build on.  With AK, Royce and Larnach in the lineup, may have to watch the Saints game tonight.

    Austin Schulfer sure seems to be developing into a shut-down late inning reliever.  Can he continue doing that soon with the Saints?  With the Twins?  Do any of you guys know, Andrew, how hard this kid throws?

    And another great day from Noah Miller.  Kid sure looks to be the real deal, eh?  Will he be a future Twins shortstop?  Or with Royce at shortstop, will he be Jorge Polanco's replacement at second three or four years from now?  He's what, 19?  Will he get moved up to Cedar Rapids at some point this spring/summer?

    A 2025 infield of Miranda, Lewis, Miller and Kiriloff?  That might be pretty dang sweet…..and still cheap at that point.

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    Major league ballplayers are some pretty tough dudes, and Alex Kirilloff is working to prove that now for himself and the Twins. However, it's going to take a lot more than a couple good days at the plate to show that his injured hand has truly healed. Does it hurt on a check swing? A ball off the label? Off the end? 

    Like everybody else here, I'm pulling for Kirilloff to get back to the Twins. He's a good 1B, and Jose Miranda is scuffling at the plate. Miranda is the one that needs some seasoning in St Paul. I'd say Miranda also needs to get some reps at 3B and 2B, as well as corner outfield. He and Royce Lewis should be playing musical chairs at about five positions. Frankly, that's the future of baseball, at least for young players. Hit like crazy, and learn as many positions as you can. Maybe add a decent knuckleball to the mix, too...

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    Being selfish here, but would enjoy seeing Steer, SWR and Varland remain with Wichita at least until the end of June as I have a road trip to Springfield, Mo planned to see the Wind Surge for 2 games.

    A day late posting here, but after another rough outing by Balazovic tonight (5-19), he may need a re-set back to AA.  

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