Minors | General | 10/2/2019

Lewis making his mark in AFL

Stephanie Wakefield        
Photo: Royce Lewis (Perfect Game)

Throughout the Arizona Fall League season, Perfect Game will be chronicling the journey of alumni as they take one step closer to the major leagues. We will do so in partnership with students at The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Imagine a soft-spoken 18-year-old kid from California who’s dreamt of becoming a big leaguer like Derek Jeter since the first time he picked up a baseball. Now picture a summer afternoon in June, with family and close friends gathered near, and this unwavering vision finally becomes reality.

That was the scene two summers ago when the Minnesota Twins used the 2017 No.1 overall pick on Royce Lewis. And today, the 20-year-old Twins top-prospect’s game is catching comparison to the likes of Derek Jeter at MLB Arizona Fall League as he continues his ascension through the Minors.

“Anytime you're connected to Derek Jeter in any way, on and off the field, that pretty much tells you what type of person he is,” said Colorado Rockies AAA hitting coach and Lewis’s current hitting coach for the Salt River Rafters, Tim Dougherty. “Derek set the standard.”

Lewis opened up his AFL assignment batting .346 with 3 HRs and 10 RBI through 10 games for the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League. This after a standout season in the Minors, where Lewis ascended from Advanced A to Double A with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.

Lewis attributes his ability to perform on bigger stages in baseball, and the hype he received at such a young age, to high school showcases like Perfect Game.

“If you perform really well at those events - or at least just good enough - and show off your skills and your talents - it definitely puts you on stock for the draft and the incoming class for that season,” Royce Lewis said.

Lewis landed on the Top Prospect List at the 2015 PG Underclass All American Games in San Diego, Calif. The summer of 2016 proved even more magical as he stood out at the PG National Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla., earning an invitation to the Perfect Game All-American Classic. The once-in-a-lifetime event was Lewis’ stage as he was named the game’s MVP.

Playing in the Perfect Game events, as well as representing USA Baseball globally, really helped his draft stock rise prior to the MLB draft according to Lewis.

But even Lewis didn’t think No. 1 overall was in the cards. He was convinced he was going to go at No. 3 due to conversations with the San Diego Padres.

“We were all very shocked and excited, and not necessarily about being picked at No.1,” Lewis said. “As far talent, we knew I had the ability. We were just more realistic, and (I didn’t) expect anything. For that to happen was just … it made it even more special.”

With the Twins clinching the American League Central title on Tuesday, the top prospect is hoping to start a legacy that will last years in the Twin Cities.

Lewis is also cognizant of how an impactful showing at the Fall League can launch a career. Especially now that the 2018 Scottsdale Scorpion turned MLB home run champ, Pete Alonso, is now dominating for the Mets organization.

It’s obvious Lewis’s bat has shined in the Fall League thus far, but it’s been his ability to play multiple positions that’s taken notice. Despite being a shortstop by trade, Lewis has been getting meaningful looks at center field and third base as well this Fall.

Just last week, Lewis made a highlight reel catch in center as he smashed into the wall, and he then followed it up with a two-run bomb in his next at-bat.

“Royce is the type of guy that will play wherever we need him to play in order to help the team win games,” said Salt River Rafters manager Keith Johnson.

Royce takes every opportunity to get better and has coachability that is “off the charts,” Johnson also added.

Lewis’ versatility gives the Twins something to think about going forward, but if he has the choice middle infield is where he wants to break in and make a name.

“The shortstop is someone the team you can always rely on to make the play or be that leader on the field to help control the game,” Lewis said. “I'd like to be shortstop because Derek Jeter did it. And he was my role model growing up.”

And no matter what position Lewis ends up playing in MLB, coaches and teammates alike say he’s special and marvel at his work ethic.

So, regardless of how far the Twins postseason run lasts in 2019, there’s a Perfect Game alum turned MLB Fall League standout on the cusp of making the club just that much better.

“The Twins are going to be a special team for a while I believe,” Lewis said. “Hopefully, I'm just a guy that's going to be a part of the team. Something I’d tell the fans is ‘just be ready because it all started this year.’”

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