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  • 2017 MLB Draft Retrospective: Was Royce Lewis the Right Choice?


    Cody Christie

    It’s been nearly four seasons since the Twins had the number one pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. As time passes, more players from this draft are starting to debut, so did the Twins make the right pick?

    Image courtesy of © Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

    There are a lot of pressures that come with having the draft’s first pick and that pressure was felt by the newly hired front office duo of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. Multiple names were in the conversation for first overall pick and two of the top-five picks have already made their big-league debuts. Let’s see what the Twins passed over to take Lewis.

    Royce Lewis, Pick 1- Minnesota Twins

    Lewis is out for all of 2021 after needing to undergo ACL surgery this spring. That being said, he is only 22 years old, and his future still looks promising. When he was last on the field, he won MVP honors in the Arizona Fall League after hitting .353/.411/.565 (.975) with 12 extra-base hits in 22 games. This was on the heels of a 2019 season that saw him reach Double-A, but he also struggled offensively as he combined for a .661 OPS. He entered the 2021 season as a top-35 prospect on all three major national rankings. At Twins Daily, he was ranked as the organization’s number two overall prospect behind Alex Kirilloff.

    Hunter Greene, Pick 2- Cincinnati Reds

    Leading into the draft, Greene was on the cover of Sports Illustrated comparing him to Lebron James and Babe Ruth. No pressure, right? As a teenager, he could hit over 100 mph so there was plenty to be excited about. His first two professional seasons didn’t exactly go perfectly as he struggled with command while striking out a ton of batters. Then an elbow injury struck, and he underwent Tommy John surgery which means this year was his first back on the mound since 2018.

    At Double-A this season, Greene is almost four years younger than the average age of the competition. He’s also living up to his high draft status for the first time. In six starts (35 innings), he has a 2.31 ERA with a 51 to 10 strikeout to walk ratio. Greene has yet to face a batter younger than himself and he has held hitters to a .541 OPS. MLB.com was the only major prospect ranking to include Greene coming into the season and that will likely change heading into 2022.

    MacKenzie Gore, Pick 3- San Diego Padres

    Gore didn’t make the cover of Sports Illustrated as an amateur, but he might wind up being the best high school pitcher taken in 2017. Entering the 2021 season, Gore was considered a top-12 prospect in baseball by all three major rankings. In his last full season (2019), he split time between High-A and Double-A. For the season, he posted a 1.69 ERA with a 0.83 WHIP while striking out 12 batters per nine innings.

    So far in 2021, he has made four starts at Triple-A and there have been some struggles as he has allowed 11 earned runs in 16 2/3 innings. He’s also dealing with a blister issue that has kept him from making all his turns in the rotation. It’s early in the season and he is a 22-year-old getting his first taste of Triple-A. His future still looks bright.  

    Brendan McKay, Pick 4- Tampa Bay Rays

    McKay was an intriguing amateur as he was a two-way player during his collegiate career at Louisville. When it came to the draft, some teams saw him as a pitcher and other’s saw him as a hitter. As the draft approached, he was interested in going to an organization that would continue to allow him to continue be a two-way player. There have been some mixed results, so far in his professional career.

    As a hitter, he has combined for a .679 OPS throughout his minor league career. At the big-league level, he has gone 2-for-10 with a home run and a walk. McKay was a powerful hitter in college as he posted a .966 OPS in three collegiate seasons, so his bat hasn’t lived up to the hype. As a pitcher, he has posted a 1.78 ERA with a 0.84 WHIP with 226 strikeouts in 172 minor league innings. His big-league appearances (13 games) have resulted in a 5.14 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP. He has yet to make a pitching appearance this season after having season-ending shoulder surgery in August 2020.

    Obviously, it is going to take years to know if Lewis was the right pick. With the Twins pitching struggles, some of the other arms look intriguing in retrospect. Twins fans can hope that Lewis ends up being a multi-time All-Star that is the face of the franchise.

    If you could go back and make the pick, would Lewis be your first choice? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    If I knew the Twins were only going to take hitters in the 1st round for the next 4-5 years, I would have hoped they went with one of the top pitching prospects... I don't think Royce is going to bust, but I think he will be less valuable than a couple of guys that went shortly after him. At least they were able to save money on the slot and take Enlow... who now is having TJ surgery. Great! ☹️

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    They used the slot money they saved by taking Lewis, to sign Blayne Enlow. Considering the Twins stretch of bad luck/poor decisions in drafting pitchers in the first round, selecting Lewis seemed reasonable. My concerns would be on reports of poor swing mechanics that aren’t being corrected. (Like another top pick who plays CF)  

    I also agree with @Danchat above that the continued selection of bat first high strikeout prone hitters could use an adjustment either by drafting more pitchers or players with defensive value  

    https://blogs.fangraphs.com/sunday-notes-twins-prospect-royce-lewis-has-a-cacophonous-swing-and-a-sky-high-ceiling/

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    15 hours ago, ToriiRules!! said:

    Mackenzie gore has kinda stalled out at AAA but still would’ve taken him or Greene over Royce… Royce has had his struggles and has only looked elite when he won the AFL MVP in 2019

    As I wrote in the article, Gore is young for AAA and he has dealt with a blister issue this year. 

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    Interesting topic Cody.  As you say, really a bit early to evaluate Lewis, but I for one was appalled that the supposed pitching gurus newly installed at Twins HQ passed on all 3 of these pitchers to take Lewis.  This org. has flailed for many years in developing pitching, surely the most important position in MLB.  But Falvine has shown excessive hubris in all their drafts, and this seems like no exception.  Gore and Greene were considered sure-fire top-of-the-rotation hurlers, McKay rated a bit lower maybe because he wanted to be considered a hitter/pitcher.  Yes, the verdict is still TBD, but reports seem to indicate Lewis doesn't have the chops at SS and will probably settle in CF, where the Twins had a guy named Buxton who was considered the #1 prospect and when healthy has started to play like one.

    Doubts about this FO's savvy certainly escalated when in their next 3 drafts, they selected an OF, another SS, and a DH-type.  Is this how you develop a home grown stud rotation like Cleveland has been able to do?  Have any of Falvine's draft picks looked like the future of a solid rotation?  Yes, they did pick up Alcala and Duran in trades, but they are unknown quantities as of now.  They haven't even drafted one pitcher who can help a major league bullpen that is arguably the worst in baseball.

    The Lewis pick was a signal that this FO was not up to the task of developing a core of major league pitchers.  They have done nothing since to change the narrative.  This should be the year that they throw these prospects into the fire at the major league level,  after all what more can we lose.   The rest of this year should tell the tale on the Whiz Kids ability to develop major league pitching.   Aren't these the guys that should be held accountable if they prove unable to do that?

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    18 hours ago, Danchat said:

    If I knew the Twins were only going to take hitters in the 1st round for the next 4-5 years, I would have hoped they went with one of the top pitching prospects... I don't think Royce is going to bust, but I think he will be less valuable than a couple of guys that went shortly after him. At least they were able to save money on the slot and take Enlow... who now is having TJ surgery. Great! ☹️


    They could have taken Enlow w/o saving money....according to rules, if not the budget.

    I think I said at the time I wanted pitching, because the Twins would never pay what it takes to sign an elite pitcher. I think I said Gore or McCay at the time, though Greene intrigued me he made me nervous. I also said if they are going to take corner hitters, they better be willing to deal them as prospects to get pitching. 

    Apparently Gore can't throw strikes for the past 2 years. Greene looks like the real deal this year, but we'll see. I have no idea what to think about Lewis' hitting at this point. And, it will be at least 18 months before we do, imo. 

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    1 hour ago, Mike Sixel said:


    They could have taken Enlow w/o saving money....according to rules, if not the budget.

    I think I said at the time I wanted pitching, because the Twins would never pay what it takes to sign an elite pitcher. I think I said Gore or McCay at the time, though Greene intrigued me he made me nervous. I also said if they are going to take corner hitters, they better be willing to deal them as prospects to get pitching. 

    Apparently Gore can't throw strikes for the past 2 years. Greene looks like the real deal this year, but we'll see. I have no idea what to think about Lewis' hitting at this point. And, it will be at least 18 months before we do, imo. 

    Sure, they still could have taken Enlow, but they likely wouldn't have been able to pay him over his slot amount, which is reportedly why he fell to the 3rd round.

    Lewis strikes me as a guy who will take a few years to learn how to hit in the bigs, similar to how Buxton debuted / eventually got settled at the plate. 

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    I wanted Gore or Wright. I still want Gore even with his struggles this year. I didn’t absolutely hate the Lewis pick but it’s not looking the greatest since it seems like he’ll be a CF vs a SS. It’s not bad if he’s a CF, but drafting a good SS one of these days needs to happen. 

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    19 hours ago, mike8791 said:

     Gore and Greene were considered sure-fire top-of-the-rotation hurlers,  ...

    Doubts about this FO's savvy certainly escalated when in their next 3 drafts, they selected an OF, another SS, and a DH-type.  Is this how you develop a home grown stud rotation like Cleveland has been able to do?  Have any of Falvine's draft picks looked like the future of a solid rotation?  

    The Lewis pick was a signal that this FO was not up to the task of developing a core of major league pitchers.  They have done nothing since to change the narrative.  ...   Aren't these the guys that should be held accountable if they prove unable to do that?

    Bingo. Look at the rotations that have carried their teams to the world series last decade. Do we see anything like the depth of Lincecum/Cain/Bumgarner developing? Strasburg/Scherzer/Corbin? All the talent that has cycled through LA, enough to make Maeda, Wood and others expendable? 

    Falvine was sold to us as the brilliant FO that was going to turn Twins pitching around. I fear they won't even be able to retain Berrios, the ace they inherited.

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