Drafted 1st overall in 2017, Royce Lewis looked the part in his debut season as well as 2018. Unfortunately he followed it up with three years that significantly hurt his outlook in the eyes of many evaluators. We now have to look back nearly two full seasons to find the former top prospects last professional at bat.
It’s important to note that 2019 wasn’t exactly a banner season for Lewis when he was on the field. He finished strong, earning MVP of the Arizona Fall League but was a below league-average hitter between A and AA ball. Questions were also starting to arise regarding his ability to stick at shortstop, the premium position that surely played a hand in his 1st overall draft selection. With such a gap in play, his prospect capital was bound to decline, but how far has it come down since the beginning of that 2019 season?
Prospect rankings can be arbitrary and interchangeable, and there are tons of sources of all sizes that regularly provide them. Three such sources are MLB.com, Baseball America, and Baseball Prospectus, all widely respected evaluators of young talent.
At the beginning of 2019, these three sources ranked Lewis 5th, 9th and 8th respectively just two years after he was drafted out of high school. He was one of the most anticipated prospects not just in the Twins system, but in all of baseball. As the calendar turns to 2022, however, MLB.com’s ranking has dropped from 5th to 35th. Baseball America from 9th to 82nd. Baseball Prospectus, who many believe to be the industry standard in evaluating prospects, went from ranking Lewis 8th to not ranking him in their top 101 at all.
Royce Lewis has a lot working against him when it comes to these evaluators trying to make an honest assessment. It began in 2019 when many believed the excess movement in his swing was being exploited as he ascended through the system, a claim that was supported by his .231/.291/.358 batting line in AA. Also of note is the aforementioned question marks emerging about his ability to man shortstop long term as many had hoped when he was drafted.
2020 offered little opportunity for Lewis to address these concerns in his defense. While he was in “summer camp” with the Twins along with other top prospects, there was little visual evidence available for fans or prospect evaluators that could have been used to indicate any kind of development.
2021 did little to change the outlook, as hope of any development was dashed before it began when Lewis tore his ACL in the offseason. He was unable to get the reps that he so desperately needed to be able to access his loud raw tools. The Twins former #1 overall pick hit a snag in his development as plenty of top prospects do. In this case however, Lewis’ opportunity to adapt and progress had been interrupted by two straight seasons without game situation reps. This unfortunately is how one of the top prospects in all of baseball finds themselves plummeting out of top 100 lists.
For what it’s worth, it’s not all doom and gloom with Lewis. For what seems like a significant amount of lost time, he’s still only 22 years old. MLB has a decent history of players like Kyle Schwarber, Dexter Fowler and Wilson Ramos who returned to form after torn ACLs just to name a few. Assuming his athleticism and explosiveness are intact, it’s entirely possible that a few mechanical tweaks could quickly put him back on a superstar path given the raw talent he’s shown in his young career.
Reports have never waned from the Twins being incredibly bullish on their former top prospect. It’s likely that they’ll be aggressive to an extent in making up for lost time. He’s likely to begin 2022 in AA or even AAA in an everyday shortstop role in order to try to sort out his defensive future as quickly as possible. Even if the swing is still a work in progress, if Lewis shows an ability to stick at the shortstop position he’d likely be climbing back up prospect boards as well as the board of public opinion. One thing is certain, 2022 is the biggest year yet when it comes to the development of Royce Lewis.
Lewis was added to the Twins 40-man roster following the 2021 season. It is a great thing for any prospect. However, until their is a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place, Lewis will not be able to work at the Twins facilities or even be in contact with Twins personnel. Until there is an agreement, Lewis again finds himself unable to play. For that reason alone, Twins fans should want this lockout to end quickly. Royce Lewis does not need any more missed time.
Do you think Royce Lewis’ consensus drop-off is too harsh after his two years away from competitive baseball? Does he have to use 2022 to earn the status of one of the top prospects in all of baseball again? Let us know below!