The state of Minnesota has been treated to some electric rookies over the past year.
Justin Jefferson introduced the world to “The Griddy” and broke records held by Randy Moss. Anthony Edwards has a microwave-like scoring ability on the court and the personality of a social media darling off of it. Kirill Kaprizov makes opposing commentators wax poetic over his natural scoring ability and then returns to the bench with a goofy grin before unleashing his epic mane of hockey hair.
In other words, promising rookies are taking over the Minnesota sports scene. But if it were up to Alex Kirilloff, he would want no part of it. Even when it comes to the loud, brash style of the Bomba Squad, Kirilloff has the mien of a hitman when he comes to the plate. Rarely will Kirilloff show emotion when he’s refining his craft, and by the time the damage is done, the only trace left behind is on the scoreboard.
Kirilloff’s first full season in the majors didn’t begin the way he wanted it to. By hitting 4-for-31 in spring training, he gave the Twins an excuse to send him to the minors, essentially manipulating his service time. After injuries and poor performance plagued Minnesota in left field, Kirilloff received his call-up with little fanfare.
At first, he looked like your normal rookie adjusting to life in the majors. He went 3-for-26 at the plate in his first eight games and hardly looked like a polished hitter at the plate. But it was almost like it was according to plan.
The Athletic’s Aaron Gleeman noted that Kirilloff’s expected batting average during those games was .296. But his actual batting average read .115 on the scoreboard as several screaming line drives went into the gloves of defenders. With an average exit velocity of 95.9 mph entering Sunday’s game, it would be understandable if Kirilloff succumbed to the pressure and got off to a rocky start.
It turned out that Kirilloff was plotting the perfect crime, only to strike when it was least expected.
On Friday night, Kirilloff hit his first major league home run to help blow the game open in the first inning and added a second one in the fifth to lead the Twins to a 9-1 victory.
For most rookies, their first multi-homer game would cause celebration in the dugout. But as the Twins tried to assimilate Kirilloff into their Bomba Squad culture, the 23-year-old wouldn’t even crack a smile. It got to a point where Andrelton Simmons suggested tickling Kirilloff until he cracked.
This makes sense for a kid who walked into a batting cage as a three-year-old during a Baltimore Orioles fan fest, hit a bunch of lasers, and walked out like he was playing for District 5. There’s a good chance that if a bystander asked Kirilloff, “What did you do?” the answer would have been “My job.”
The following afternoon, Kirilloff smashed his third home run into the Twins’ bullpen, one of the few bright spots in an 11-3 loss. Not impressed, Kirilloff delivered a 431′ blast in Sunday’s finale to put the finishing touches on a Twins series victory.
The way Kirilloff dominated the Kansas City Royals makes him a different type of rookie. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau were quiet, but both had their moments: trips to Cabo and powerlifting with bears. Kirilloff doesn’t appear to have time for this. He just wants to inflict damage to baseballs.
If this weekend was a catalyst for what Kirilloff could become, he could threaten to be the first Twin to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award since Marty Cordova. Just don’t expect it to be like anything you’ve seen in the past year.