MINNEAPOLIS — When Royce Lewis lost his entire 2021 season to a torn right ACL, he knew the next time he stepped onto the field, he would have missed two full seasons of competitive professional baseball. No one knew what to expect when he returned except Lewis himself.
“2022 is going to be scary and scary, man,” Lewis said after his ACL surgery on March 21. “Just be careful.
Looks like he was right. And now his time has finally come.
Nearly five years after the Twins selected Lewis with the No. 1 pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, Minnesota announced it had named the organization’s top prospect and MLB’s No. 44 overall prospect. Pipeline ahead of Friday’s series opener against the Oakland A’s, with departing shortstop Carlos Correa struggling with a right middle finger injury.
Lewis will be only the second local No. 1 pick to don a Twins uniform, and the first since Joe Mauer’s debut in 2004, three years after the Twins selected the No. 1 receiver in the 2001 draft.
With Correa out, Lewis will have the opportunity for consistent playing time as the Twins’ starting shortstop. And while Correa’s arrival in preseason seemed to relieve the pressure on Lewis, 22, to immediately prove he was ready for MLB in his first month after a serious injury, it is what he apparently did – and he’ll get the chance to show it off.
Promoted to Triple-A for the first time this season, Lewis finally showed the full force of the five-tool skills the Twins saw in him when they selected him at 18 from JSerra High School. in Orange County, Calif., hitting .310/.430/.563 in 24 games with three homers, 11 doubles and eight stolen bases.
More importantly, after posting a .290 on-base percentage on High-A and Double-A in 2019, Lewis’ selectivity has surged against the Triple-A pitch this season, as he has walked 17 times, nearly as many. that it was withdrawn (20).
Lewis has completed his Triple-A stint after hitting base in 15 of his last 17 games, including each of his last eight. Not bad, considering he hadn’t competed in a batting competition in two years.
The immense physical talent has always been there for Lewis to do those things on a baseball field.
He was always one of the quickest players in the organization, the purest example of the athleticism that helped him stay at shortstop despite some lack of polish. The power and contact ability were there too, but the big leg kick and long swing at the lower levels of the minors sometimes messed up his timing and kept him from realizing that full potential, especially in 19 , when he struggled at a . 661 OPS.
But this season, Lewis finally got the chance to show the results of the hard work he put in behind the scenes at the 20-something alternate training site constantly cited by those around him during that time.
He talked about adjusting to a more direct swing and feeling much better about hitting the ball hard on all courts that year. Sidelined by the torn ACL in 21, Lewis would return to his room after his daily practices and watch every Twins game, continuing to develop the mental side of his skills. He would try to talk to himself about how he attacked the opponent’s starting pitcher, develop a game plan, and visualize himself executing that plan.
And he feels physically stronger than ever, having done all the conditioning he could in 21 while his leg healed.
“I keep telling people I feel like a powerlifter,” Lewis joked this spring. “That’s all I would do – it’s lift and go home, eat, sleep.”
Being healthy while playing every day would have been a positive for Lewis in April, considering everything he’s been through over the past two seasons and all the playing action he’s missed.
Instead, it exceeded all expectations. All expectations, but his own exorbitant standards for himself, anyway.
“I feel like I have a chance to start in the big leagues this year and make a difference,” he said this spring. “I make a difference. I’m a ball player. I’ll play anywhere. I’ll make the team do whatever they need me to do. I’m here to contribute and try to make the team win. This team is so amazing. They are ready to win and they are hungry.”
His team needs him. It’s time for the Lewis era to begin.