Royce Lewis Opening Options with AFL Flexibility
Image courtesy of © Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsOverall 2019 was a down year for Minnesota Twins top prospect Royce Lewis. While calling it a down year, it is labeled so with a bit of hesitancy. While it is an absolutely appropriate label as Lewis slashed .236/.290/.371 between High-A Fort Myers and Double-A Pensacola. There are more factors to a prospect's development at times than pure and linear statistical output.
Lewis is also only 20-years-old and had other outside influences contributing to a lower production at the plate. He did struggle with an oblique strain early in spring training and also has been tinkering with his approach at the plate. All of which seem to have contributed to a lower output at the plate.
Regardless of how we frame Lewis’ 2019 numbers, they did cause Lewis to stumble a bit lower on national prospect rankings, but he is still clearly one of the best prospects in baseball. Something that now is being showcased in the Arizona Fall League. Offensively Lewis has been doing things like this:
And defensively like this:
And that is where the heads begin to turn. That is Lewis in center field. Which isn’t all that strange, but the shortstop hasn’t in four games started at his regular position once and has seen all his time split between center and third base.
So what does this all mean? We ultimately have no idea, but we can sure have some fun speculating. So let’s start with the most exciting option first.
The Twins really like his bat now
It is no secret that the Twins have a really good lineup right now. Maybe the Twins would like to add their former number-one pick to that lineup. The problem is that right now the middle infield spots look to be secured by Jorge Polanco and the emergence of Luis Arraez.
Third base is also technically occupied, but it seems possible the Twins could roll with an infield that puts Lewis at the hot corner. And then goes around the horn with Lewis-Polanco-Arraez-Sano.
Lewis could also wiggle his way into a crowded outfield situation. There is plenty of speculation about Byron Buxton’s long term ability to stay healthy. There is also a good dose of speculation surrounding Eddie Rosario as a trade piece in trying to bolster the Twins pitching staff.
It seems absolutely plausible that at some point there will be a new face in the 2020 starting outfield compared to this year’s go-to group. It makes imagining a starting group next season as three of Rosario, Buxton, Kepler, and Lewis (or name your outfielder) feel very realistic.
This scenario does feel like a stretch as I write it. Lewis’ scenario feels like one that no matter what he does in the AFL or spring training he will find more time in the minors in 2020. Since he has already made it to Double-A we also know that a promotion to the majors can happen quickly once a talented player hits that level. So while we as fans aren’t used to seeing 21-year-olds in the big leagues we know it isn’t impossible either.
Versatility is King
If there is anything we have learned about baseball in 2019, next to guys who can hit the baseball really far, it is that teams value defensive versatility. Marwin Gonzalez, Ehire Adrianza, Luis Arraez, and Willians Astudillo are all guys on the Twins roster that greatly increase their value by their ability to field multiple positions.
Generally superstars (which I think we all hope Lewis becomes) find one position and are able to lock into it. That may still be true, but maybe we are seeing that the Twins will also value that versatility out of even a superstar.
This is AFL specific
The last and least exciting option is this. This is just how the roster of the Salt River Rafters has worked best when it comes to day-to-day lineups to this point in the AFL season. So while Lewis is still viewed as a shortstop it just works best with the players on the roster to have him see time at third or in center.
Lewis is still a better prospect than Arizona Diamondbacks Geraldo Perdomo who has seen time at short instead of Lewis. Which maybe only fuels speculation about what is happening in Arizona right now and what it means about the long term fate of Lewis and other Twins players.
Do-Hyoung Park recently wrote that he has been told Lewis will return to his regular work at shortstop after the AFL. Which adds to this being the likely reasoning behind what we are seeing from Lewis. Not to mention Steve Lein wrote that this exact situation was a very strong possibility in his AFL preview not quite a week ago.
Time will tell where Lewis plays once he gets a shot in the majors. Right now we can enjoy improved production at the plate from him as in four games Lewis has slashed .333/.412/.800 with a 1.212 OPS and two home runs. Lewis continues to look like one more very talented bat that isn’t far from plugging in somewhere and working to keep playoff-level baseball in Minnesota.
- Blake, h2oface, gagu and 1 other like this