TDG’S Triple Play: Minnesota Twins!
The Triple Play is back for a sixth season! This regular feature is broken down by senior writer Phil Barrington and he is joined by a rotating panel of some of the best Dynasty Baseball writers in the business. If you’re new to the Triple Play, this series breaks down an arm, a bat, and a prospect within each organization for your reading pleasure!
This week I (@barrington_phil) am joined by Colin Coulahan (@cjc07) and Ryan Epperson (@ppenayr), follow us on Twitter and send us any questions, feedback, disagreements, what have yous, in the comments.
Alex Kirilloff , Age: 25, Position: 1B/OF
Analysis by: Phil Barrington
Alex the Czar
The former first round pick (15th overall) of the Twins back in 2016, we all have been waiting patiently for the real, healthy Alexander David Kirilloff to please stand up. The prospect pedigree has always been there; with a future grade of 60 and former rank in the top-15 of all baseball prospects. The 6’2, 215-pound lefty slugger from Plum High School in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA had Twins fans salivating when he was drafted.
His hit tool has always been his calling card with the possibility of power; though the most homers he ever hit in one minor league season is 20, back in 2018. Regardless, at every minor league stop he had a wRC+ well over 100, with a career slash of .322/.380/.520 in 1,290 minor league at-bats.
Alex the Terrible
Injuries have been a consistent source of Kirilloff’s inconsistencies. He missed all 2017 recovering from Tommy John surgery, multiple injuries in 2019 including a wrist injury that kept him out a month, missing the 2020 season didn’t help his development either (though that was Covid’s fault). His major league debut was in the 2020 playoffs, and Kirilloff made his regular season debut in 2021. In 59 games the slugger performed admirably but his season ended in July with surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right wrist. In 2022 Kirilloff’s season was ended by another wrist surgery in August, an end to an unproductive season split between Triple-A and the big leagues. Here’s a passage from writer Tom Schreier of zonecoverage.com, who wrote this back in March:
Kirilloff likely has idiopathic ulnar impaction syndrome, meaning he suffers from ulnar-sided wrist pain and reduced wrist range of motion despite a lack of anatomical damage. His left-handed swing puts pressure on his abnormally long ulna in his right wrist, which is particularly painful. In 2021, he underwent surgery to separate a bone from his ulna. Last year, he likely had an osteotomy procedure to shorten the ulna. Fortunately, the procedure has worked well among the general population. However, there is a shortage of evidence among athletes.
This is worrisome to say the least, and will test your risk tolerance as a Kirilloff manager. But let’s move on to a happier subject, the 2023 season.
Alex the Impaler
After playing more outfield than first base in 2022, the Twins have switched that up for 2023; 51 games at first compared to 20 in the outfield as of this writing. He is slashing a respectable .279/.370/.461 with eight homers and 53 R + RBI thus far in 64 games. Kirilloff is in the midst of his most productive stretch as a major leaguer; over his last week he has four homers and 13 RBI while slashing a ridiculous .357/.387/.929. If I would’ve written this piece a month ago it may have taken a different direction, but I am still a hold for Kirilloff in the leagues I have him.
There is still plenty of time for Kiriloff to have a long, productive fantasy career, but will his wrist hold up? That is the big question, and what your risk aversion will tell you what to do. It’s almost like rostering his teammate Byron Buxton (with the understanding that Buxton is a much better fantasy player). I cannot imagine there is a big trade market for Kiriloff in most leagues, but if one could get a first rounder for him, I’d be inclined to take it.
Griffin Jax, Age: 28, Position: RP
Analysis by: Ryan Epperson
“Harvester of Sorrow”
Drafted in the 12th round out of Cherry Creek High School in Colorado in 2013 by the Phillies, Jax decided to eschew joining the Phillies and instead headed to the Air Force Academy with dreams of being a pilot. Jax was stuck at a crossroads in 2016, if he continued his junior year at the Academy he would be required to finish his contract with the Air Force and would be ineligible for the draft until he completed it. He decided to forgo his junior year and entered into the 2016 MLB draft where he was taken in the third round by the Minnesota Twins as a starting pitcher prospect.
“Sad But True”
The Twins have finally figured out that Griffin Jax`s sole purpose (I`m sure he has other priorities outside of baseball, settle down) in life is not to pitch every fifth day, but to prepare to wage uncontrollable rage against opposing batters when called upon in the highest of leverages.
As a starter he was merely…meh, his stuff wasn`t exciting or fooling anybody, so last year the Twins mercifully switched Jax to the bullpen in hopes that his pitches would play up.
EUREEKA!! All of a sudden, he started striking opposing batters out with regularity to the tune of 26.9%. A big reason for this is his fastball velocity shot up 2.7mph from a pedestrian 92.7mph and getting to the sweet spot that is above 94mph.
“Seek and Destroy”
With dreams of being a starting pitcher firmly behind him, Jax was able to put all his efforts into finely tuning a reliever`s repertoire. He has ditched his curveball, added a sinker and cutter, and thrown his devastating sweeper (134 Stuff+) even more than he used to.
He simply pounds the zone into submission throwing 53% of his pitches for strikes (the league average is 48%.)
“Wherever I May Roam”
He`s not closing for the Twins but is being used in high-leverage situations and has a record 13 holds and one save on the year. They have a pretty good closer in Jhoan Duran, maybe you`ve heard of him so his save shares should continue to be minuscule, but he has a firm clamp on the eighth-inning role so he is a must-add in SV+H leagues.
Emmanuel Rodriguez, Age: 20, Position: OF, Level: High-A
Analysis by: Colin Coulahan
“‘Rod’-Trip to 2022”
Let’s flashback to 2022. Emmanuel Rodriguez had entered the season as an exciting but high-risk prospect. He was the Twins’ top international signing in 2019 but lost the 2020 season to the COVID shutdown, so he could not debut until 2021. The goal of the 2022 season was to cut down on the amount of swing and miss he showed in the FCL. Despite hitting ten home runs and walking at a 15% rate, Rodriguez only hit .214 and stuck out at an ugly 37% rate. The adjustments he made in that off-season worked, as Rodriguez enjoyed a breakout 2022 season as a 19-year-old in A ball, a full two years younger than the rest of the league. The strikeout rate came down to a more reasonable 26%, the walk rate came up to a ridiculous 29%, the swinging strike rate was an elite 10% (down from 31%), and the power was still present (nine home runs in 47 games). When tragedy struck, Rodriguez was on the way to being a top prospect; he tore his meniscus while sliding into a base, and his season was over.
“Is He Back?”
Rodriguez started the 2023 season in High A as a 20-year-old, again two years younger than the competition. Something I have tried to do more this year when evaluating prospects is “listen to what the team is telling you.” The Twins were high enough on E-Rod 2.0 to start him in High A as a teenager, promoting him after half of a season that ended in injury.
The overall stats for the 2023 season showcase his upside and his risk. Rodriguez is only hitting .227 and striking out 31% of the time, but he’s also hit 11 home runs, stolen 11 bases, walked 19% of the time, and kept the swinging strike rate minuscule at 10%. It gets exhilarating if you cut the season in half. From April to the end of May E-Rod only hit .163 and struck out at a 39% rate. The K% was up to 50% at one point, but the swinging strike rate was only 10%. E-Rod was being too passive and getting beat, not chasing. From the start of June until now, there has been an adjustment. Rodriguez has been on a tear, posting a .936 OPS, lowering the K% to 25%, AND walking at a 21% rate. All good for a 167 wRC+.
“Peaks and Valleys”
There is enormous upside with Rodriguez. He has some of the best exit velocities in the league, elite chase rates, massive power, and great speed. Some scouting reports have stated he better understands the strike zone than umpires. But we’ve also seen that he has one of the lowest floors. The strikeout rate has gotten the better of him sometimes, which has cratered his batting average. But even during these slumps, E-Rod is a walking machine that still hits for power. Rostering Rodiguez will be an up an down ride, but the ups are so high he’ll be worth dealing with the valleys.