What's To Like
After not playing in professional baseball since the 2019 season, 2022 represented an opportunity to see Royce Lewis back in game action. He had nowhere to play outside of St. Paul for alternate site action in 2020, and then he suffered a fluke knee injury after tearing his ACL in Texas before the 2021 season.
There was plenty of reason to be uncertain about what Lewis would bring to the table given his time off, but he picked right back up where things ended during 2019 Arizona Fall League action. Although his swing left plenty to be desired during the regular season in 2019, his .975 OPS across 22 games for Salt River was plenty exciting.
Lewis began the 2022 season with Triple-A St. Paul. It was a substantial leap given he played just 33 games at Double-A two years prior, but he looked every bit like he belonged. In 24 games to start the season, Lewis owned a .993 OPS and had an even more impressive 20/17 K/BB ratio. His plate discipline translated to a .430 OBP, and he blasted a trio of home runs alongside 11 doubles.
After an injury to starting shortstop Carlos Correa, Lewis found himself making his major-league debut at a position some wondered whether he could hold down. The bat played in the big leagues, and although the plate discipline slid some, he more than held his own offensively. In the field, Lewis looked the part of a natural shortstop and made plenty of throws that suggested he could stick at the position. Even after Correa returned from injury, Lewis still found a way to force his way onto Rocco Baldelli’s 26-man roster.
What’s Left to Work On
Similar to the situation entering 2022, Lewis will again need to prove he’s healthy and ready for the next challenge. After making a brief cameo in centerfield filling in for Byron Buxton, Lewis tore his ACL again in a fluke collision with the wall. He has every idea how to rehab the injury a second time around, and it’s clear he came back strong, but the proof will need to be there again.
This time around Lewis will also be returning to a new position. He played third base in high school and could factor there with Jose Miranda, or he could play second base with Jorge Polanco. There will be opportunities at shortstop, but the bulk of that time is going to go to Correa in the foreseeable future. Getting Lewis reps around the diamond at St. Paul will be a must early on this summer.
When it comes to production at the plate, Lewis will also need to work on consistency. His 12 game sample size was great, but indicative of very little. He struck out just five times in 41 plate appearances, but he also only drew one walk. Bringing the plate discipline and on-base prowess from Triple-A in 2022 is something that Minnesota would love to see. His swing has calmed down quite a bit, and working to make that habit needs to continue as well.
For Lewis, it’s going to be continued rehab the rest of the spring and into the early summer. He has indicated feeling better, sooner than he did last time around. Recovering from his previous ACL injury, Lewis came back a bit stronger and was clocked running record speeds down the first base line. It remains to be seen how that will go after a second procedure, but his body continues to be something that matures.
Minnesota fans can expect to see Lewis play for the Saints again at some point this summer, but betting on it being a long-term thing seems relatively foolish considering how quickly he worked through the level a year ago. Character has long been off the charts for Lewis, and expecting another setback to hold him down for long doesn’t seem wise. There isn’t much left for Lewis to prove on the farm, so as soon as he’s health and producing, he’ll be donning the Twins new threads at Target Field.