Pipeline Q&A: Twins prospect Alex Kirilloff
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Alex Kirilloff was the Twins’ first-round pick in the 2016 Draft, taken with the No. 15 overall pick. Though Tommy John surgery cost the Twins’ No. 2 prospect (No. 32 in baseball) all of 2017, he returned the following year to bat .348/.343/.413 with 71 extra-base hits and 101 RBIs between Class A Cedar Rapids and Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Advancing to Double-A Pensacola in 2019, Kirilloff has been bothered by a wrist injury, but he still put together a solid campaign in the Southern League at age 21.
MLB Pipeline: Since your dad is a long-time hitting coach and philosopher, at what point did you begin to develop the key components of the swing you have today?
Kirilloff: Probably at a really young age. Some of my earliest memories as a kid was getting up to go work with my dad at his facility. He’s always had one, really since I’ve been alive, so I would say probably from when I was 3 to 6 years old, I would go to his facility and hit in the cage all day and work with him.
MLB Pipeline: So as someone who has spent their entire life hitting, how frustrating has it been for you to miss time with injuries -- whether it be Tommy John surgery or the wrist issue in 2019 -- and not be able to hit?
Kirilloff: Any time you put in so much work to prepare for a season and you’re not able to be healthy and play, it’s hard. At the same time, it comes along with the sport and playing the game. You just have to stay patient and make the most of the opportunity to get stronger and better. That’s what I tried to do both times, and if you can manage it the best you can and fight through it, sometimes you have to do that as well.
MLB Pipeline: How would you say your swing has evolved since you entered the Twins’ system? Have there been any major changes, or is it the same foundation with a few tweaks here and there?
Kirilloff: I think mainly the same foundation with tweaks here and there. Obviously, there are adjustments that need to be made as you start to figure out how pitchers are attacking you, so I think just being aware of that and applying those adjustments that need to be made is important.
MLB Pipeline: You’ve primarily played the outfield as a pro but began to see time at first base last season. What has that transition been like? What do you like about it? What has surprised you?
Kirilloff: I played [first base] a lot growing up, so it was more about transitioning back and reminding my mind and body what the position was like. It had been about two or three years since I played there in high school. The speed of the game is way different there, especially balls being hit by professional hitters now. It’s a lot different than it was before, but I think as I had more time there, I got comfortable and it started to come back pretty quickly.
MLB Pipeline: You’ve seen some time in big league camp in each of the last two years, but this year you’re here after a full season in Double-A. How has that prepared you for this year’s camp and the upcoming season?
Kirilloff: I think any time you can advance a level and play almost a full year is going to prepare you. So being there, and playing most of the season there, definitely didn’t hurt. I think I’m just older and wiser as a player and as a person, and I’m continuing to learn every single year that I have an opportunity to come back and be better.