Birthday: June 5, 1999
Royce Lewis was drafted by the Twins with the 1st overall pick in the 2017 MLB draft out of JSerra Catholic HS. Going into the draft, he was on the periphery of the conversation for the #1 pick. While universally considered the prep position player in the draft, he was frequently ranked behind high school pitcher Hunter Greene as well as college pitchers Brandon McKay and Kyle Wright. And despite being drafted #1, his signing bonus was less than the three players I just mentioned.
Nevertheless, don’t get the impression that the pick of Lewis was a “reach” by the Twins. Lewis was legitimately in the conversation for the #1 overall pick from the very beginning, and he had many factors in his favor relative to the other players. First, Lewis was a position player who would undoubtedly play an up-the-middle position defensively - either shortstop or centerfield. Position players carry significantly less risk than pitchers, and players with the potential to provide significant value on the defensive side of the equation also have less risk than players relying solely on their bat. Second, Lewis was among the youngest high school position players in the draft. There has been a number of historical studies that have shown that extremely young high school position players perform significantly better than their older classmates.
One of the biggest question marks with Lewis was his defensive position. I think he would have had a stronger claim to the #1 overall pick going into the draft if scouts and analysts were in agreement that he could stick at shortstop. Instead, there were doubts about his ability to play the left side of the infield (not helped by the fact that Lewis wasn’t even the shortstop on his own HS team until his senior season), and some expectations that he would eventually need to move to centerfield.
After signing with the Twins, Lewis was assigned to the Gulf Coast League Twins. There he put on an offensive show, batting an .803 OPS with more walks than strikeouts. In particular, his K% was only 10.7%. After 36 games, he was promoted all the way up to Cedar Rapids. There he held his own offensively, with an above-average .757 OPS, in 80 PAs. Defensively, he showed enough to stay at shortstop for the time being.
I don't think enough good things can be said about Lewis's debut. His command of the strikezone, combined with decent power, is a very good skill to demonstrate at such a young age - particularly with his athleticism and defensive potential.
Off-season Prospect Rankings:
Baseball America: #24
Baseball Prospectus: #27
Keith Law: #25
2018 Assignment and Outlook:
Lewis was assigned back to Cedar Rapids to start the 2018 season.
For 2018, I’m looking for the following three things from Lewis:
- Continue to maintain solid plate discipline
- Tap into his power more regularly
- Solidify his play at shortstop
In short, I am hoping for a repeat of Buxton’s 2013 season. I know that is a lofty goal, but I’m optimistic that Lewis can deliver - it isn’t unrealistic to expect Lewis to be a top-5 prospect in baseball by this time next year.