Appy notes: Kirilloff off to memorable start

Twins No. 6 prospect showing off natural hitting skills for Elizabethton

Alex Kirilloff is slashing .320/.347/.455 through 50 games with Elizabethton. (Chris Robertson/MiLB.com)

By Bob Sutton / Special to MiLB.com | August 25, 2016 10:00 AM ET

When Alex Kirilloff was drafted in the first round in June's Draft by the Minnesota Twins, it was a notable accomplishment.

It keeps getting better for the 18-year-old outfielder.

He hit the Appalachian League with a bang for the Elizabethton Twins and has forged a strong foundation in his first professional season.

"He's getting a little tired, but he's ahead of his game," Elizabethton manager Ray Smith said. "He's legit. He has got a magic wand."

This week, Kirilloff was named Player of the Year in the Appalachian League.

For much of the season, the 6-foot-2, left-handed batter was leading the league in batting. He still rates high on that list despite a recent dip.

"I know I've gone down as of late," he said. "I'm just going with the flow. I'm just hoping to play every day. This is different. Even from the last couple of summers, it wasn't so extensive.

"Now it's taking that focus of playing every day, making adjustments and learning."

Kirilloff played for Plum High School near Pittsburgh, though he was home-schooled and didn't attend classes at the school.

But on the baseball field he might have been considered the featured student. In summer circuits, he continued to excel.

Kirilloff's ability to step into a successful summer right away makes sense, even against pitchers with college experience.

"I've been blessed," he said. "From a young age, I played four or five years above my age level."

He was signed to play college baseball for Liberty University, but when his stock grew to first-round status he said he was anxious to take another path. He was picked 15th overall.

"I definitely can't complain," he said. "It's adjusting to the lifestyle. I like it so far. It's something I've been working for my whole life."

Kirilloff said he hasn't noticed any different treatment or extra scrutiny other than the special attention he draws from autograph hounds.

"We're all on a level playing field now," he said.

Smith said Kirilloff's hitting appears to come naturally. He said it has been good that the teenager has had the normal ebbs and flows.

"At 18 years old, he's finding holes right away," Smith said. "He can have three bad at-bats and he can come right back and find a spot."

Smith described Kirilloff's defense as steady. He's usually the right fielder.

"He has an average arm, but that's improving," Smith said. "He's athletic enough to play all three positions in the outfield."

Not to be overshadowed by what he has done on the field, Kirilloff has other summer notables. During his time with the Elizabethton team, he announced his engagement. He has known his bride-to-be since attending a Christian middle school. They plan a fall wedding.

"A lot going on," Kirilloff said. "Definitely a year to remember."

In brief

Approach to appreciate: Greeneville Astros outfielder Frankeny Fernandez ranks in the top five in the league in stolen bases, and his intangibles, such as an ability to draw walks, make the 19-year-old an intriguing prospect. "He has a good understanding of the strike zone," Astros manager Josh Bonifay said. "You've got to love having him at the top of the order."

Power source: Jonathan McCray, an infielder/outfielder for the Burlington Royals, has provided a few long blasts this season among his seven home runs. The 5-foot-10 California native ranks second on the team in homers. "[Last] offseason really changed a lot for me," he said. "Started hitting the weights every day. The power just came."

Extra work: An eight-game winning streak catapulted the Princeton Rays into the East Division race. That included a pair of 1-0 victories -- both in 10 innings. Princeton pitchers allowed five hits in those two games combined, with Dalton Moats picking up the victory in the latter of those for his second win during the winning streak.

Bob Sutton is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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