In advance of Thursday's draft, we will be conducting Q&A interviews with many prospects who are projected to be drafted in the first round. For a complete listing of these interviews, click here.
Next up is Alex Kirilloff, an outfielder from Plum HS in Pittsburgh. Kirilloff, a Liberty commit, is an offense-first player who is praised by scouts for his athleticism and is widely considered to be a first-round pick. The 6-foot-2, 195 lb. 18-year old may project as a corner outfielder at the next level despite playing center in high school. For more on Kirilloff, check out Minor League Ball's scouting report.
Kirilloff is projected go somewhere in the first round, with ESPN and BA both pegging him as the Angels' pick at No. 16. He was recently ranked by BA as the 15th-best player in this year's draft class, and spoke with MLBDD in advance of the draft:
When did you first get into playing baseball and start realizing you loved the game?
“When I first started, it was before I can remember, really. From when I could stand up and walk, my dad had me hitting off the tee. I grew up around the game and always liked it.”
Growing up, did you have a favorite team? Favorite player?
“My favorite team growing up was the Pirates, being my hometown team. Player-wise, as a kid you kind of bounce around from player to player. Who you like, who you watch. One of the biggest one that sticks out from when I was young... I liked watching Josh Hamilton a lot.”
When was the moment you realized that you could actually achieve a pro career in baseball?
“When I was really young. I had a passion and I had a goal from a very, very young age. I was 11 or 12 years old when I really felt the Lord’s decision in my heart. I felt his direction leading me to that avenue.”
You committed to a bit of an unusual school for a top baseball prospect, choosing Liberty. What went into that decision, and which other schools did you consider?
“The biggest thing for me with Liberty is that they were a faith-based, Christian college. It was a school I would want to be at it even if baseball was not in the picture at all. I went down for a visit when I was young, when I was in 9th grade. I fell in love with the campus, the coaches and the staff they had there. I loved what they were all about. The baseball program is getting better every year, and the facilities they have now are great. It was really just the best fit for me. I committed so early that there weren’t really a bunch of schools in play. A lot of other schools contacted us after I was committed, but it wasn’t really a big process. They would contact me to see if I was serious about my commitment, and I told them I was committed to Liberty.”
Liberty obviously has a huge focus on faith, and reports on you say that your religion is a crucial part of your life? How important is your religion to you, and how do you channel that as a baseball player?
“For me, it’s everything. It’s not an importance. It’s something that I base my lifestyle off of, it’s how I live my life. It’s something I carry on and off the field. With how I play, the heart, passion, work ethic, and desire, and how I conduct myself off the field as well. My faith in God, the Lord and Savior, is the center for everything.”
You grew up in a cold-weather state, as a Pittsburgh native. How do you think your development differs from that of prospects who play year-round? Is it an advantage or disadvantage to play in the northeast?
“I think the biggest benefit for them is just a lot more game reps. There’s a lot of things you can work on inside, and you can train all you want during the winter, but there’s nothing like replicating a game. They have the benefit of playing all the time and having a lot more game reps. We have the benefit of getting more rest, and our bodies are healthier, sometimes. Less injuries for pitchers, and stuff like that. For me, it was a huge advantage that my dad always owned an indoor hitting facility that was accessible to me anytime I wanted. From a hitting standpoint and a training standpoint, that was a big plus. It kind of eliminated the disadvantage I had, not living down south.”
You’ve talked in previous interviews about how important?
“He’s been huge. He’s been the most impactful person in my life to that point. He’s coached me, he’s trained me. He’s been my father obviously this whole time. He’s really had his hand in a lot of things that have transpired over the years. A lot of credit to him, a lot of credit to both my parents for all the effort and sacrifices they’ve made getting to this point. Even my sister as well, I can’t thank them enough.”
Most scouting reports say that you’re extremely athletic, and that your athleticism plays a huge role in your success. How important is it to be athletic as a baseball player, despite some people doubting the role athleticism plays in the game?
“Being athletic, whether it’s baseball, soccer, basketball, football, hockey... the game inside the game, especially in baseball, is a game of fractions, a game of inches. And a game of versatility, too, at all times. Being athletic gives me more of an advantage to hit on all of those things. Whether you’re running down a ball or trying to beat out an infield hit... it’s a huge advantage, not only in baseball, but in any sport, to be athletic.”
What’s your biggest strength as a player?
“I like to think I have a lot of strengths. My biggest pull is my bat, it’s what I pride myself on. I’d have to say hitting. Being athletic goes along with that too, for sure.”
What is your biggest weakness, or the thing you want to improve upon the most going forward?
“I’m just really looking to improve upon everything. I’m never going to be perfect, and as a perfectionist and someone that is a competitor, you’re never going to be where you’re striving to be. You’re always working to achieve a higher goal. For me, it’s a long of things I can be working on. I’m not really zeroing in on one thing, I’m trying to get better at all aspects.”
Which major-leaguer, current or former, do you compare your game to the most?
“Probably the biggest comp I’ve gotten over the last year is Grady Sizemore. Based on everything: swing, athleticism, some people even say I look like him too.”
What is your honest expectation heading into the draft as to where you’ll be picked? Any specific teams showing the most interest that you could end up with?
“To be honest, we have a game [Thursday] and I have no idea what to expect. I’m trying not to think about it too much, trying to not get all worked up. My focus is playing the game and to win, and hopefully everything will fall into place. Going back to my faith, I’m at peace just knowing that everything is in God’s hands. Just praying that he would move the hearts of the right people selecting me. Whoever that is, it’s the right place. That’s my mentality going into it.”