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Twins MLB Draft Preview: Royce Lewis, SS/OF

The Minnesota Twins will have their choice of every amateur player in the nation when they pick first in the MLB Draft in two weeks. Most attention has swirled around three names: collegiate stars Brendan McKay and Kyle Wright, and California high schooler Hunter Greene.

But there's another prep talent from the Golden State whose name needs to be mentioned in the discussion at 1:1. Royce Lewis offers big speed and might be the best high school hitter in the country. He would be a justifiable top pick under one condition.
Image courtesy of MLB.com
Who Is He?

Hailing from JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, CA, Lewis is a lean and athletic specimen at 6-foot-2 and 190 lbs. He played third base as an underclassman before sliding to shortstop last summer to replace a departing senior. His ability to stick there will define his ceiling, because at short his offensive tool set is beyond tantalizing.

Baseball America has him ranked as the fifth-best draft prospect but calls him "arguably the best position player prospect in this year’s class," citing a "unique combination of explosive tools, top-of-the-scale makeup and up-the-middle defensive profile."

A righty swinger, the 17-year-old has an advanced feel for hitting and generates a ton of bat speed. You can see some footage of his smooth swing in action below, courtesy of Prospect Pipeline:



Last year the Los Angeles Times named Lewis high school player of the year, ahead of Greene mind you, after he captured a second straight Trinity League MVP award by batting .429 as a junior. Analysts envision a 20-plus home run guy after he matures.

While the power potential is enticing, the speed is already there. Most scouts peg Lewis around 70 on the 20-80 scale in this category, and with his superior first-step quickness he looks like a guy who will steal a ton of bases as a pro.

He is committed to play collegiately at UC Irvine, but obviously that could change with the right offer at the right spot.

Why The Twins Will Pick Him

Lewis hasn't gotten a ton of national steam as a contender to go No. 1, but he's been connected to the Twins by multiple reports. To be sure, Minnesota's front office is keeping a close eye on him.

Of course, the last high school infielder to be taken first overall was Carlos Correa, who developed into a franchise player for Houston within three years of his selection in 2012. There aren't many player types more valuable than a shortstop who can excel both offensive and defensively. Lewis has the characteristics of a guy that'll do both.

A recent report from Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports suggests the Twins are leaning toward passing on Greene with their top pick. The two college players under consideration both have their warts. Brendan McKay's floor is more appealing than his ceiling, whether as a pitcher or first baseman, and that's never ideal at the highest draft slot. Vanderbilt righty Kyle Wright is also seen as a "safer" choice, but it's not clear he has that realistic ace upside that would make him an easy choice.

If the Twins firmly believe Lewis will stick at short – and that's a big if, with opinions varying based on the source – he may offer more assurance than anyone else in the mix.

Why The Twins Will Not Pick Him

Yes, Correa was a big success story. But the three prep shortstops preceding him as first overall picks present cautionary tales.

In 2008, the Rays selected Tim Beckham. He never evolved past being a decent hitter in the minors and eventually moved off short; now, he's a mediocre second baseman for Tampa. In 2005, the Diamondbacks selected Justin Upton. He moved to the outfield as soon as he joined the pro ranks, and while his offensive performance in 11 big-league seasons would be spectacular for a shortstop, he's merely been good as a corner outfielder. The prior year, Matt Bush went No. 1 to San Diego. Off-the-field issues have consumed much of his career, but he didn't last long as a shortstop or even a position player, switching to the mound after struggling mightily at the plate for three years.

Uncertainty looms large when dealing with teenage ballplayers, and with their first top No. 1 pick in 16 years, the stakes may be too high for the Twins to gamble on Lewis despite his lofty ceiling. The same ambiguity that has evidently soured Minnesota on Greene is in play with Lewis, who lacks the pedigree of No. 1 shortstops like Correa and Alex Rodriguez that panned out successfully.

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20 Comments

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twinsfanstreif
May 30 2017 09:06 PM
I like Lewis a lot and at this point he's becoming a more attractive option in my eyes. He could be a lower bonus option to save money for our next 2 picks.

Like a lot of what Lewis brings, but I don't think he's a shortstop.

 

That's why he's probably #5 or 6 on my board right now (Wright, Gore, Mckay, Greene, Lewis/Bukauskas), instead of higher.

He's a center fielder, I do believe. Think Lorenzo Cain.

 

If Lewis goes 1-1 it's all about the bonus pool $$.

 

I still would lean Kyle Wright at this point.

If the Twins go with a high school player not named Greene I suspect his name will be Gore.

Lewis is great if he winds up being another Correa.

If not, it is a lost opportunity to strengthen the pitching.

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clutterheart
May 31 2017 04:44 AM
I just hope they are not locked into taking a pitcher. If Lewis can play 3B and if they love his bat, I wouldn't complain
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Cap'n Piranha
May 31 2017 07:10 AM
Please, Twins, don't take the "safe" pick. Please.

I like Lewis a lot too. Basically, I think I could be happy with Wright, Greene, Lewis or Gore at this point. 

 

But, as much as it would be great if he could stick at short, grabbing athletes who have played SS is always a good thing. I mean, just because they have Nick Gordon and Jermaine Palacios and Jorge Polanco, they're still (likely) to sign Jelfry Marte in July... If all of them were to pan out (unlikely as that is), some will have to move to 2B or 3B or LF or RF anyway... just giving them more athleticism around the diamond. So if they deem Lewis that high, I'll be fine with that.

    • DocBauer, gagu and Tom Froemming like this
Can he be the next Robin Yount? If so, take him and bring him up this September. Trade Dozier in July or the off-season and move Polanco to second.

 

Can he be the next Robin Yount? If so, take him and bring him up this September. Trade Dozier in July or the off-season and move Polanco to second.

 

I would say... Probably Not... That'll never happen again. 

    • gagu likes this

I like Lewis. I just want Wright or Greene more (with all my time spent scouting them, I feel very confident......hahahaha).

    • Seth Stohs, Twins33 and DocBauer like this

 

I like Lewis. I just want Wright or Greene more (with all my time spent scouting them, I feel very confident......hahahaha).

 

They'll probably take Brendan McKay just to burst your bubble! 

 

They'll probably take Brendan McKay just to burst your bubble! 

 

It wouldn't kill me, he's just not my top choice.

 

I like Lewis. I just want Wright or Greene more (with all my time spent scouting them, I feel very confident......hahahaha).

Using the knowledge I've gained from 4 or 5 minutes on Youtube, I think I'm with you.

 

If the Twins were picking 3rd, I'd want Lewis.

    • Mike Sixel likes this

So, the Astros signed Carlos Correia because he was "cheap"?And now we have Byron.

 

I concur that one area of strength in the minors is middle infielders.Might there be three potential starting pitchers (and NOT "relievers who "project" to be starters"") at 1, 35 and 37?

Recently on 92.1 The Ticket's Red Zone with Josh Bertaccini, Arkansas head baseball coach Dave Van Horn paid Wright a massive compliment: "I don't think I've ever seen a better college arm than Vanderbilt's Kyle Wright and I've been doing this for 30 years. He's tremendous."

Recently on 92.1 The Ticket's Red Zone with Josh Bertaccini, Arkansas head baseball coach Dave Van Horn paid Wright a massive compliment: "I don't think I've ever seen a better college arm than Vanderbilt's Kyle Wright and I've been doing this for 30 years. He's tremendous."


Dave Van Horn is definitely someone to take seriously. He did an outstanding job here at Nebraska and has continued to excel at Arkansas.
Like most of us, I am so far short of being an expert that even having an opinion is almost silly. But from all the various reports, I still lean toward Wright. Great arm, some top of the rotation potential (even if never an ACE, but how do ever accurately predict that?) He comes from a highly successful program, has a solid track record, and it doesn't hurt that he fills a glaring need and may be close. That being said, drafting top athletes who have played SS is never a bad thing. As Seth mentioned, those kinds of guys can end up at 2B or 3B as well. Maybe Lewis becomes an outstanding 3B with wheels and legitimate 20HR power who allows Sano to move to 1B in 3-5 years as he begins to approach 30?
    • BigSkyTwinsFan and 70charger like this
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purplesoldier4u
May 31 2017 08:41 PM

If I want a "speed guy," I go for Quentin Holmes in the 2nd.

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purplesoldier4u
May 31 2017 08:42 PM

By the way, it's good to be back! I see a few names from BYTO, but it's been a long time and I'm not getting any younger.

    • Mike Sixel likes this

I do not think the three shortstops mentioned- Beckham, Justin Upton and Matt Bush are all that bad.  I wish we had all three of them. Article made them sound like a bust