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Front Page: The Defensive Future of Royce Lewis

royce lewis miguel sano eddie rosario byron buxton max kepler
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#1 Cody Christie

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 07:30 PM

Royce Lewis has been lighting up the Arizona Fall League with a 1.066 OPS which ranks second in the league. He helped the East to win the Fall Stars Game after he cranked a two-run home run in the first inning. He would go on to be named MVP of that game and it looks like he is ending the year strong after some inconsistencies during the regular season.

Minnesota drafted Lewis for his athleticism and the potential he had shown as an amateur. Now there are some questions about his defensive future. What position will Lewis play when he gets called up to Target Field?Shortstop
Lewis was drafted as a shortstop and the Twins have given him every opportunity to stick at one of the most important defensive positions. Through three professional seasons, 94.7% of his defensive innings have been played at short. He has been charged with 48 errors in 1076 chances for a .955 fielding percentage. This might not seem terrible, but Jorge Polanco had a .957 fielding percentage this year and there were plenty of people critical of his defense this year.

Even with Minnesota continuing to use Lewis at shortstop, there is no guarantee he stays there long-term. As Matthew Trueblood wrote, there have been some “dubious recent scouting reports” about his shortstop play. Lewis could be entering a critical time for his defensive future and shortstop might not be his position in the years ahead. In fact, he has yet to log a defensive inning at shortstop in the AFL.

Third Base
Minnesota currently has Miguel Sano at third base, but there have been questions about his ability to stick at that position long-term. In fact, he might be better suited for first base or even designated hitter. If there was an opening at third, Lewis might be given the opportunity to take over the hot corner.

In 11 of his 18 AFL games, he has started at third base and he has yet to be charged with an error. His time at third was almost nonexistent before the AFL started. During his professional career, he had played four innings at third base and he had yet to start a game at that position.

It’s also not like there is a better shortstop prospect ahead of him on his AFL roster. Tampa’s Vidal Brujan has played the majority of the time at short and his own organization rarely uses him at that position (377 2/3 innings over five seasons).

Outfield
Minnesota’s current outfield looks strong if Bryon Buxton, Max Kepler, and Eddie Rosario are all healthy and on the field. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen very often in 2019 and one must wonder what the future holds for the team’s outfield trio. It also seems possible for one of these players to be dealt for starting pitching help before the beginning of next season.

Lewis has played four games in center field during his career and three of those contests have been in the AFL. That still hasn’t stopped him from making a highlight reel catch.

Outfield seems like a good back-up plan for Lewis if he doesn’t pan out at either one of the infield positions mentioned above. He has the athleticism to shift to the outfield, but it would take a lot of work to get him accustomed to chasing down fly-balls.

Where do you think Royce Lewis will play defensively in the future? Leave a COMMENT and join the discussion.

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#2 M&MFTW

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 07:37 PM

My understanding was that Lewis wasn't playing SS only because the Twins didn't get a preferential SS slot for him.

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#3 Seth Stohs

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 08:36 PM

 

My understanding was that Lewis wasn't playing SS only because the Twins didn't get a preferential SS slot for him.

 

Yes, and also the Twins are happy to get him ABs at 3B and CF... No intent to play him at SS, but when he gets to spring training, he'll be at SS.

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#4 Darius

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 10:37 PM

Has a prospect ever generated so many questions regarding ability to play a position from the start of their career, only to go on and be great st that position defensively?

I’m still concerned about how his bat will play with that giant leg kick.

#5 PseudoSABR

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 10:38 PM

This reminds of the supposed book on Polanco: he couldn't play SS either.While Polanco struggled in the field, especially late in the season, he was the AL representative at the position.I hope the Twins give the same opportunity for Lewis to stick at short as they did Polanco.

Edited by PseudoSABR, 21 October 2019 - 10:39 PM.

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#6 AZTwin

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 12:30 AM

Has a prospect ever generated so many questions regarding ability to play a position from the start of their career, only to go on and be great st that position defensively?

I’m still concerned about how his bat will play with that giant leg kick.


Jeter is one. By the way, just curious, what’s Lewis’ arm strength like?

#7 TL

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 04:34 AM

I think Royce can stick at SS because of the advances in defensive positioning, but do wonder if he would be better utilized in CF (not better than Buxton, but if we lose Buxton it may be best for the team to have Royce in CF). 

 

...and Jeter is not really a good example to go by to give anyone hope Royce can turn out to be great defensively at SS. Probably the opposite of a good example.

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#8 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 05:37 AM

Honestly, given Buxton's inability to stay healthy, I wouldn't be surprised at all if Lewis ends up in CF. 

 

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#9 Richard Swerdlick

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 05:59 AM

Such versatility is an assett for Royce and a number of Twins. Good to see as it gives us much flexibility.
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#10 Dave The Dastardly

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 07:05 AM

Do the Twins currently have another almost-ready third baseman in their minor league system?

 

My bet is Sano goes to first and Lewis goes to third. He's got the quickness, the arm and the bat to hold down the hot corner.

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#11 Elliot

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 07:10 AM

If his main SS competition is Polanco, I keep him at short. If the Twins sign or trade for a competent defensive SS, then I move him to third. The only way I see him in CF is if Buxton suffers another injury, admittedly not unlikely.
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#12 Riverbrian

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 07:29 AM

I have no idea what Royce Lewis is like defensively.

However... if he can play SS, 3B and CF. By all means let him play all 3 positions. There is extreme value in that ability.

Trying to shove him into one spot is a mistake.

Once Royce establishes himself as ready and becomes the top call up option. When Royce gets called up, it will be due to an issue on the 25 man (injury or performance related). We don’t know where that injury or performance related issue will spring up. Could be OF, could be 3B, could be SS. His ability to play all of those positions opens up more doors for him to come through.

Leave him at one position like SS. He is waiting for one specific door to open and Polanco may not get hurt. It then forces Lewis back to the minors if when Polanco returns. If the injury happens in CF. This forces the club to call up a lesser player because Lewis is a SS only.

Let him play all 3 positions and we will see him sooner. Leave him at one position and it will take a specific set of circumstances to get him up to the majors.
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#13 twinsfanstreif

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 07:31 AM

Has a prospect ever generated so many questions regarding ability to play a position from the start of their career, only to go on and be great st that position defensively?

How quickly we forget about Polanco, he was absolutely not supposed to be a SS and he's been excellent there

#14 rdehring

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 07:50 AM

Great topic, Cody.I agree with those above who favor his playing all three positions next year which will enable him to be called up at where he is needed....short, third, left or center.

 

Speaking of his success in the AFL, have you seen what Raley has done of late?After a horrible start to his AFL season, he has hit homers in each of his last three games with his average up to .250.

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#15 Steve Lein

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 07:56 AM

"It’s also not like there is a better shortstop prospect ahead of him on his AFL roster. Tampa’s Vidal Brujan has played the majority of the time at short and his own organization rarely uses him at that position (377 2/3 innings over five seasons)."

 

 

My understanding was that Lewis wasn't playing SS only because the Twins didn't get a preferential SS slot for him.

 

There's not a higher overall rated SS prospect on the roster (Lewis is probably the 2nd highest rated prospect in the league behind Jo Adell), but as for defensive considerations I'll answer these statements with one of my comments from last weeks AFL report:

 

"There's been reports that the Twins actually liked that there were other SS prospects on the team in Arizona, so they would have to put him elsewhere to get at-bats. Those other shortstops are pretty good ones too: Geraldo Perdomo, Jose Devers, and also Vidal Brujan and all three are easily better defenders than Lewis at SS at this point in time. The Twins obviously want him to work at multiple positions so that when he's ready, they have options on where to put him.

 

I think Lewis still has a lot of work to do if he wants to play SS in the majors —and that's not in any way a knock on him. He's incredibly young and you don't develop a major league SS in two years if he wasn't already a fielding wizard at the position. You also have to consider that those fielding wizards usually don't carry a bat like Lewis potentially does. Jorge Polanco was the same way, his bat was way ahead of his fielding and he didn't become even an average-ish guy at the position until last season, essentially his third year in the majors at 24 years of age.

 

I think Lewis has excelled at 3B in the Fall League however, and he can run down fly balls in the outfield too. He's getting more run at 2B the last few weeks too, but I don't see him ending up on that side of the infield."

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Scouting Report: Power: 30, Hitting: 50, Arm: 60, Defense: 45, Speed: 45. "Line drive swing and shows good contact and on-base abilities. Double's power at his peak. Strong arm from 2B or the OF, stiff hands. Not a fast runner, but above average instincts on the bases. Skinny body doesn't look the part, but will sneak up on you. ACL surgery sapped much of his athleticism." (Probably)


#16 Yoke

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 07:56 AM

I'd keep him at SS for the future, but sprinkle in some games at 3B and in the OF to keep him fresh with it. The more position flexibility a player can have the better.

 

I do think that he makes his MLB debut as a 3B, unless Polanco is injured.

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#17 Steve Lein

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 08:17 AM

 

Jeter is one. By the way, just curious, what’s Lewis’ arm strength like?

 

He's got a good arm, but it's an outfield arm at this point. What I mean by that is he's a bit "long" in his motion to get to that arm strength. Watched quite a few games of his this year and can recall a few plays where he didn't get to a ground ball quick enough, then his release wasn't fast enough to get the ball there on time to beat the runner with his arm. While I wouldn't call the plays I'm recalling 'routine' necessarily, I'd also expect a SS to make them. 

 

But again, these are things he's going to improve. I have no doubt he can be better than Polanco there eventually if that's the path they go down.

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Scouting Report: Power: 30, Hitting: 50, Arm: 60, Defense: 45, Speed: 45. "Line drive swing and shows good contact and on-base abilities. Double's power at his peak. Strong arm from 2B or the OF, stiff hands. Not a fast runner, but above average instincts on the bases. Skinny body doesn't look the part, but will sneak up on you. ACL surgery sapped much of his athleticism." (Probably)


#18 gunnarthor

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 08:29 AM

We have three more years of Buxton and then he'll take over CF. I suspect Lewis will spend all of this season in the minors and the team will reevaluate what they have after next season.

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#19 Elliot

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 09:02 AM

Versatility is great, but an above average SS or catcher doesn’t get moved around. This is especially true if they possess starter quality offensive skills. A well below average offensive player needs defensive versatility to stick in the majors. Unless Lewis shows himself to be below average as a SS without reasonable expectation for improvement, I would give him all the reps possible there. The other exception is the appearance of a better SS option. As of now that is not the case or likely in the foreseeable future.
Another possibility for improvement of the infield defense is to greatly upgrade the third base defense to help cover some range and arm concerns with Polanco. If that is the plan I can get behind a Lewis move to third.
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#20 Vanimal46

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 09:25 AM

The better question is his offensive future... He still has a ways to go with the bat before thinking about what position he plays in the majors.

Also, positional flexibility is good for anyone.
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