Plum graduate Alex Kirilloff staying focused despite injuries
Throughout his professional baseball career, former first-round pick Alex Kirilloff has endured a series of ups and downs.
While injuries can sometimes hinder an athlete’s career, the Plum graduate hasn’t allowed a pair of setbacks stop him from honing his craft with an ultimate goal of playing at the Major League level.
After a strong debut in the rookie-level Appalachian League with the Elizabethton Twins in 2016, the No. 2 prospect in the Minnesota Twins organization underwent Tommy John surgery that sidelined him for the entirety of the 2017 season.
One year later, Kirilloff bounced back and demonstrated why he was the No. 15 pick in the 2016 MLB draft. Between High-A and Low-A ball, he hit .348, drove in 101 RBIs and smacked 20 home runs. It was a stat line that earned him a spot in MLB’s Futures Game, where he registered two hits and scored a run.
“I was just able to stay healthy and make adjustments over the course of the season,” Kirilloff said. “I feel like it’s necessary to be consistent. I established a good mental approach with my hitting and was able to carry that throughout the season.”
The stage was set for the former Mustang as he was ready to build on a successful season. But his first year at the Double-A level didn’t get off to a great start. During Spring Training, the No. 16-ranked prospect in the MLB suffered a wrist injury that sidelined him through the first month of the season.
He returned to action May 2 and hit .240 in 119 plate appearances the rest of the month. But something still wasn’t right. He said his strength wasn’t there like before the injury, and he decided to get a cortisone shot that kept him out of game action for 17 days.
“It’s frustrating having any type of injury like that, especially at that time of the season,” Kirilloff said. “It’s hard to manage something like that with no break during the season. So you just have to manage it the best as you can.”
With hopes of improving his game in a myriad of ways, Kirilloff has had to take care of the injury while expanding his positional flexibility. At the beginning of the year, the Twins announced they were going to give him time at first base, a position he played at Plum.
He’s logged 183 innings at the position this year, compiling a .981 fielding percentage while only committing three errors. Although he hadn’t played the position in nearly years, Kirilloff said it wasn’t too difficult making the transition.
“It was just getting used to the speed of the game at first base at the major league level,” Kirilloff said. “It’s a lot faster than the high school level, but it didn’t take too long. I feel pretty comfortable there now.”
Playing first base creates positional flexibility that will allow Kirilloff to ascend through the organization once he’s deemed ready. While battling through the injury, he’s hitting .272 with 23 RBIs and a .337 on-base percentage
While he awaits a call up to Triple-A or the big club, Kirilloff said he is just focused on staying on the field and improving in any way he can.
“I just need to worry about playing and taking it one step at a time,” Kirilloff said.
Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .