Many things went wrong for the Minnesota Twins this season, but Trevor Larnach and Alex Kirilloff’s performances were one of the biggest disappointments. They entered the season as Top 100 prospects according to Baseball America and were expected to have a big year. While both reached the major leagues, their play was disappointing at times and complicates Minnesota’s decisions this offseason.
It begins with Kirilloff’s issues in spring training. Although the Twins wanted to buy an extra year of control for the 23-year-old, the path was cleared for him to start in left field on Opening Day. While a strong performance could have made things difficult, Kirilloff went 4-for-31 (.129) at the plate, and the Twins assigned him to minor league camp.
Once Kirilloff arrived in the majors, he went hitless in his first 17 at-bats. However, he started to find a groove in April, and with four homers in a seven-game stretch, it appeared that Kirilloff’s breakout was about to begin — only to be derailed by a wrist injury.
The injury was similar to the one Nelson Cruz suffered in 2019, and he had the option to play through it or have surgery. While Cruz was fortunate to have the ligament rupture, Kirilloff got stuck in the middle ground and opted to stay on the field. Kirilloff’s power suffered as a result, and he hit four home runs in his final 172 at-bats. With a .703 OPS, his calling card had vanished, and he elected to have surgery on July 19.
Larnach followed the same path but wasn’t expected to reach the majors until later in the season. A majestic three-run bomb in Omaha fast-tracked Larnach to the major leagues as injuries and COVID ripped through the Twins clubhouse, and he wasted no time showcasing his power.
On June 1, Larnach carried an expected wOBA of .456. He also crushed fastballs, hitting .296 with six of his seven homers off the heater. But once pitchers adapted and threw more offspeed pitches, Larnach began to struggle. With his performance at the plate deteriorating, Larnach’s issues bled into the outfield, and he was sent back to St. Paul on Aug. 16.
Things didn’t get better with the Saints. He hit .167 with one homer in 10 games before landing on the injured list with a left hand contusion.
Now it’s September, and both players could have benefitted from being on the field. By getting an extra look in a lost season, it could have cemented their place in next year’s lineup, similar to what Nick Gordon is doing right now.
Gordon is unlikely to be a starter, but he has shown potential as a role player for the Twins. After bouncing between St. Paul and Minneapolis this summer, Gordon is hitting .353/.400/.608 with three homers in September. His emergence could convince the Twins he’s their utility man, or they may be able to trade a middle infielder for pitching.
Instead, Kirilloff and Larnach enter the offseason in limbo. Had both players performed well this year, the Twins could clear a path for the everyday lineup. Instead, they have to hold onto players like Max Kepler and Miguel Sanó, who could fetch the pitching the Twins need to compete next season.
Likely, both Kirlloff and Larnach will still be a part of the Twins’ plans. But a lost season means the wait to become franchise cornerstones will get longer.