No. 1 Royce Lewis, SS, Fort Myers Miracle
Nate’s Rank: 1, Gary’s Rank: 1
19-year-old Royce Lewis was the first player taken in the 2017 MLB draft. There was some criticism at the time that Lewis was a reach and that the Twins should have taken one of the consensus pre-draft top-3 players, Hunter Greene, Brendan McKay, or Kyle Wright. As this point in time, Lewis has proven worthy of being the top pick, with an MLB.com ranking of #10 overall among all MLB prospects, the highest rating of the 2017 draft class.
The icing on the cake was that Lewis signed for a bonus of $6.725 million, $1 million under the slotted value assigned to the first pick by Major League Baseball. With the under-slot bonus signings of Lewis and 2nd round pick RHP Landon Leach, our 29th ranked prospect the Twins had the cash to convince our 12th rated prospect, 3rd round Lottery B pick, Blayne Enlow, to forego his commitment to LSU with a bonus offer of $2 million, almost $1,250,000 over the slot value.
Assigned to the GCL Twins in late June of 2017, Lewis hit for a line of .271/.390/.414 in 36 games, including six doubles, two triples, and three home runs. He collected 17 RBI’s and scored 33 runs, with 17 strikeouts versus 18 walks in 163 at-bats. He committed four errors at shortstop in 125 chances for a .968 fielding percentage.
Lewis earned a mid-August promotion to A-level Cedar Rapids. An 18-year-old reaching full-season level baseball is a promising sign for future success. He more than held his own for the Kernels, hitting .296/.363/.394, with ten RBI’s and 16 runs scored in 71 at-bats.
Over the 2017 season, Lewis slashed .279/.381/.407, an OPS of .788, with four home runs, 27 RBI’s, 54 runs scored, 33 strikeouts against 25 walks, and 18 stolen bases in 21 attempts in 204 at-bats. His strong performance had Lewis entering this season ranked #20 by MLB.com.
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The 6′ 2″, 188-pound right-hander returned to Cedar Rapids to begin the 2018 campaign. Lewis hit .315/.368/.485, OPS .853, with 23 doubles, nine home runs, 53 RBI’s, and 22 stolen bases in 26 attempts over 295 at-bats. While he committed 17 errors for a fielding percentage of .938, his range, arm, and glove are considered up to speed for a teenage shortstop. There is some ongoing concern as to whether his body will grow him out of the shortstop position, better placing him in center field. At worst, Lewis, with above average fielding ability and his 60-70 rated speed on the 20-80 scale would still be a premier asset in the outfield. FanGraph’s Kiley McDaniel leans 65/35 toward a future move to CF.
Having conquered Low-A ball, Lewis was promoted to Advanced-A Fort Myers in mid-July. Against competition 3.4 years his senior, he has performed well for the Miracle, posting a slash line of .263/.342/.425, an OPS of .767, with six doubles, three triples, and five home runs in only 167 at-bats. With four errors in 159 chances, Lewis sports a very respectable fielding percentage of .968.
Lewis has steadily climbed the charts throughout the season. He is now the 10th ranked major league prospect per MLB.com. FanGraphs rates him at number 11. Baseball Prospectus slotted Lewis at #16 in their midseason update. Here is their summary:
"Why he’ll succeed: Incredibly athletic, Lewis has potential for five future plus tools. The speed is 70-grade and he has become an efficient base stealer this year at Cedar Rapids. He has also begun to show some of the pop that scouts projected when he was taken no. 1 overall in 2017. Why he might fail: There is a very high floor to Lewis’ profile, given the speed and advanced bat. However, he is just 19 and physical maturity might necessitate a move away from shortstop. A shift away from the six spot will put additional pressure for continued development of the bat."
Royce Lewis is a natural athlete. A pure hitter with emerging power. A rare bird for a shortstop. The key to his best future success will be how he adapts as his body reaches full maturity. Whether in center or at short, Lewis looks like he will initially be a sure-fire shortstop star for the Twins. Next stop Chattanooga.
Thank-you for tracking along with our rankings of the Twins top prospects! We hope you have enjoyed reading through the profiles of each of the players. How did we do? What changes to the rankings would you make if you were in our seats? Let us know!