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Alex Kirilloff should not have to worry about Miguel Sanó's return [free post]
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With Miguel Sanó’s pending return to the lineup, there’s been some chatter among Twins observers about the relative security on the roster of one Alex Kirilloff.
My earnest question: Why?
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The Twins rookie has four home runs this season, all coming in the span of three days. He’s also striking out 30% of the time, which is a bit unusual given his minor league track record. Kirilloff in the early goings has a 12:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and while he’s hit the ball hard a number of times, he doesn’t have very many regular base hits to show for it. As a result, he has an unusual batting line of .184/.200/.526.
It could be just my interpretation, but I don’t personally think that there should be anything to worry about for Kirilloff as far as roster spot or playing time when Miguel Sanó is set to return (likely later this week; I watched Sanó hit off the velocity machine at Target Field on Sunday and he was hitting long home runs in that session).
Kirilloff’s first big league homer came shortly after hitting a deep drive that ended its flight in a glove on the warning track near the outfield wall. “We told AK it had to happen at some point in time, because he's been smashing balls lately,” said one of baseball’s best players. “When he hit the first ball to the wall, it's like, 'Well, we don't know how much more you can do',” Buxton added.
All the more he had to do was smash a couple more baseballs, which he did, in picking up his first and second MLB homers in the same game. It’s an exciting start for the guy some people consider the team’s top prospect.
I beg you, dear reader, don’t make your assessment of Kirilloff based on his batting average. Here’s a metric that you can use with your friends instead, if you ever need to defend the guy who just hit four home runs in a series win: Kirilloff has hit 27 balls fair, and 17 of them left his bat at 95 mph or greater. That 63% hard-hit rate puts him first on the Twins, ahead of Byron Buxton, Nelson Cruz and Josh Donaldson, albeit in a smaller sample of batted balls.
One other important note: Rocco Baldelli said this week that he views Kirilloff as an above-average defensive first baseman.
So, Kirilloff’s elevated strikeout rate and lack of walks will only begin to concern me if he stops pulverizing baseballs thrown his way.
It’s hard to imagine the Twins not being able to find a regular place in the lineup for Kirilloff, even with the whole group healthy.