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Can the Twins Fix Royce Lewis’s Swing?

Royce Lewis has been one of baseball’s top prospects since the Twins took him with the first overall pick back in 2017. He will continue to be ranked as the organization’s best prospect, but that certainly doesn’t mean he is without flaws. One of the biggest concerns might be with Lewis’ swing, so one must wonder if he can make adjustments in the minor leagues.
Image courtesy of Linwood Ferguson, Captive Photons (Royce Lewis)
Lewis spent time at High- and Double-A last season before ending the year in the Arizona Fall League. During the regular season, there were some ups and downs as he combined for a .661 OPS and 123 strikeouts in 127 games. He performed much better in the AFL by hitting .353/.411/.565 (.975) with 12 extra-base hits in 22 games.

Here is a slow-motion view of Lewis’s swing during the AFL Fall Stars game.

He starts with a high leg kick and then moves into a long stride. FanGraphs released their top Twins prospect list this week and they had plenty to say about Lewis's swing even though he is still their top Twins prospect.

"Lewis still clearly had issues. His swing is cacophonous — the big leg kick, the messy, excessive movement in his hands — and it negatively impacts Lewis’ timing. He needs to start several elements of the swing early just to catch fastballs, and he’s often late anyway. This also causes him to lunge at breaking balls, which Lewis doesn’t seem to recognize very well, and after the advanced hit tool was a huge driver of his amateur profile, Lewis now looks like a guess hitter."

In recent years, Minnesota has tried to work with Byron Buxton to adjust the leg kick he used in his swing. Buxton has gone through multiple swing renditions and last season he had almost no leg kick. For Buxton, there were positive results last season when he was on the field and healthy.

In a recent chat, ESPN’s Keith Law was not optimistic about the performance put together by Lewis in the Arizona Fall League. When asked about Lewis’s swing adjustments, he said, “What swing adjustments? He looked exactly the same – huge leg kick, big hit – and did not hit at all during the regular season. Nothing is wrong with him physically, but I don’t think there’s a big leaguer who hits for average with a noisy approach like Lewis’s.”

Besides his swing concerns, there are also concerns about Lewis’s defensive future. His bat is more important to his prospect stock because some see him below-average on defense as a shortstop. This could result in him moving to third base or even to the outfield. He played most of the AFL season at third base and even made a highlight reel catch in the outfield.

"I think it's easy to forget how young he is," Twins director of Minor League operations Jeremy Zoll said during the AFL. "There were a number of hitters at Fort Myers that started slow. It's pretty well known that the [Florida State League] is a pitchers' league. But I think everyone came out of that slump at different speeds and anytime you're missing playing time in spring training, it's obviously something you think about -- the impact you may or may not be having. But it was good to see him work his way out of it and continue to make strides with his swing and produce nicely down the stretch."

Minnesota is going to have to hope there are coaches that can work with some of his mechanics early in the spring. This would give him all of 2020 to work on his offensive approach to reduce some holes in his swing. The Twins have already been able to work with Buxton on adjusting his approach, so one can hope that Lewis will be the next player to alter his swing.

What are your thoughts on Lewis’s approach at the plate? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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54 Comments

This is a fantastic example of why we took as many shortstops in the draft which people questioned. Some people seem to think he's the heir to SS pretty soon here when he's still a really flawed hitter. Twins may have another prime example of "prospect growth isn't linear" on their hands.
    • Mike Frasier Law likes this

The Puckster had a ton of doubters with his high leg kick and it worked out for him

Not saying Lewis will turn into Kirby II but...

 

These guys are different animals athletically and some succeed in-spite of "mechanical flaws"

 

Maybe that's just how he hits

    • Seth Stohs, glunn, peterb18 and 3 others like this

He's basically had that swing since high school.Why haven't the Twins worked to fix it?

    • tarheeltwinsfan, PDX Twin, Vanimal46 and 1 other like this
Not saying I know anything, but just adore how so many experts talk about such a young, tremendously gifted kid can't play a position. Especially when history has shown the exact opposite over time.

I don't know beans about Lewis's stature and swing at the plate except for what I read and general observations as a baseball fan for over 40yrs. But I do know Buxton was having his best season as a pro just doing what felt natural this year.

Sorry, can't remember the book title or author, but heard a great piece on the radio a couple weeks ago about the art of hitting. The just was despite all the technology and coaching involved, sometimes it just comes down to see ball and hit ball and the "timing" factor a player felt was natural.

Lewis blows up the AFL, SSS understood, but some want to talk about fixing him. I think experience and "tweaking" are more relevant.
    • luckylager, glunn, peterb18 and 13 others like this
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Old Twins Cap
Dec 17 2019 07:47 AM

Kid wins MVP in Arizona Fall League and people are wringing their hands about him?

 

Love that kind of problem.

    • glunn, nicksaviking, SwainZag and 8 others like this

Kid wins MVP in Arizona Fall League and people are wringing their hands about him?

Love that kind of problem.


You value his AFL sample size over an entire season of A+ and AA at bats?
    • glunn, alphanumeric, adorduan and 3 others like this
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ShouldaCouldaWoulda
Dec 17 2019 07:57 AM

 

The Puckster had a ton of doubters with his high leg kick and it worked out for him

Not saying Lewis will turn into Kirby II but...

 

These guys are different animals athletically and some succeed in-spite of "mechanical flaws"

 

Maybe that's just how he hits

True, but I think shorter batters are less effected by big legs kicks than taller/longer players. Seems like the lanky guys with long kicks/swings have struggles more....though hit for power when they do connect.

    • glunn, Dantes929 and D.C Twins like this
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MMMordabito
Dec 17 2019 08:56 AM

When these writers (Law, McDaniel, Longenhagen) with no field experience start getting into the mechanical stuff, I have to take a bit of a pause.I'd like to see their credentials on kinesiology and biomechanics before accepting that something needs to be "fixed". I'd like to hear more from coaches or people who actually played the game before getting too worried about a swing issue. I'm not saying they should be ignored, but they aren't delivering The Art of Hitting Redux.

 

If they're writing about plate discipline or something like that, it's easier to assume their expertise.Ball is or isn't in the strike zone, and the players are or aren't swinging at said ball more often than not.That's black and white and can be analyzed by a writer.  

    • peterb18, Monkeypaws, Hosken Bombo Disco and 2 others like this

When these writers (Law, McDaniel, Longenhagen) with no field experience start getting into the mechanical stuff, I have to take a bit of a pause. I'd like to see their credentials on kinesiology and biomechanics before accepting that something needs to be "fixed". I'd like to hear more from coaches or people who actually played the game before getting too worried about a swing issue. I'm not saying they should be ignored, but they aren't delivering The Art of Hitting Redux.

If they're writing about plate discipline or something like that, it's easier to assume their expertise. Ball is or isn't in the strike zone, and the players are or aren't swinging at said ball more often than not. That's black and white and can be analyzed by a writer.

Two were scouts for teams. They also talk to scouts and coaches to do the analysis. Also, if you actually read their write-ups, there is nothing black or white about what Fangraphs says about Lewis. I have no idea what you are arguing.
    • chpettit19 and D.C Twins like this

 

Not saying I know anything, but just adore how so many experts talk about such a young, tremendously gifted kid can't play a position. Especially when history has shown the exact opposite over time.

I don't know beans about Lewis's stature and swing at the plate except for what I read and general observations as a baseball fan for over 40yrs. But I do know Buxton was having his best season as a pro just doing what felt natural this year.

Sorry, can't remember the book title or author, but heard a great piece on the radio a couple weeks ago about the art of hitting. The just was despite all the technology and coaching involved, sometimes it just comes down to see ball and hit ball and the "timing" factor a player felt was natural.

Lewis blows up the AFL, SSS understood, but some want to talk about fixing him. I think experience and "tweaking" are more relevant.

Well said Doc. Ted Williams wrote a pretty good piece about that too, was an interesting read.

    • Lunger, DocBauer and MMMordabito like this
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nicksaviking
Dec 17 2019 10:31 AM

It's just a swing and he's an elite athlete. He can change it if he wants to, and if that's what's needed to be a productive MLB player, I'm sure he will want to. After his 2018 season I can see why he wouldn't want to mess with what was working. But swing changes seem to be an off season adjustment, so I'd guess if Lewis and the team saw his 2019 decline as swing related, we'll see some changes this spring.

    • glunn, Mike Frasier Law, MN_ExPat and 2 others like this

My thoughts on Keith Law are this...I acknowledge that he does know baseball pretty well and has some decent insights at times. However, I view him more and more these days as a baseball version of Mel Kiper (or... shudder... Fraud (Todd) McShay).

 

Just because his (Law's) mouth is open, doesn't mean what is coming out is Gospel. I'll be the first to admit that Lewis needs to continue to refine his approach at the plate as he progresses, but all hitters must do that as they continue to face ever increasingly difficult pitchers. 

 

As far as his defense at SS? He doesn't have to platinum/gold glover. He just needs to make the routine plays routinely, everything else is gravy.

    • Hosken Bombo Disco, DocBauer, Rigby and 2 others like this

Given his age and athletic ability, I'm not terribly worried about the leg kick.

 

What I am worried about, however, is the pitch recognition that's mentioned and him being a "guess hitter." 

 

I'm not ready to jump ship on him, but if someone were to offer top of the rotation pitching and insisted on either Royce or Kirilloff as part of the package, I'd probably choose to keep the latter.

    • glunn, Twins33, alphanumeric and 3 others like this
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MileHighTwinsFan
Dec 17 2019 10:44 AM

I am no expert, but have worked with high school players a little.To me the key issue is where his hands are and how the whipping motion generated from his start will result in a very long swing.Cody Bellinger had a similar problem when he reached the majors.His athleticism allowed him to have some success, but eventually he started to struggle.He made some significant adjustments before last season and became an MVP worthy player. Plenty of time for Royce to make the necessary adjustments to hit at the major league level.I expect big things from him this season now that he will be working with top notch hitting instructors. 

 

 

    • glunn, MN_ExPat, MMMordabito and 1 other like this

 

Not saying I know anything, but just adore how so many experts talk about such a young, tremendously gifted kid can't play a position. Especially when history has shown the exact opposite over time.

 

I love this take.

 

Also, the more people try to dissect a swing, a pitch, a throw, fielding ability, not being able to play a position, spin rate, etc., the less interested I get in reading about it.Not saying they're wrong, but it's not what I love about the sport.Apparently, I just know less about baseball.Regardless, Lewis is a tremendous prospect.He is also a prospect who knows a .236 average isn't going to cut it.The kid's not the type to take an "off-season" off.He's going to work on his craft and do whatever it takes to help his swing.I'm excited to see him excel again.

    • DocBauer, MN_ExPat and MMMordabito like this

Probably the most important thing...still...is how his defensive game at SS develops. He can be an iffy hitter if he's a solid major league shortstop. But if he has to move to a corner...or even center field...his value becomes much more dependent upon the bat coming around. Right now, the results aren't good...and the swing is ugly.

Humorously....they all still rate him as one of the 10-20 best prospects in baseball, and the Twins' best prospect....and yet people seem genuinely angry that they suggest he a: might not stick at SS, and b: isn't the best hitter he can be right now and he needs to make an adjustment in his approach........

    • Major League Ready, DocBauer, chpettit19 and 2 others like this

It's concerning, but the fact that he's 20 years old and has such a good makeup makes me optimistic. Which is basically what the Fangraphs write-up said.

 

I reallllly hope he becomes a good defensive SS, though. We need that. 

    • Mike Sixel, gunnarthor and Twins33 like this

 

It's concerning, but the fact that he's 20 years old and has such a good makeup makes me optimistic. Which is basically what the Fangraphs write-up said.

 

I reallllly hope he becomes a good defensive SS, though. We need that. 

 

Agreed on the SS part for sure.

    • raindog likes this

Of course he has flaws. If he didn't he'd be in MLB. That's why the minor leagues exist.

    • woolywoolhouse, kenbuddha and jrod23 like this
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Hosken Bombo Disco
Dec 17 2019 11:36 AM

Humorously....they all still rate him as one of the 10-20 best prospects in baseball, and the Twins' best prospect....and yet people seem genuinely angry that they suggest he a: might not stick at SS, and b: isn't the best hitter he can be right now and he needs to make an adjustment in his approach........

Here is s challenge to you: Follow the hyperlinks. Where do they lead? What are the original sources for the claim that Lewis won’t play short?

Its not just a high leg kick. Its a really long stride. Combine that with where his hands are it really does look like a long swing. With a long swing I can also imagine you have to commit earlier which gives you a little less time with recognize pitches. It all makes sense. Keep the leg kick but shorten the stride might make the swing quicker. I would want him towork on good consistent contact rather than worrying about power at this point.Kirby was a good batting average guy before he became a power hitter. I would try to follow that path. I know this won't be popular with many on here but I also would like him to add bunting for hits down the 3rd base line. Why not add that skill set to his arsenal now.

    • D.C Twins and Doctor Gast like this

 

Here is s challenge to you: Follow the hyperlinks. Where do they lead? What are the original sources for the claim that Lewis won’t play short?

 

I'm not sure what you want me to do. I have read up on him over and over.....and some writers aren't sure he can stick at short....heck, FG said they listed him at CF because IF he fails at SS, he'll be a good/great CF. 

 

But, like I said, I have no idea what you want from me at all........

 

I was responding to statements about them being "sure" and "black and white", when none of them are.....

So the kid needs to quiet his hands and reduce the stride. Look at Javier Báez he has a big leg kick minimized his stride after yr one and isn’t to bad of a player. Sano mid season worked his hand placement and made that adjustment.  
is he ready probably not but don’t need to coach out all that talent

 

Of course he has flaws. If he didn't he'd be in MLB. That's why the minor leagues exist.

 

For now......

    • tvagle likes this

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