Coming into every season there’s nothing prospect writers love more than calling a breakout. The problem is we’re often wrong. For every Ronald Acuna we call, there’s a Yadier Alvarez or an Austin Hays. But sometimes the broken clocks of the baseball world are right, though twice a day seems like a bit much for the best of us. In this vein, let’s look at a breakout I alluded to earlier this year when I aggressively ranked the Twins Alex Kirilloff 73rd on my pre-season Top 100. Today we’ll take examine the 20 year old phenom, his strengths as a hitter, and why you should be adding him in any format where he is unowned. Because we’re all lucky enough to have Lance Brozdowski as our over the internet friend, this task has been made a little easier. As Lance just so happened to catch Kirilloff’s last stand in the Midwest League at the All-Star Game in Lansing this Tuesday. Here’s a clip from Kirilloff’s all-star game exploits below.
— Lance Brozdowski (@LanceBrozdow) June 19, 2018
The Pennsylvania prep talent, was a compelling player heading into the 2016 draft. A home schooled prep talent, Kirilloff worked out a deal to play his high school ball for Plum High School. After leading Plum to WPIAL and PIAA runner-up finishes in 2016, while playing both ways he starred as both a hurler and an outfielder. Kirilloff impressed at Plum and on the showcase circuit throughout 2016, and the outfielder/pitcher began to gain steam in pre-draft rankings. The Twins settled upon Kirilloff as their pick at 15th overall, and signed him for an “at slot” amount of $2.8 million. They decided to forego the usual path for prep bats of at least a few weeks, if not months, in the Gulf Coast League in favor of the more advanced Appalachian League. A very aggressive assignment for the prep star. The Twins were no fools however, as the decision proved to be a wise one, as Kirilloff hit .306/.341/.454 with 7 home runs, 9 doubles, and 33 RBI, winning the Appy League MVP. An elbow injury on August 28th cut his season short, but was not expected to be anything major… we thought.
Expectations were immense heading into 2017, as Kirilloff was ranked highly on prospect lists. Not just in the Twins system either, but throughout the industry. Then disaster struck. The elbow injury that cut short his debut, did indeed require surgery, and the decision to go under the knife was made in late February. It’s often out of sight out of mind for prospects when injuries strike. We don’t get nearly as many updates as we do on big leagues players, and they’re easily replaceable for many just looking for a shiny new toy (aren’t we all?), and not obsessed with development. What we forgot was the balance, picturesque lefty stroke, the lightning quick hands, and the natural ability to recognize pitches. What returned was even better than we remembered. Unable to play baseball over the course of his recovery, he watched a lot of ball, and worked his lower half, adding 30+ lbs of muscle. This should have been the first inclination that the beast was lurking.
Assigned to the star-studded Cedar Rapids roster of the Midwest League, Kirilloff joined fellow top Twins prospects Royce Lewis, Brusdar Graterol, and personal favorite Akil Baddoo. The lefty slugger stood out from the rest. That goes for his highly touted teammates, as well as the rest of the Midwest League. He slashed .333/.391/.607, with 13 homers, 36 runs, 56 RBI, and a wRC+ of 171 in 65 games. He ranked within the top 5 in hits, doubles, triples, RBI, homers, batting average, slugging, wOBA, and wRC+ in the Midwest League. So the promotion yesterday evening to high-A Fort Myers of the Florida State League came as no surprise. After seeing his last taste of Midwest League baseball at Tuesday’s All-Star Game here’s what Lance had to say based on his observations.
— Lance Brozdowski (@LanceBrozdow) June 20, 2018
“He felt like a line-drive, gap-to-gap hitter in person. Stayed inside and hit three balls hard to left-center in the Midwest League ASG. But knowing he hit 13 HRs in ~60 games made me really interested in seeing a HR spray chart, especially because his swing has natural loft. I’d bet he puts an above average amount of balls out to LF and can tap into plus power on his pull side. I’m enamored with hit tool and power blend.” – Lance Brozdowski (baseball life partner)
Pretty hefty praise for a 20 year old. Lance’s loves the swing, and it’s hard not to when you see him driving balls all over the field, with great plate coverage, and superior bat control. It will be interesting to see how high Kirilloff ascends this season, with a late season date in AA Chattanooga is not out of the realm of possibility.