FORT MYERS, FLA. – The Twins and the Red Sox are 4 miles apart in spring training and play six or seven exhibitions. Thus, the Twins keep running into Andrew Benintendi, 23 and a rising star in Boston.
The Twins had the sixth choice in the 2015 draft and took Tyler Jay, a lefthanded pitcher from Illinois. Boston was next and took Benintendi, a lefthanded-hitting outfielder from Arkansas.
One of the first changes made by Derek Falvey’s baseball operation was to replace Deron Johnson (now in an advisory role) with Sean Johnson as scouting director in December 2016.
The Jay/Benintendi decision was there as a blot on Deron’s résumé. Benintendi was in the big leagues by August 2016; Jay still isn’t close.
Deron Johnson did get a lefthanded-hitting outfielder in the first round of his last draft: Alex Kirilloff, No. 15 overall in 2016.
The Kirilloffs lived in Plum, a Pittsburgh suburb. Alex was home-schooled and played baseball for Plum’s strong program.
“I didn’t see him until he walked in to join us,’’ coach Carl Vollmer said. “Physically, he was more mature than most freshmen, and emotionally, he was more mature. Alex was a special person and player.’’
Kirilloff received $2.8 million to sign, went immediately to the rookie team in Elizabethton, Tenn., and was impressive in 55 games.
Alex was 19 and girlfriend Jordan Kircher 18 when they married in October 2016. Strongly religious, they have a home in a gated development in Fort Myers. He’s close to the Twins complex; Jordan has a real estate license.
Kirilloff was a pitcher and outfielder in high school. He felt elbow pain late in the summer at Elizabethton, rehab didn’t work, and he missed all of last season after Tommy John surgery.
“I don’t look at it as a lost season,’’ Kirilloff said. “I’m stronger after all that rehab. That’s going to make me a better player.’’
Through his spring, Kiriloff has been receiving strong reviews and will open at low-A Cedar Rapids. Who knows? Three years from now, the Twins could have a reasonable duplicate of Benintendi.
Plus three from Patrick
Notes on Alex Kirilloff’s family:
• Brother-in-law Ryan Kircher is a senior at Plum, a lefthanded pitcher who could be drafted in June. Two younger Kirchers are also in Plum’s baseball pipeline.
• Sister Sophie was a competitive figure skater. “Lots of 5 a.m. practices,’’ Alex said. “It’s amazing how hard skaters work.’’
• Father David developed the “Language of Hitting.’’ He appears at clinics nationally, and his Language of Baseball company sells instructional videos.