Puckett’s Pond’s Minnesota Twins 2018 Top-40 Prospects: #1-5
No. 2 Alex Kiriloff, OF, Fort Myers Miracle
Nate’s Rank: 2, Gary’s Rank: 2
20-year-old Alex Kirilloff was the Twins 1st round choice, 15th overall, in the 2016 draft. The Plum, Pennsylvania high school product signed for the pick’s slotted bonus of $2,817,000, foregoing a commitment to Liberty University. He was MLB.com’s #18 pre-draft prospect.
Kirilloff was assigned to rookie league Elizabethton following the draft. In 55 games, he slashed .306/.341/.454, with seven home runs in 216 at-bats as an 18-year-old, and was named Appalachian League Player of the Year, establishing himself as a hot prospect, ranking #98 among all prospects going into the 2017 season.
Following the 2016 season, it was discovered that Kirilloff had suffered a complete tear to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) of his left elbow which required Tommy John surgery in March of 2017. Sidelined for the season, the left-handed hitter believes that the year off turned out to be a blessing in disguise:
"“Not having to travel this year has set a great foundation for my marriage, and being married at a young age, I think that’s gone above and beyond where it could have gone if I was traveling and busy the whole year,” he said. “I think just watching baseball from a different perspective this entire year instead of playing it, I’ve learned stuff about the game and my maturity and mentality and hitting and everything."
The Twins were aggressive in promoting Kirilloff directly to full-season Class A Cedar Rapids to start the 2018 campaign. The 6′ 2″, 195-pound right fielder didn’t disappoint, posting a slash line of .333/.391/.607, with an OPS of .999, 13 home runs, and 56 RBI’s in 252 at-bats over 65 games. That performance earned him a June promotion to Advanced-A Fort Myers to compete against players averaging 2.4 years his senior.
Kirilloff has exceeded all expectations for the Miracle, with a line of .370/.394/.546, 940 OPS, five home runs, and 42 RBI’s in 238 at-bats over 59 games. He was selected to appear in the Futures Game during All-Star week where he went 2-2 with a run scored.
The already hot-hitting Kirilloff caught fire in late July. He made Baseball America’s Prospects Hot Sheet (subscription required) for July 23-29, going 15 for 27, with 6 doubles and a home run, driving in eight runners. Baseball America had this to say about their 88th ranked mid-season prospect:
"The Scoop: Talk about making up for lost time. After the Pittsburgh-bred outfielder missed the 2017 season with Tommy John surgery, Kirilloff has quickly and loudly shown the baseball world what it was missing. He’s destroyed at both levels of Class A ball this year and has been brilliant from day one. He leads the minor leagues in total bases, is one extra-base hit off the lead in that category and is seventh in the minors in OPS. Add a Futures Game appearance to the mix and you’ve got one of the very best years in the minor leagues."
The rankings of Kirilloff have skyrocketed throughout the year. MLB.com currently has him at #30; FanGraphs, #67 and climbing; with Baseball Prospectus placing him at #43.
Kirilloff has quelled worries about the TJ surgery affecting his ability to handle the duties of a right fielder. His arm is rated from average to above average. For the season, he has committed four errors while collecting seven outfield assists and a .979 fielding percentage.
Alex Kirilloff his a pure hitter with the strength to drive the ball to all fields. He has hit 18 home runs this year, a good sign that he is developing the power to fit well as a major league right fielder. The key to his best success will be in continuing to project that power as he advances. Kirilloff should start next season in AA Chattanooga. If he continues at close to the pace he is setting, Kirilloff could conceivably get a September taste of Target Field as a 21-year-old.