Royce Lewis is Fun and Good for Baseball
I'm fascinated about Royce Lewis' journey into Major League Baseball, and you should be too.
After going a dismal 59-103 in 2016, the Minnesota Twins were granted the 1st overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft (pre-Draft Lottery times), where they selected highly-touted California high school shortstop Royce Lewis. At the time, Lewis, 18 years old, signed for a whopping $6.73M signing bonus, a pretty penny for skipping college.
The JSerra Catholic High infielder possessed tons of raw talent on both sides of the ball. He displayed raw power, the ability to hit all fields, and a plus arm with athletic infield movements. He even had the potential to play outfield. Lewis looked like an incredibly safe option, and a building block for Minnesota’s future.
However, what neither the Twins nor Lewis anticipated, was a rocky road ahead.
After a few steady years in the Minor Leagues, and even a 141 wRC+ in 2018 A ball, Royce Lewis was shooting up top prospect boards. Ever since his draft day, the infielder had been the surefire, no doubt #1 prospect in the Twins farm system.
Lewis was the shortstop of the future in Minnesota—no doubt about it.
Until the setbacks kicked in.
The COVID-19 pandemic left not only an uncertainty of the sport’s future but Minor League Baseball as a whole. Many prospects fizzled out, as there were no MiLB games in 2020, a big loss for Lewis, who was looking to propel up toward Triple-A and even possibly the Major Leagues around that time.
As baseball started to open up from the freak pandemic in 2021, Lewis had expectations to be up with the Twins during Spring Training. A possibility for his first taste of Big League action.
Yet, Lewis would never receive a single taste of baseball for all of 2021, as it was confirmed in February of 2021 that he had torn his right ACL either training or slipping on ice back home. The Aliso Viejo, California, native would have to wait another year without baseball for the second time in a row.
Finally, in 2022, Lewis’ knee was fully healthy and good to go. He started his spring strong, as a 149 wRC+ with 5 HR over 34 Triple-A games was enough for Minnesota to give him the call. He was going to the Show.
Lewis looked promising at the Big League level, slashing .300/.317/.550 with a pair of dingers, and a 146 wRC+. Albeit, a puny sample size.
Then, disaster struck again.
After crashing into a wall while playing center field against the Royals in late May, just 12 games into his young Big League career, Lewis made an unbelievable catch, yet tore his right ACL again in the process. His second tear in a year and a half. The ‘injury-prone" narratives had begun.
It seemed as if the baseball gods just weren’t on his side. Lewis had just played 46 professional baseball games over his last three years. Nowhere near the amount needed for capable development.
Luckily, with the help of the Twins training staff, Lewis was able to return in May of 2023, where he played just 14 games across Double-A and Triple-A before once again receiving the call. This time, Rocco Baldelli and company were cautious with the budding star, playing him at the hot corner, while also getting DH stints.
At age 24, he was granted a fair opportunity to play consistent baseball for the club that picked him six years prior.
He wasted no time, playing to the tune of an ever-impressive 155 wRC+, with 15 HR, 52 RBI, .393 wOBA, and .548 SLG%. Finally, a healthy young star was born in the Twin Cities.
Thanks to Lewis’ help, the Twins were crowned AL Central champions, and even swept the Blue Jays in the Wild Card round, before falling to the Astros in the Divisional series.
October got along well with Royce Lewis, as he was a vital piece to Minnesota’s run, clubbing back-to-back home runs during his first two playoff at-bats. His heroics sent the Twins faithful into a frenzy and immediately became a household name. The rookie certainly didn’t play like one. Lewis finished the postseason with a 1.119 OPS, 4 HR, 5 RBI, and an unimaginable .773 SLG% over 6 games. There’s no doubt when the lights shine bright, he shines brighter.
Royce Lewis is fun, and good for baseball. Here’s to a healthy 2024!