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Brent Rooker, not Alex Kirilloff, could be the opening day left fielder

Will it be the rookie we don’t expect

Cleveland Indians v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Twins debuted two different rookie left fielders at various points in 2020. One of them, in all likelyhood, will be the opening day starter, with Eddie Rosario now playing for the Spiders. Twins fans have widely assumed that Alex Kirilloff will be the guy, and the reasons why are abundant. Kirilloff is one of the top two, if not the top, prospect in the Twins’ fairly well-regarded farm system. The team seems to like him a lot, calling him up for the playoffs last season when injuries prevented Josh Donaldson from contributing. At that time, we heard many reports out of Saint Paul praising Kirilloff for his development and major league readiness. All of that being said, there is a chance the other guy impresses.

The other guy, as you likely guessed from the title, being Brent Rooker. Rooker is maybe not in the same prospect class as Kirilloff, but he is also fairly well-regarded, and as a college hitter, is a couple years older. That maturity may not be a bad thing—and it may also be a point in favor of his making the roster over Kirilloff.

Both Rooker and Kirilloff were 2016 draft picks for the Twins, and both were first rounders. Confused? The Twins took Rooker in the 38th round in 2016, and when he didn’t sign, they liked him enough to make him their first rounder in 2017. Despite the later start, he is 26 years-old, compared to Kirilloff’s 23. Since both currently have similar service time, the Twins may opt for age and maturity, to start the season. They may also view it as an opportunity for Rooker to build trade value, and most of all, they may take advantage of the ability to keep Kirilloff from reaching “super two” status, and therefore reach arbitration a year earlier (assuming the next CBO doesn’t fix the stupidity of that whole situation.)

The Twins did choose to call up Rooker over Kiriloff already during the 2020 season, as the former made his debut September 4th, during the regular season, and the latter debuted on September 30th. Rooker was impressive in his short debut, before a freak injury shut his season down. He should be fully healed before Spring Training, so both players will likely be on an even footing, and have a chance to impress their coaches and the front office.

In his 2020 debut, Rooker hit .381/.579/.960 with five RBIs, two doubles and a homer. Not a bad resume for only 19 at bats across seven games. He also wore two pitches, including the HBP that broke his wrist and ended his season. For his part, Kirilloff went 1-for-4 with a single in his sole game against Houston, so its not like he disappointed either. These are both laughably small samples to try to draw conclusions from though.

Overall, Alex Kirilloff is probably going to have a better MLB career than Brent Rooker. He certainly has the potential to. That being said, I’m not sure there aren’t reasons for the Twins to have Kirilloff start the season playing for Toby Gardenhire, and Rooker in the big leagues. I’m also pretty sure this won’t be the long-term solution. What do you think though?


Who will be the Twins opening day left fielder?

This poll is closed

  • 39%
    Alex Kirilloff
    (299 votes)
  • 52%
    Brent Rooker
    (402 votes)
  • 7%
    Someone else (tell us who in the comments)
    (60 votes)
761 votes total Vote Now