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  • The Twins Pivotal Prospect


    Ted Schwerzler

    Although Major League Baseball has currently locked out its players, the Minnesota Twins front office is still prepping for a rebound in 2022. There’s no prospect more pivotal when it comes to his talent and the club’s plans than Royce Lewis.

    Image courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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    Missing all of 2021 thanks to a fluke ACL tear, Lewis effectively has been out of baseball action for two seasons. He was part of the 2020 alternate site and impressed, but that action doesn’t rival what game participation can provide. 2019 was a year to forget for the top Twins prospect, and that’s why the big league club is in this current position.
     
    Derek Falvey and Thad Levine need to find an answer at shortstop. Jorge Polanco is not it, and we have seen that plenty. He’s a strong asset at second base, and keeping him there should be the club’s focus. There’s plenty of question marks as to whether Lewis can stick at the position, but with Byron Buxton now locked up in center field, his secondary home is much less certain as well. First and foremost, however, Minnesota needs Lewis to rebound in a big way.
     
    Ever since he was taken first overall, Lewis has been a pillar of class. He’s a hardworking kid that has a strong head on his shoulders. It’s helped him ride the wave of success and failure while staying focused on getting better. Coming off a season in which he posted a .661 OPS and reached Double-A, it’s time that Lewis can flash what has always been assumed he’d produce.

    Had the injury not taken away his 2021 season, Lewis likely would be in the mix for Minnesota’s starting shortstop job on Opening Day. The questions on range will only be heightened now, and as good as the Twins may think they feel, no real answers are present until production gets underway. The hope is probably that a stopgap option can fill the void in 2022, but a long-term solution could be tempting if Lewis isn’t seen as likely to stick.
     
    There’s no doubt that the Twins need pitching help, and maybe parlaying Lewis into that winds up being part of the equation. That seems unlikely given his value being depressed and Minnesota being so close to utilizing their star prospect, but I suppose the possibility exists.
     
    Everything regarding how the Twins handle the shortstop hole and what they believe of Royce Lewis remains a mystery. The former will be answered as soon as business gets going again, but the latter won’t have clarity until significant game action has played out. It’s an unfortunate intersection of necessity and missed opportunity, but there’s no prospect more directly influencing Minnesota’s plans than the one who hasn’t played since 2019.
     
    Royce Lewis getting off to a fantastic start would be a great gift following the doldrums of this lockout.

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    You just can't trade this kid at this time.  His primary position is one the Twins need to fill.  He's versatile enough to play other places should he need to.  He was the #1 overall pick and all reports are that he's a high character person.  His value has never been lower.  This is a lot like Buxton in that Byron's value was probably never lower prior to his extension.  Lewis may never pan out.  But he's an asset the Twins simply must stick with because the "upside" (like Buxton) is just too great.  There are other assets the Twins can trade to rebuild their pitching staff, which is something they simply MUST do, not just for 2022 but beyond.

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    If we do not get a significant SS I want to see him get a major ST opportunity to prove he is the next great prospect and can take over the SS position.

    I would love a Kiriloff, Polanco, Lewis, Miranda infield - the future is right there.  I see Donaldson as the player most likely to bring in a pitcher in a trade.  The OF of Larnach, Kepler, Buxton would fit with this lineup, although I can see Kepler in a trade too.

    This is just a dream scenario, but considering that we are in a lockout - why not dream.

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    26 minutes ago, TopGunn#22 said:

    You just can't trade this kid at this time.  His primary position is one the Twins need to fill.  He's versatile enough to play other places should he need to.  He was the #1 overall pick and all reports are that he's a high character person.  His value has never been lower.  This is a lot like Buxton in that Byron's value was probably never lower prior to his extension.  Lewis may never pan out.  But he's an asset the Twins simply must stick with because the "upside" (like Buxton) is just too great.  There are other assets the Twins can trade to rebuild their pitching staff, which is something they simply MUST do, not just for 2022 but beyond.

    Will second TopGunn's comments and add one.  I continue to hope/dream that Lewis will become the Twins version of Derek Jeter.  Great person, leader, super athletic, great ballplayer and winner.  It's all there, now he just needs the opportunity to get on the field and show us.

    Yes, his 2019 minor league season was a disappointment, a huge disappointment for a #1 prospect.  But let's remember that he followed that up by earning the Arizona Fall League MVP.  When you look at who the previous MVP's were, it is an impressive list.  Add to that his reported excellent play in St. Paul during the messed up 2020 season and you have a run of impressive play covering parts of two years.  I know, that's the positive way of looking at it as opposed to the negative 2019 stats.  So be it, with everything else going on in baseball and the world, I choose to be postive. 

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    6 minutes ago, mikelink45 said:

    If we do not get a significant SS I want to see him get a major ST opportunity to prove he is the next great prospect and can take over the SS position.

    I would love a Kiriloff, Polanco, Lewis, Miranda infield - the future is right there.  I see Donaldson as the player most likely to bring in a pitcher in a trade.  The OF of Larnach, Kepler, Buxton would fit with this lineup, although I can see Kepler in a trade too.

    This is just a dream scenario, but considering that we are in a lockout - why not dream.

    They won't let me like this twice, Mike.  Thanks!

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    I really think the great baseball minds who work for the Twins, can tell if Lewis can physically handle the job of MLB SS during spring training and if he can, then give it to him. Let him learn on the job at the ML level. I feel Lewis is such a positive person and has his head on so straight that he will learn from each mistake he inevitably will make. The learning failures at the  big league level, rather than in AA or AAA,  will not destroy his self confidence.  He is not a fragile person.  I believe the 2022 SS job for the Twins is Lewis's, unless or until he proves he can't handle the job.  I'm ready to see what he can do in the big show.  The lessons there are magnified, but Lewis can handle it. He is special. 

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    Having an unproven rookie shortstop learn on the job at the major league level is not appealing to pitchers that are considering whether to sign here. And nobody seems certain that Lewis is a defensive fit at SS anyway.

    Speed is arguably Royce's primary tool, and blowing out an ACL will impact that until it is rehabbed fully. The quick bursts, cuts, jumps and pivots required for fielding at SS will all be tough on a knee that is still mending. IMO we need a good veteran SS placeholder for at least this year. If Lewis is burning up the minors we could bring him up near midseason to learn under the veteran - IF it looks like he stays at shortstop while in the minors.

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    47 minutes ago, tarheeltwinsfan said:

    I really think the great baseball minds who work for the Twins, can tell if Lewis can physically handle the job of MLB SS during spring training and if he can, then give it to him. Let him learn on the job at the ML level. I feel Lewis is such a positive person and has his head on so straight that he will learn from each mistake he inevitably will make. The learning failures at the  big league level, rather than in AA or AAA,  will not destroy his self confidence.  He is not a fragile person.  I believe the 2022 SS job for the Twins is Lewis's, unless or until he proves he can't handle the job.  I'm ready to see what he can do in the big show.  The lessons there are magnified, but Lewis can handle it. He is special. 

    I share your enthusiasm for Lewis. IMO Lewis's injury was by far the biggest blow to the Twins last year. If it hadn't happened, he'd learn SS from the best and there'd be a good possibility he'd be starting this year.  But because of the injury, I'd take it easy on him to make sure his knee is 100%. I'd like to add that my feeling is that in 2019 the Twins didn't like Lewis's swing and was tinkering with it, therefore he had a poor showing. At AFL they left him alone and he became MVP.

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    39 minutes ago, Finlander said:

    Having an unproven rookie shortstop learn on the job at the major league level is not appealing to pitchers that are considering whether to sign here. And nobody seems certain that Lewis is a defensive fit at SS anyway.

    Speed is arguably Royce's primary tool, and blowing out an ACL will impact that until it is rehabbed fully. The quick bursts, cuts, jumps and pivots required for fielding at SS will all be tough on a knee that is still mending. IMO we need a good veteran SS placeholder for at least this year. If Lewis is burning up the minors we could bring him up near midseason to learn under the veteran - IF it looks like he stays at shortstop while in the minors.

    I don't think it matters who we have playing shortstop since the Twins balk at pitcher contracts of more than 4 years or $100MM. In any normal free agency year, pitchers the Twins would really benefit from signing will require at least 5 or more years. Having a 5+ year contract means the pitcher wouldn't really care too much about your next season shortstop.

    I think it's very aggressive to expect to see Lewis before September. I'm not sure why the Twins would sign a veteran shortstop with no pitching staff, but they've done weirder things.

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    I agree that Lewis is a pivotal prospect for the Twins. But since he has not played in 2 years I would be satisfied with his playing at Triple A sometime this year with perhaps some time at Minnesota in late August or September.

    I think a more pivotal player for this year is Balazovic. The Twins need good pitching from their farm system to propel them forward and Balazovic as the best pitching prospect needs to lead the way. I would like to see him get 60-75 innings at the major league level. I would also like to see Duran get a similar number of big league innings but since he has only pitched 16 innings in 2 years, I don't think he will get here.

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    2 hours ago, Finlander said:

    Having an unproven rookie shortstop learn on the job at the major league level is not appealing to pitchers that are considering whether to sign here. And nobody seems certain that Lewis is a defensive fit at SS anyway.

    Speed is arguably Royce's primary tool, and blowing out an ACL will impact that until it is rehabbed fully. The quick bursts, cuts, jumps and pivots required for fielding at SS will all be tough on a knee that is still mending. IMO we need a good veteran SS placeholder for at least this year. If Lewis is burning up the minors we could bring him up near midseason to learn under the veteran - IF it looks like he stays at shortstop while in the minors.

    As someone who had an ACL repair, after about 6 months of rehab you can do just about anything you did before physically, it is the mental side that you need to overcome.  If he has been rehabbing well he should be good to go by time season starts.  As long as he is willing to go all out physically he should be fine.  

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    1 hour ago, gman said:

    I agree that Lewis is a pivotal prospect for the Twins. But since he has not played in 2 years I would be satisfied with his playing at Triple A sometime this year with perhaps some time at Minnesota in late August or September.

    I think a more pivotal player for this year is Balazovic. The Twins need good pitching from their farm system to propel them forward and Balazovic as the best pitching prospect needs to lead the way. I would like to see him get 60-75 innings at the major league level. I would also like to see Duran get a similar number of big league innings but since he has only pitched 16 innings in 2 years, I don't think he will get here.

    What makes you feel like Balazovic is the best pitching prospect? I guess he's technically ranked the highest, but Wes Johnson was pretty clear he has modest expectations for Balazovic. I think a lot of that is based on Balazovic only having 3 pitches which typically puts a ceiling at #3.

    Anyway, I don't think there is a prospect in the Twins' system with a higher upside or more riding on him right now than Lewis. Add to that Lewis was a #1 overall pick and he plays a premium position. If Lewis could play up to his athletic skills limits, you're talking about an potential MVP caliber player. If he can't improve on his performance at the plate in AA, he's not MLB caliber at all. That's a huge pivot.

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    Have to agree he is the most pivotal prospect.  I was so disappointed Lewis got hurt.  What a killer after missing 2020.  It just seems like a really bad idea to bring him to the MLB level until he has a chance to ramp up after being off for so long.  I would love to know if they are considering Palacious.  Seems like a stretch but how cool would it be if he made the leap?

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    4 hours ago, PDX Twin said:

    What a doomsday scenario for the young man if he loses part of a 3RD straight season due to work stoppage. What next?

    Minor league is not a part of the labor dispute, transactions can be made, as well as games. It might be Royce becomes a scab

    edit to correct:

    Lewis is on the 40, he is a part of the labor dispute. @PDX Twin is spot on

    Edited by Sconnie
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    1 hour ago, bean5302 said:

    What makes you feel like Balazovic is the best pitching prospect? I guess he's technically ranked the highest, but Wes Johnson was pretty clear he has modest expectations for Balazovic. I think a lot of that is based on Balazovic only having 3 pitches which typically puts a ceiling at #3.

    Anyway, I don't think there is a prospect in the Twins' system with a higher upside or more riding on him right now than Lewis. Add to that Lewis was a #1 overall pick and he plays a premium position. If Lewis could play up to his athletic skills limits, you're talking about an potential MVP caliber player. If he can't improve on his performance at the plate in AA, he's not MLB caliber at all. That's a huge pivot.

    I guess just because he is ranked the highest by multiple services doesn't mean the people doing the reviews know more than you.

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    17 hours ago, bean5302 said:

    What makes you feel like Balazovic is the best pitching prospect? I guess he's technically ranked the highest, but Wes Johnson was pretty clear he has modest expectations for Balazovic. I think a lot of that is based on Balazovic only having 3 pitches which typically puts a ceiling at #3.

    Anyway, I don't think there is a prospect in the Twins' system with a higher upside or more riding on him right now than Lewis. Add to that Lewis was a #1 overall pick and he plays a premium position. If Lewis could play up to his athletic skills limits, you're talking about an potential MVP caliber player. If he can't improve on his performance at the plate in AA, he's not MLB caliber at all. That's a huge pivot.

    There are plenty of pitchers considered better than a number 3 pitcher with only 3 pitches.  There is nothing typical about a number 3 pitcher other than over the course of a season he doesn’t  have as good of results as some pitchers  but is a lot better than most. I guess you and the OP must not have looked at the starting pitching to the the large sinkhole;.  

    Austim Martin going into last season was rated higher than Lewis. Same position, same athleticism. 

    Having starting pitching develop is far far more important than Lewis, and Martin

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    27 minutes ago, old nurse said:

    There are plenty of pitchers considered better than a number 3 pitcher with only 3 pitches.  There is nothing typical about a number 3 pitcher other than over the course of a season he doesn’t  have as good of results as some pitchers  but is a lot better than most. I guess you and the OP must not have looked at the starting pitching to the the large sinkhole;.  

    Austim Martin going into last season was rated higher than Lewis. Same position, same athleticism. 

    Having starting pitching develop is far far more important than Lewis, and Martin

    I agree on the importance of developing SPs.  What makes Lewis pivotal is his ceiling but also the fact he is the only legit SS prospect with a high ceiling.  Therefore, he is more pivotal than any one individual SP prospect because we are quite deep in pitching prospects.

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    23 minutes ago, Major League Ready said:

    I agree on the importance of developing SPs.  What makes Lewis pivotal is his ceiling but also the fact he is the only legit SS prospect with a high ceiling.  Therefore, he is more pivotal than any one individual SP prospect because we are quite deep in pitching prospects.

    Martin is close enough to Lewis to diminish that value. Pitching at the major league level is always lacking.

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    43 minutes ago, old nurse said:

    Martin is close enough to Lewis to diminish that value. Pitching at the major league level is always lacking.

    I can't say that I have a good feel for his viability at SS.  Hopefully, you are right.  It does not track for me that they are not focusing his developmental time at SS if he is a legit SS prospect.  Guys that are good SP prospects get most of their playing time at SS, right?  Am I reading too much into them playing him at multiple positions?

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    If he's physically ready to go by season's start - lets let him play SS for us this year.  Since we don't appear to be interested in fielding a competitive team due our lack of interest in starting pitchers, why not let him get some experience in the majors?

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    The last thing I want is Lewis being the Twins opening day short stop. From many reasons, what is the upside?

    If he starts in AA and is on fire, he could be moved up and the SS they signed for gap can be moved to the bench or traded.

    If he starts out slow at he majors what is the plan then? play Gordon and what if he sucks? try Martin and all of 89 games at SS in the last 4 years, Sign a guy for triple AAA to come up? Move Polanco, try Miranda? Having Lewis as plan A for the opening day short stop would be one of the dumbest things this FO has done, and they have done a bunch.

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    3 hours ago, Major League Ready said:

    I can't say that I have a good feel for his viability at SS.  Hopefully, you are right.  It does not track for me that they are not focusing his developmental time at SS if he is a legit SS prospect.  Guys that are good SP prospects get most of their playing time at SS, right?  Am I reading too much into them playing him at multiple positions?

    When the other position is CF I would think there is something athletically there. 

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    5 hours ago, old nurse said:

    There are plenty of pitchers considered better than a number 3 pitcher with only 3 pitches.  There is nothing typical about a number 3 pitcher other than over the course of a season he doesn’t  have as good of results as some pitchers  but is a lot better than most. I guess you and the OP must not have looked at the starting pitching to the the large sinkhole;.  

    Austim Martin going into last season was rated higher than Lewis. Same position, same athleticism. 

    Having starting pitching develop is far far more important than Lewis, and Martin

    List a few. Berrios. There. That's the entire list.

    3 pitch pitchers are usually seen as borderline starters/relievers unless they have a plus-plus offering. Which Berrios does. What sets Berrios apart is he has multiple plus or plus-plus offerings.

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    2 hours ago, bean5302 said:

    List a few. Berrios. There. That's the entire list.

    3 pitch pitchers are usually seen as borderline starters/relievers unless they have a plus-plus offering. Which Berrios does. What sets Berrios apart is he has multiple plus or plus-plus offerings.

    If Balazovic is the Twins #3 prospect and is seen as a borderline starer/relief pitcher, the Twins are in more trouble than I thought, And he seems like the somebody that probably should be included in a trade to bring somebody back.

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    3 hours ago, bean5302 said:

    List a few. Berrios. There. That's the entire list.

    3 pitch pitchers are usually seen as borderline starters/relievers unless they have a plus-plus offering. Which Berrios does. What sets Berrios apart is he has multiple plus or plus-plus offerings.

    Gioloto, Montas, Morton, Ray to name a few. Know what’s pitchers do

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