Twins MLB Draft Preview: Royce Lewis, SS/OF
Image courtesy of MLB.comWho 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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