Plum's Alex Kirilloff 'grateful' for shot in Futures Game
Alex Kirilloff just wanted a healthy summer after missing his first full season of professional baseball, with anything on top of that gravy.
In that case, his plate is overflowing.
Kirilloff is getting all he hoped for and more as he works his way through the Minnesota Twins’ minor league system, racking up honors and experiences as he goes. The latest recognition for the former Plum standout came when he was named to the U.S. team for the annual Futures Game, a showcase of many of baseball’s top prospects that coincides with Major League Baseball’s All-Star Break.
“For me overall, (the season’s) just been a lot of fun,” said Kirilloff, currently playing for the Twins’ high Class A affiliate in Fort Myers, Fla. “My main thing coming back this year was just being grateful to be able to play again and be healthy, and to get through a full season healthy. So I’ve just been trying to take it day by day and enjoy each day as it comes. That’s kind of my focus. I’ve just been enjoying the whole journey and the whole experience and trying to continue to do so.”
Kirilloff already is having a more enjoyable summer than last year, when he missed the entire season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Fully healthy again, the Twins’ 2016 first-round draft choice is back to doing what he does best, producing runs in bunches.
Beginning the season at low Class A Cedar Rapids, Kirilloff hit .333 with 13 home runs and 56 RBIs in 65 games before earning a promotion to Fort Myers in late June. He led the Midwest League in homers and RBIs at that time and also appeared in the league’s All-Star Game and home run derby.
The promotion to Fort Myers, where Kirilloff owns a home, did little to slow his momentum. He was batting .301 with a homer and 13 RBIs in 20 games through Thursday.
“Performance-wise, I don’t really like to set a lot of goals,” Kirilloff said. “I just try to pride myself on being able to go out there and play hard every night and let the numbers and the rest of that take care of itself. I don’t really put a performance number out there, but I’m happy at the end of the day just being able to look at myself in the mirror and know I played hard that day. That’s all that really matters.”
Numbers don’t matter much to Kirilloff, and he said he likewise doesn’t pay much attention to prospect rankings. Yet, he was the biggest riser in Baseball America’s midseason prospect rankings, coming in at No. 38 overall after not appearing at all in the publication’s preseason top 100.
What Kirilloff does consider an honor is the invitation to the Futures Game, which takes place at 4 p.m. Sunday at Nationals Park in Washington D.C. and will be televised by MLB Network. Kirilloff said he didn’t watch the game much growing up, but he saw enough of it to know what it means to get selected.
“It’s quite an honor, given the names of the people that have been in it over the years,” he said. “I can’t say it was really on my radar for this year, but I’m definitely honored and humbled to be in it. It should be a lot of fun.
“It’s flattering, and it’s even cooler when you get around the guys and get to know them a little bit. You see how they are as players, but getting to know them on a personal level is cool, too. The whole thing is fun, and we’re looking forward to it.”
Kirilloff said he enjoyed his experience and the overall atmosphere at Cedar Rapids, where he and Royce Lewis, the Twins’ No. 1 draft pick in 2017, made for one of the Midwest League’s top twosomes.
The Florida State League, where games take place mainly at spring training facilities, is providing a different atmosphere for Kirilloff, but one he’s making the most out of. Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano and Ervin Santana are among the Twins major leaguers Kirilloff has interacted with as they rehabbed injuries or otherwise spent time in the minors trying to get back to Minnesota.
“It’s just cool to be able to share a locker room with them and go out and compete behind them,” he said. “It mixes things up a little bit and makes it a little more interesting sometimes.”
Kirilloff said he was flying into Washington on Saturday with his wife, while the rest of his family comes down from Pittsburgh. He plans to soak in the experience, the same as he’s done all season.
“I’m grateful for every day I’m out there,” he said. “I try to be, at least, given perspective that not a lot of people get to do this for a job. I try to keep that in mind every day and take it day by day.”
Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.