Alex Kirilloff Has A Clear Path To Minnesota
With each line drive into the gap and each opposite-field home run, outfielder Alex Kirilloff engineered Eddie Rosario’s exit from Minnesota last summer. And nobody knew it but the Twins.
The 23-year-old Kirilloff was hidden behind the locked doors of CHS Field in St. Paul, biding his time as a spare player at the alternate training site, waiting for a callup that didn’t come until the regular season ended.
But to the players, coaches and scouts allowed to watch the daily intrasquad games, it was clear that the 2016 first-rounder from Plum High in Pittsburgh was ready for the big stage.
“He was really ripping it up,” said Toby Gardenhire, the Twins’ Triple-A manager who conducted those workouts. “He was basically hitting .500 all summer, and with some long home runs. No kidding.”
The Twins' young and successful homegrown outfield of Rosario, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler had been stable for five seasons, and all were still in their 20s. But the Twins broke up that trio in December by declining to offer Rosario a contract—with Kirilloff’s emergence the implied reason.
“He made real progress,” said Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey, who stopped short of declaring Kirilloff the new starter. “It seemed like every day, there was another glowing report.”
Kirilloff, who is 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, said health was one reason. The former high school pitcher missed the 2017 season after requiring Tommy John surgery, and wrist soreness plagued him during the 2019 season, which he spent at Double-A Pensacola, hitting .283/.343/.413 with nine home runs in 94 games.
“I felt I didn’t lose anything” due to the cancellation of the 2020 minor league season, Kirilloff said.
That showed in the playoffs, where his single off Jose Urquidy helped him become the first big leaguer to collect a postseason hit before playing in a regular season game.
Now, he could reach the majors without playing at Triple-A.
“His balance is perfect. His swing is so natural,” Gardenhire said. “He’s not a pull hitter, he’s a line-drive guy. But he makes such solid contact, he was hitting homers over the left-field alley.”
— Royce Lewis, the first overall pick in the 2017 draft, will miss the entire 2021 season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. The injury, which Lewis believes may have happened while slipping on some ice outside his Dallas home, requires surgery that will mean the Twins’ top shortstop prospect and Arizona Fall League MVP in 2019 will go 28 months between competitive games.