Minnesota Twins: Predicting Season Stats of the Opening Day Lineup
Alex Kirilloff has been a top 10 Twins Prospect since 2017, according to MLB.com. It’s no wonder, as the first round pick hit well at every level in the minor leagues. In his rookie 2021 season, Kirilloff showed the makings of a solid outfielder. In 231 plate appearances, the 23-year-old hit about league average (98 OPS+), showcasing decent pop with 8 home runs despite injuries.
What makes Kirilloff so exciting is that there’s so much room for growth after a promising rookie campaign. He hit the ball on the ground far too often, 48.8% of the time. However, he hit the ball hard 43.9% of the time. Fixing his launch angle to hit the ball in the air more will make Kirilloff one of the most potent bats in the lineup.
His biggest issue, however, may be his plate discipline. He walked only 6.1% of the time in 2021, but his ability to put the ball in play (22.5% strikeout percentage) gives confidence that he’ll make contact enough to counteract that. Baseball Reference projects him for an OPS around .738, but FanGraphs likes him at .775. I’m more inclined to agree with the latter.
Fresh contract in hand, the Minnesota Twins hope Byron Buxton can finally stay healthy for an entire season. The only time he played more than 100 games (2017), he finished 18th in MVP voting. That was back when Buxton couldn’t even hit. Now he’s a completely different player.
Since 2019, Buxton has slashed .277/.321/.576 for a 137 OPS+. The former defensive-wizard speed-threat has become a masher. In 2021, Buxton was incredible. He hit over .300, had an OPS at 1.005, and had 10 DRS. Unfortunately, he played in just 60 games. If he had continued that pace over a 162 season, he would have had a WAR well over 10 and won the MVP unanimously.
It’s unlikely that Buxton would have continued that monstrous production over an entire season, so his 2019-2020 performances are closer to what we can expect. Minnesota Twins fans will take anything, as long as he remains on the field.
In the juiced ball year of 2019, Max Kepler looked like a star in the making. The German hit 36 bombs that year with a .855 OPS. Since then, Kepler’s number have slipped. He’s struggled with a dip in power and very low batting averages. But Kepler’s defense (95th percentile in OAA in 2021) make him worth playing everyday.
The thing with Kepler at the plate is that he doesn’t do anything badly, but he also isn’t elite in any category. He’s above average in every category ranging from exit velocity to barrel percentage to strikeout percentage.
That being said, Kepler fought a excruciatingly low BABIP last season (.225), so there’s hope for a bounce-back. He’ll spend time towards the bottom of the order, and he’ll be able to drive in runs.