Alex Kirilloff was drafted by the Twins in the 1st round of the 2016 draft, after hitting .540 with 3 homers and 24 RBI’s over the course of his senior year at Plum High School in Pennsylvania.
But Kirilloff wasn’t your typical high school draft pick. Although he played for his local high school team, Kirilloff took classes online throughout his entire four years there, making him just the second home schooled player to ever be drafted in the first round.
However, despite having never attended classes on campus, the Twins saw great potential in Kirilloff, and he certainly didn’t disappoint. In his first partial season of pro ball this past year, Kirilloff hit .306 with 7 home runs and 33 RBI’s in just 55 games played, winning the Appalachian League Player of the Year.
Although only time will tell if those numbers will continue to translate into the upper levels of the minors, if Kirilloff can keep his hitting going into the coming years, he could be playing in Minnesota in the not so distant future.
Alex Kirilloff — top prospect in the Twins’ organization — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:
1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?
My father was my biggest baseball influence growing up. He always tells me about how the first day I was able to stand up and walk he was already showing me how to hit off a tee. I’ve always had an interest for baseball growing up for as long as I can remember, really. Being surrounded by it kinda led me in that direction.
2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?
Josh Hamilton was probably my favorite baseball player growing up. He captivated me — watching him hit 28 homers in a single round of the 2008 Homerun Derby at Yankee Stadium. I also have read his book. His story is a great example of how even Christians are not perfect. His battle with alcohol and drugs just goes to show what the devil can do to us if we aren’t always careful. Josh’s testimony is tremendous, and I would suggest reading his book Beyond Belief to anyone.
3.) You were drafted by the Twins in the 1st round of the 2016 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?
Being drafted by the Twins is truly a blessing. The process throughout high school was long and tedious at some points, but it was all worth it. When I first found out, my teammates, friends and family were all at a local restaurant watching the draft. My initial thoughts were how excited, honored and blessed I was to get selected by them.
4.) In 2015, before you were drafted, you won the Perfect Game All-American Classic Home Run Challenge in San Diego, hitting 34 home runs over the course of the competition. With the power you possess, how important do you consider power-hitting to be in regards to your overall gameplay?
I think the power is a growing part of my overall gameplay. I would hope that the older I get and the more I mature, I hope the power will become more and more relevant. Overall, though, it’s a huge part of hitting to be able to hit doubles and home runs, so I hope to continue to do that.
5.) You were the first high school player since Joe Mauer the Twins immediately sent to Elizabethton to begin their professional career, completely skipping the Gulf Coast League. What type of changes did you find yourself having to make to adjust to the differences between high school and professional baseball?
There are a lot of adjustments to be made from high school to pro ball. The game speeds up a lot; you are getting challenged every at-bat; you are playing every single day; you have to take care of your body better; and you have to be mentally focused everyday.
6.) Despite being sent straight to the Appalachian League, you immediately excelled, going on to win the Appy League Player of the Year for 2016. What did it mean to you to have such a successful start to your pro career?
It meant a lot to get my career started on a good note. I felt that it was reassurance from the Lord that this truly is His plan for me and the avenue that He would like me to impact people through.
7.) Talk a little bit about life on the road: What’s the most difficult aspect of it? What do you do to pass the time?
Bus rides are usually not exactly the highlight of going on a road trip. Most of your down time is eating and sleeping, to be honest. Again, that’s just another adjustment that has to be made playing pro ball.
8.) Although you had time after signing to play in just 55 games, what do you feel went well in 2016? What are your goals for 2017?
I just think my adjustments to the whole situation went pretty well in 2016. I am always looking to improve though and, Lord willing, do better in 2017.
9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?
Favorite TV show is ‘Intentional Talk’. Favorite food is steak.
10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?
My advice would be that if you are serious about your dream of playing baseball, and that it is what you feel the Lord wants you to do, it takes a lot of work. Training, discipline and motivation are all big keys along the way. Putting yourself in different opportunities to be seen by people is important as well, believe it or not.
Big thanks to Alex Kirilloff for taking the time to answer my questions.
You can follow him on Twitter: @AKirilloff19