Alex Kirilloff was with friends, family and teammates Thursday and couldn’t have been happier.
Major League Baseball invited him to attend the draft proceedings in Secaucus, N.J., but he declined. His high school team had a playoff game that day anyway. A scout even contacted the high school league to see if it would reschedule the game. It declined.
So after Pittsburgh Plum High School advanced to the Pennsylvania state semifinals Thursday, Kirilloff had a draft party. And everyone there found out at once that the Twins made the outfielder the 15th overall pick.
“It’s kind of a surreal moment,” said Kirilloff, 18. “We had a party with the team, coaches, family and friends. When they called my name, everyone went nuts.”
With their second pick of the draft, the Twins picked catcher Ben Rortvedt with the 56th overall selection. Catcher is a position of need in the organization, and Rortvedt, who played at Verona (Wis.) High School outside of Madison, is a good hitting prospect with some power. His throws well, but his catching skills need work. Rortvedt is a Arkansas recruit.
With the 73rd overall pick, the Twins selected Jose Miranda, from Leadership Christian Academy from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. Miranda will enter the organization as a shortstop but is expected to eventually move to third base.
With the 74th pick, the Twins selected outfielder Akil Baddoo, from Salem High in Conyers, Ga. The one knock on him is his arm strength, but he can run and has good offensive potential.
And the end of the first day of the draft, the Twins had selected four high school position players — and no pitchers.
“Need some bats,” Johnson said.
Kirilloff certainly qualifies. The outfielder was batting .544 for Plum through 19 games with three home runs and 23 RBI. He had a .645 on-base percentage and 1.000 slugging percentage.
The Twins have been impressed with how Kirilloff has developed over the past year. Scouting director Deron Johnson attended three of his games and noticed how he rose to the occasion when he went up against better pitching.
Although he hit only three home runs during the season, he won the 2015 Perfect Game Home Run Challenge with 34 homers — 12 in the final at Petco Park in San Diego.
“This kid can hit,” Johnson said. “He has good strike zone judgment and barrels it up consistently.”
Being with friends, family and teammates to watch the draft is notable. While he attends Plum, he studies through Pennsylvania Cyber School, a public charter school with online courses. So some teams, during their due diligence, wondered why.
“Some of the questions were about how I interact with people,” Kirilloff said.
There was a big reason why he went the home-school route: He could immerse himself in the game.
He gets up in the morning and takes care of his schoolwork. Then there’s practice with his team and then workouts with his father, David, a former amateur player who did some scouting but who now operates an indoor facility for baseball and softball players. The facility allows for year-round training.
And that enabled Alex Kirilloff to work on his game. All the time.
“My passion for the game of baseball is on and off the field,” he said. “You have to enjoy the process.”
He considers his teammates to be close friends. Taking classes online actually helped him juggle his busy schedule. He has graduated from cyber school and has no regrets about the decision.
“There are no problems with interaction or anything like that,” he said.
Johnson said that Kirilloff has a chance to begin his pro career at Elizabethton of the Appalachian League. The Twins usually start high school draftees in the Gulf Coast League for rookies, but the Twins think Kirilloff’s bat can handle the next level of the Appalachian League.
There doesn’t appear to be any initial hurdles to sign Kirilloff. The league office has recommended a bonus of $2.8 million for the 15th pick. Former Twins prospect Jeff Randazzo is Kirilloff’s adviser, and the Twins expect to sign him after his high school season is over.
Kirilloff is playing center field for Plum but projects as a corner outfielder. He also plays first base, but the Twins want to try him in the outfield first.
He was asked what his preferred position is.
“I feel like I want to play wherever the Minnesota Twins want me to play,” he said. “Wherever that is.”