Alex Kirilloff Has The Perfect Combination
The Twins knew that at least one of their first-round picks had a chance dominate the low Class A Midwest League. They just didn’t know which one.
As it turned out, outfielder Alex Kirilloff—the 15th overall pick in 2016—and not shortstop Royce Lewis—who went No. 1 overall last year—is Cedar Rapids’ biggest teenage star. In fact, sitting out the 2017 season after Tommy John surgery had not impeded Kirilloff’s development at all.
"He kind of flew under the radar at first, with Lewis there in the same lineup,” vice president for player personnel Mike Radcliff said. "But he made sure he got noticed.”
The 19-year-old outfielder did it by terrorizing MWL pitchers with his power and whole-field approach, taught him by his batting-coach father. Kirilloff's 13 homers and 56 RBIs led the league, and he hit .333/.391/.607 through 65 games.
"He’s strong and mature,” Radcliff said, "and that’s a pretty good combination for a hitter.”
BIGGEST LEAP FORWARD
The Twins never had any doubt about Zander Wiel’s athletic ability. The linebacker-sized first baseman and left fielder, son of an Olympic sprinter and Tar Heel basketball player, definitely has the body of a big leaguer.
His approach at the plate, however, was another matter. "If you swing at everything, pitchers will definitely notice,” Radcliff said. "It’s a game of patience.”
The Twins’ patience with Wiel is paying off. "He’s playing smarter, and it’s letting his athleticism shine,” said chief baseball officer Derek Falvey. "He’s a different hitter.”
Wiel, a 12th-round pick after leading Vanderbilt to a College World Series title in 2015, has reined in his aggressiveness and become one of the Double-A Southern League’s most dangerous hitters by batting .306/.367/.437 with three home runs for Chattanooga.
"It’s great to see someone identify his weakness and work to eliminate it,” Falvey said. "He’s put himself in the pipeline.
** The Twins are delighted with the progress of righthander Sean Poppen, a Harvard alum who has amped up his strikeout rate to a career-best 10.6 per nine innings as a starter at Double-A Chattanooga.
** Catcher Ben Rortvedt's defense earned him a midseason promotion to high Class A Fort Myers, but the 20-year-old flashed gap power, too.