Alex Kirilloff, the Minnesota Twins first-round pick out of the Pittsburgh area high school at the 15th spot in the 2016 MLB Draft, had quite the opening to his career. He will forever be the answer to this trivia question: Who is the first player in league history to make his debut by starting a playoff game?
He was just the third player ever to make his Major League debut in the playoffs and the first to start when he graced the outfield in Game 2 of the American League Wild Card series against the Astros. He picked up his first hit in that game, a hit that he will remember for the rest of his life.
The 23-year-old outfielder and first baseman has had a decent opening to his first full season in the Major Leagues in 2021.
In 129 at-bats, he has recorded 5 home runs and 20 RBI’s, with a batting average of .264.
Since his amateur days, Kirilloff has displayed plus-hitting ability from the left side of the plate. During high school, Kirilloff batted over .500, and has incredible barrel control, consistently makes hard contact to all parts of the field.
The power translates to more than line drives, and much of his contact carries and goes the distance. Kirilloff’s home run potential was on display in 2018 when he homered 40 times over Single A and A+.
Wrist issues took up much of his time in Double A in the 2019 season. He tallied 9 home runs and 43 RBIs during the regular season, yet he homered four times in five playoff games that season. In 2 games in Triple A this season, he homered twice, then received the call up to the Major Leagues permanently.
Fielding-wise, Kirilloff has the potential to be a tool for the Minnesota Twins. In both high school and the minor leagues, Kirilloff has spent major time at both first base and all parts of the outfield.
In his major league debut in the playoffs of last year, he got the nod at right field, which is likely his best spot long-term, as he has enough range and arm strength to be productive.
In 2021, the Twins seem to be trending towards putting him at right field recently. He has played 19 games from right field, 11 from left field, and 11 from first base. 11 of those games from first base came early in the year.
There aren’t many weaknesses to Kirilloff’s game, and that’s the main reason he comes in as the #2 ranked prospect/rookie in the MLB Pipeline, only behind fellow Minnesota Twin prospect Royce Lewis, who has yet to see Major League action.
He has struggled to reach base a bit in the majors, as he is not one to draw too many walks. There is room for improvement there, but he is only just a rookie, so he has plenty of time to develop that eye and discipline. Those are qualities that usually develop with time and experience.
Overall, Kirilloff has been one of the better prospects to come up to the Majors this season, and he has been able to get quality experience and time while producing at a decent rate. He seems to have found himself a permanent spot on the roster at right field.
I would watch for him to consistently improve this season as he gets more acclimated to the pitchers and game at the Major League level.
Kirilloff, much like Jarred Kelenic, has the potential to be in the yearly conversation for best hitter in baseball if he reaches his prime. It’s just a matter of getting there.