Twins top outfield prospect Alex Kirilloff has a definite chance to make the Opening Day roster, per The Athletic’s Dan Hayes. Not unrelated, the Twins should face a fair amount of outside pressure to get Kirilloff on the roster from day one. Especially in the aftermath of Mariners’ CEO Kevin Mather openly copping to service-time manipulation, it would be poor optics for the Twins to suggest Kirilloff needs more development time.
After all, if he was ready to make his major league debut in the playoffs last season — when service time is not accrued — one would think he is ready to make the lineup for games in April. That said, the 23-year-old former first-round pick had not played above Double-A before going 1-for-4 against the Astros during the wild-card series. Even so, all signs point to Kirilloff beginning the season in the starting lineup.
Minnesota let Eddie Rosario walk in free agency in part to make room, and with Royce Lewis being lost for the 2021 season due to injury, the Twins might feel some urgency to “carpe diem,” as it were, and make the most of Kirilloff’s window. Without him, Jorge Polanco probably plays second base while Luis Arraez could slide to the outfield.
Elsewhere on the grass…
- The Rays are cautiously easing Kevin Kiermaier into action this spring, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Kiermaier is experiencing hip soreness, and the Rays don’t want the issue lingering into the season. Kiermaier has dealt with a number of “lingering” health issues over the years that have limited his playing time. Kiermaier was largely healthy in 2020, appearing in 49 games and slashing .217/.321/.362 before notching some big hits in the postseason, including three home runs. Of course, Kiermaier’s value proposition has never been his bat. The three-time Gold Glove centerfielder is the linchpin of the Rays’ defensive scheme. They’ve made sure to acquire rangy outfielders to flank him in recent years (Manuel Margot, Randy Arozarena, Austin Meadows, Brett Phillips), but Kiermaier remains the best defender of the bunch.
- It’s been well-documented now that Victor Robles’ attempt to add muscle for the 2020 season might have played a part in his diminished defensive metrics. He still managed 2 outs above average by Statcast’s measure, while -4 DRS and -3.6 UZR painted a less rosy picture. Robles, of course, was an all-world defender in 2019 by any measure: 23 OAA, 23 DRS, 5.3 UZR. Robles has reversed course after adding 15 pounds last offseason, reporting to camp as the slimmer version of himself once more, per Pete Kerzel of MASNsports.com. The Nationals are assuming Robles will be back to his elite self in centerfield, as they’ll need him to cover lots of ground while sharing the grass with Kyle Schwarber and Juan Soto. Both Schwarber (-3 OAA) and Soto (-2 OAA) have worked hard to improve themselves in the field, but neither one rates particularly well.