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Twins Daily 2019 Top Prospects: #1 Royce Lewis

We have spent the last two weeks counting down the Twins Daily Top 20 Minnesota Twins prospects heading into the 2019 season. Today, we arrive at #1. It will surprise no one that shortstop Royce Lewis fits the top spot. The first overall pick in the 2017 draft had a strong 2018 season between Cedar Rapids. He didn’t turn 19 until early June. He is a consensus Top 10 prospect among national publications. This weekend, he will report to Ft. Myers for his first big-league spring training.

All of that, and it is important to note that it was not an easy decision for any of the voters. Alex Kirilloff had an incredible return to the diamond in 2018, putting up some of the best offensive numbers in all of minor league baseball. Brusdar Graterol has a triple-digit fastball and potentially three above-average pitches. He could give the Twins a true ace in the not-too-distant future. The Twins drafted a College World Series hero in the first round in 2018, and he had a solid professional debut.

The Twins have a Top 5 minor league system, so it is meaningful and well-considered that we continue to rank Royce Lewis as the #1 Twins prospect. Below you will find out more about the future star. Hopefully you have enjoyed this Top 20 series and have renewed hope that there are several future stars in the system. With this information, we certainly encourage you to share your thoughts on Lewis, but also consider how you would rank the Twins top prospects.
Image courtesy of Linwood Ferguson (graphics by Brock Beauchamp)
Age: 19 (DOB: 6-5-1999)
2018 Stats (Low-A/High-A): .292/.352/.451 (.803), 29-2B, 14-HR, 28/36 SB
ETA: 2020
2018 Ranking: 1

National Top 100 Rankings
BA: 9 |MLB: 5 | ESPN: 9 |BP: 8 |FG: 6


What’s To Like

A lot. To show that, let’s take a look at where Lewis is in terms of the standard scouting tools (Hit, Hit for Power, Speed, Defense, Arm) and then add some more.

HIT - Lewis has a good approach at the plate. While he generally knows the strike zone and doesn’t extend too much, he also is aggressive inside the zone. He stands at the plate, relaxed, and as the pitcher begins his delivery, he uses a big leg kick/lift. However, as you can see from the below picture, he remains very balanced. In the next photo, you can see that as his front foot touches the ground, his hands are ready to explode to the pitch and his weight transfers.



He is aggressive and yet he rarely takes a swing that looks out of control. He doesn’t strike out real often (15.0% in Cedar Rapids and 16.8% in Ft. Myers). He will use the whole field, though he typically has shown much more power to his pull side. Very few hit .300 in MLB anymore, but he could be a .280-.300 type of hitter.

HIT FOR POWER - Through the first 32 games of the season, Lewis was hitting .305, but he had just four doubles and one home run. Many were clamoring for him to be promoted to Ft. Myers because he had spent 18 games with the Kernels to end 2017. Over his next 43 games with the Kernels, the power arrived. He hit .323, but he added 19 doubles and eight home runs. He earned his promotion to the Miracle, and while he struggled some, he showed really good power in the pitcher-friendly parks for the Florida State League. In 46 games, he hit six doubles, three triples and knocked five home runs. (For comparison’s sake, Alex Kirilloff had seven homers in 65 games for the Miracle) While 30 home runs may be excessive, but Lewis could be a 20-25 homer per year guy during his big league career.

SPEED - Byron Buxton. Who is the one player in the Twins organization who might - might! - be faster than Royce Lewis. As important as the pure speed, Lewis knows how to utilize his speed on the baseball diamond. His 28 stolen bases led the organization. He was caught just eight times and he is still learning the finer points. He is able to go from first-to-home or first-to-third really well. He also shows good instincts most of the time on the bases. He also uses his speed on defense.

DEFENSE - Lewis has good range both up the middle and deep into the 5.5 hole. There are times when he winds up (no, not like Shawon Dunston for those of you who are in my age category) a little bit. He does a really nice job going back on pop ups and he takes leadership on the infield, another important trait for a shortstop.


Tom Froemming put Lewis's defense under the Prospect Spotlight. Take a look below. In the video, I was at the game in Cedar Rapids when he made the running catch down the left field line. First, it reminded me of Derek Jeter, but when he caught it and knew it was a great catch, he had a Griffey Jr-like smile.



ARM - Lewis has a strong arm. He can make all of the throws. For those that think his future may be better out in center field, he has plenty of arm to play out there.

INTANGIBLES - Lewis is a natural leader. By that I mean that he doesn’t have to work to lead, but teammates gravitate to him. He has a great charisma that plays well on the field and in the clubhouse. Lewis works hard. He added weight last season through a regimented lifting program in-season. He’s got good size. He’s tall and he’s strong but he has added the size and strength without losing any speed. In addition, Lewis never takes a play off. He hustles out every grounder. He looks to take second on singles to the outfield. He has instincts.


And while some may not think that it matters, but when you watch Royce Lewis play baseball and practice, you can see the joy that he has, the love of the game. It is an intangible, but it is one of the reasons that Francisco Lindor is so much fun to watch and cheer for even if he is on the Twins top competitor.


What’s Left To Work On

The easy response for Lewis as far as things he needs to work out would be the cliche, “He needs to continue working on everything” or “He just needs more at-bats” or “He just needs more real-time situations on defense.”

Well, let’s just say that cliches usually become cliches for a reason, because they’re true. Lewis does simply need more at-bats. He needs to continue working up the ladder and seeing pitchers with better command of their pitch mix. He needs to see more sharp sliders down and away so that he can keep working on trying to lay off of them.

There are still question marks about Lewis’s defense. While I’ve talked to several people who saw him play in 2018 that said he took big strides and there is more of a certainty that he can be at least an average defensive shortstop. There are still some scouts who think that his speed and instinct would best play in center field. Lewis can make the great play. As noted, he has great range and can make the great plays. He just needs to keep working and be more consistent on the routine plays and the routine throws. Again, needs more time at shortstop and more opportunities.

What makes Lewis so exciting as a prospect is that he does everything so well already. But what makes him so intriguing is knowing that he can still improve all areas of his game (even quite a bit in some places). While he is ahead of the pace at this point in this career than top young shortstops Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor, the Twins can be as patient as they need to be.


What’s Next

Royce Lewis is traveling to Ft. Myers today and will report as a non-roster invite to Minnesota Twins spring training. He will get the opportunity to work with and learn from the veterans, and also work with and be seen by the big-league coaches.

With just 46 games in High-A Ft. Myers, plus a playoff run that that led to a Florida State League championship, it is likely that he will begin the season with the Miracle. It is very likely that he will spend most of his season with the Blue Wahoos in Pensacola.

While I think that the odds are low that Lewis surfaces in the big leagues in 2019, I wouldn’t put anything past him. With Jorge Polanco now signed long-term, Jonathan Schoop set to spend the year in a Twins uniform, and Nick Gordon in Triple A, the Twins do not need to rush this talented prospect in 2019. I would not be surprised if Lewis is the Twins Opening Day shortstop and #2 hitter when they open the 2020 season (though being promoted 20 days later might make more economic sense).

Twins Daily 2019 Top 20 Prospects

Honorable Mentions

20. Jose Miranda, 2B/3B
19. Jorge Alcala, RHP
18. LaMonte Wade, OF
17. Zack Littell, RHP
16. Gilberto Celestino, OF
15. Yunior Severino, 2B
14. Ben Rortvedt, C
13. Ryan Jeffers, C
12. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP
11. Nick Gordon, SS
10. Akil Baddoo, OF
9. Blayne Enlow, RHP
8. Lewis Thorpe, LHP
7. Jhoan Duran, RHP
6. Brent Rooker, 1B/LF
5. Wander Javier, SS
4. Trevor Larnach, OF
3. Brusdar Graterol, RHP
2. Alex Kirilloff, OF
TD Top Prospect: #1- Royce Lewis

Get to know more about Royce Lewis and many more minor league players in the 2019 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook.

ORDER NOW: 2019 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook (paperback, $17.99)

ORDER NOW: 2019 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook (eBook, $12.99)

The 2019 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook goes in-depth and provides player bios, scouting reports, statistics and much more on almost 160 Twins minor leaguers.

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41 Comments

50-50 as a September call up?

 

50-50 as a September call up?

 

There is zero reason for him (or Kirilloff) to be solely a September call up... Since they don't have to be added to the 40-man for another year (or two in Lewis's case), using that spot for September doesn't make sense). However, if they are in contention in July/August, and those two are at a point where they believe that they can contribute, call them up. 

 

So, I think it's more of a 1% chance that Lewis is up in 2019. I would put it at about 15-20% for Kirilloff. 

    • gil4, Danchat, mikelink45 and 7 others like this

I don't see any reason to start Lewis' service clock early, let's let him take his time and see how he does. Hopefully he'll be ready by some point in 2020 and we won't need to have him yo-yo up and down between Rochester and Minnesota.

    • Dman, chpettit19, SF Twins Fan and 4 others like this
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AlwaysinModeration
Feb 15 2019 04:10 AM
Put up a good season along with Alex, and they could be #1 and #2 prospects in baseball next year?
    • bluechipper, jrod23, MN_ExPat and 1 other like this
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MMMordabito
Feb 15 2019 06:09 AM
Great write up. Great series. Thanks!

I'd rather not go to Florida during the summer, but these top four prospects may be good reason for an exception.
    • tarheeltwinsfan likes this

Tell you what- I've never seen him except on highlights, but everything I read about him sounds just like The Captain. My gosh, they're practically the same size, they even have a similar (dang handsome- yes, I'm jealous) look.

 

Except this time, he'd be playing for the forces of good, instead of evil.

 

I'm even more excited about this kid than I was about Bux at the same point.

    • tarheeltwinsfan, SF Twins Fan and caninatl04 like this
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IndianaTwin
Feb 15 2019 06:58 AM

Half a career at short. Half a career in center. If he wants to turn into Robin Yount, I'd be okay with that. 

    • Seth Stohs, PDX Twin, David HK and 3 others like this

His age is incorrect. It should be (from Fangraphs) 6/5/1999 (19 y, 8 m, 10 d).

 

Half a career at short. Half a career in center. If he wants to turn into Robin Yount, I'd be okay with that. 

 

When thinking about this kid I keep thinking about Robin Yount also, although Yount didn't have Lewis' speed.Won't go back and look, but Yount was up when he was still 18, wasn't he?

 

Also, Seth, love how these are presented with the 'blue style baseball card look.'

 

Can we please fast forward to late 2020 or early 2021 when all five of these top five are playing at Target Field.Really am kind of giddy thinking about them in a Twins uniform.

    • caninatl04 likes this

Charisma, joy, and love of the game make me think of a couple bald Gold-Glove Twin center fielders of yesteryear. 

    • tarheeltwinsfan and PDX Twin like this

 

Put up a good season along with Alex, and they could be #1 and #2 prospects in baseball next year?

 

Certainly seems possible to me.All of the guys ahead of them on MLB.com's list are likely to exceed their rookie limits this year.Probably not all of them will but each would be expected to individually.So if they both perform, yeah maybe.

 

 

 

Looking forward to him in Minnesota.

In Case You Were Wondering:

 

Our rankings: 

 

Seth (1), Nick (1), Tom (1), Cody (1)

    • ashbury, mikelink45 and caninatl04 like this

 

Half a career at short. Half a career in center. If he wants to turn into Robin Yount, I'd be okay with that. 

 

 

I wonder if they give him some reps in center this year just to give him a little flexibility.It seems like positional flexibility is starting to come back into vogue a bit these days.Having a guy that can play multiple up the middle positions would be exciting.And it could help him get in the lineup regularly when he comes up, even if he sticks at short long term.

    • IndianaTwin likes this
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RatherBeGolfing
Feb 15 2019 08:48 AM

 

 

Half a career at short. Half a career in center. If he wants to turn into Robin Yount, I'd be okay with that. 

 

Wait, so you want him to start his career at short and then move to CF halfway in as he's aging and (theoretically) his range would start to deteriorate? 

 

Personally, think Royce's most likely move as his career goes on would be to move from SS to 3B but that's a decade plus down the road.

    • SF Twins Fan likes this

That uniform in the photo is hideous.

    • Original Whizzinator likes this

Looking at the strengths of the farm system overall, the top two is obviously among the best in baseball.It'd be easy to take Vladito and Bichette over Lewis and Kirilloff just on the strength of Vlad, but after that they can go toe-to-toe with any other team's top two.

 

The rest of the top 5 still match up well against the rest of the league.

 

It'd be fair to be underwhelmed with the back half of the top 10 though.There are a lot of question marks or guys that are still looking to break out.Looking just at 6-10 they'd probably be below average.

 

However, outside the top 10 the depth is better than I can remember from any year since I've really been following closely (2011 or 2012). I think the 11-25ish slots are nearly interchangeable and they all are just a good season away from looking like a solid top-10 prospect or being a contributing piece in the majors.There are plenty of guys even outside the top 25 that seem like we'd be talking about more in other years with a weaker system.

 

Case in point: Luke Raley, who's numbers in AA really don't look all that different from Rooker's.Most years he'd probably have to be somewhere in the top 20 based on the fact that he seems to be able to hit even if his athleticism is questioned and he doesn't have a defensive home.This year there are enough exciting athletes in the system that he's kind of an afterthought in the 25-30 range for most.

 

I don't have a very good handle on the depth of other teams' systems, I know the Padres and Rays have crazy depth all the way down their systems, but beyond that I have to think the Twins' depth is probably only exceeded by a couple other teams.Which along with Lewis and Kirilloff make it a pretty exciting farm system.

    • birdwatcher, markos, mikelink45 and 6 others like this

 

Looking at the strengths of the farm system overall, the top two is obviously among the best in baseball.It'd be easy to take Vladito and Bichette over Lewis and Kirilloff just on the strength of Vlad, but after that they can go toe-to-toe with any other team's top two.

Tor- Vlad and Bo

Hou - Whitley and Tucker

SD - Tatis and Gore

Cin - Senzel and Trammell

CHW - Kopech and Jimenez

 

I would agree with you besides Toronto, I don't think I would trade the Twins top 2 for any of the other.

San Diego has a ton of prospects, which explains why they might be meeting with Manny again, don't sleep on the Braves they have a bunch as well.

 

    • birdwatcher, bluechipper and caninatl04 like this

I am excited, but I was excited about Sano and Buxton and Berrios a few years back so I am moderating my excitement.Tell me why we should see a better transition for our top 3.The rest of the top 20 are just an assortment of players and have a lot to prove before they provide expectations. 

    • Taildragger8791, Tomj14 and caninatl04 like this

Seems everything you hear about this kid is that he's got the entire package from the mental/emotional/maturity standpoint. The kind of player where if he's an average hitter, he's going to be very valuable, if he's a better than average hitter he's a perennial all-star, and if he's a top-end hitter...well, be still my heart.

    • birdwatcher, Twins33, Hosken Bombo Disco and 3 others like this
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IndianaTwin
Feb 15 2019 12:43 PM

 

When thinking about this kid I keep thinking about Robin Yount also, although Yount didn't have Lewis' speed.Won't go back and look, but Yount was up when he was still 18, wasn't he?

 

Also, Seth, love how these are presented with the 'blue style baseball card look.'

 

Can we please fast forward to late 2020 or early 2021 when all five of these top five are playing at Target Field.Really am kind of giddy thinking about them in a Twins uniform.

 

Yes -- 18. 

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IndianaTwin
Feb 15 2019 12:47 PM

 

Wait, so you want him to start his career at short and then move to CF halfway in as he's aging and (theoretically) his range would start to deteriorate? 

 

Personally, think Royce's most likely move as his career goes on would be to move from SS to 3B but that's a decade plus down the road.

 

He can play wherever he wants if he ends up with 77.3 career WAR as a one-franchise (ours) player.:jump::go:

 

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IndianaTwin
Feb 15 2019 12:49 PM

 

He can play wherever he wants if he ends up with 77.3 career WAR as a one-franchise (ours) player.:jump::go:

 

And if it's not a sore spot for people, I'd even let him bat leadoff and play 2B if he so desires and if he puts up Yount-like numbers.:)

 

And if it's not a sore spot for people, I'd even let him bat leadoff and play 2B if he so desires and if he puts up Yount-like numbers.:)

Remembering back to those Brewers teams, Yount had a partner in Paul Molitor.Could we have some of the same with Lewis-Javier?  

 

I know lots of people have been hammering away at the new FO, but I for one like what they are doing. No, they aren't throwing gas on the fire to get it done overnight.But there is something good about a steady approach towards turning this team into one of the best in baseball...year after year after year.  

    • birdwatcher, IndianaTwin, howieramone2 and 2 others like this

 

That uniform in the photo is hideous.

It's a huge step up from the pj's they wore on July 4th the year before: 

 

2018:

FtMyersJuly42018
 
2017:
FtMyersJuly42017
 

 

    • MN_ExPat likes this

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