Written By Brandon Warne (ColdOmaha.com)
Photo Credit: Brian Curski
News broke early Wednesday morning that Minnesota Twins outfield prospect Alex Kirilloff would miss the entire 2017 season with Tommy John surgery. Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press was the first to confirm the details, including that Kirilloff — the Twins’ first-round pick in 2016 — would undergo the operation on March 8.
Like Sano, Kirilloff will undergo the procedure at the hands of Dr. David Altchek on the Upper East Side in New York City.
It’s a particularly dreadful anniversary for the Twins, who announced on March 1, 2014 that Miguel Sano would miss the entire season when he too was undergoing the same procedure. That was over the same winter/spring that Terry Ryan was diagnosed with cancer as well, as interim GM Rob Antony made the Sano announcement.
Tommy John for Alex kirilloff on March 8
— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) March 1, 2017
The situations aren’t entirely analogous, however. After all, there are the obvious physical differences. Sano is listed at 6-foot-4 and 260 lbs. while Kirilloff is two inches shorter while ceding 65 lbs. to the third baseman. There is position as well to consider, as Kirilloff played mostly right field last season while Sano was then and is again today a third baseman. Kirilloff is also just 19 years old, having turned 19 on Nov. 9. He’s got just 55 professional games under his belt. When Sano went under the knife, he had already played 67 games at Double-A and was perhaps on the cusp of being ready to break through to the big leagues. Sano missed his age-21 season, while Kirilloff hasn’t even played at A ball yet.
In that sense, it’s hard to know what a year off will do. Arguments can be made either way; development is important at any age, but is it more important when a player is on the cusp of the big leagues or at a young age? It’s hard to say, and if Kirilloff doesn’t reach his potential, it’s not necessarily going to be as easy as pointing back to missing this season.
Another interesting parallel is current Twins right fielder Max Kepler. Kepler came down with an elbow injury in 2013 but opted not to undergo surgery. And while it’s unclear how the extent of his injury compares to Kirilloff’s, he was able to return to the field before midseason to play at Low-A Cedar Rapids as a 20-year-old. That’s not terribly different from where Kirilloff is in terms of age or development. Kirilloff spent his summer at Elizabethton after signing, which is where Kepler was immediately prior to joining the Kernels.
Again, no two situations are going to be analogous, but it did take Kepler some time to get his swing rounded into form before he won the Southern League MVP in 2015. Now whether that was just his developmental curve or the extent of his recovery plus hammering off rust due to missed time — he had hammered the Appalachian League with a .925 OPS the season before — is uncertain. But at the very least it should tell us that the future is still plenty bright for Kirilloff, who was No. 97 on Keith Law’s top-100 prospects this spring.
Twins OF Alex Kiriloff, who's undergoing TJ surgery, was my #97 prospect coming into 2017: https://t.co/5iTNisQsws
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) March 1, 2017