Royce Lewis

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Royce Oliver Lewis

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Biographical Information[edit]

Royce Lewis was the first overall pick in the 2017 amateur draft, selected by the Minnesota Twins out of Junipero Serra High School in San Juan Capistrano, CA. His selection was a bit of a surprise, because while he as considered to be a top-ten talent, other names had been mentioned more often as the most likely first selection. While he played shortstop as a senior, he had played third base and outfield in previous years and was considered to have the tools to play centerfield as well. He was described as a very athletic player with excellent batting and fielding skills who was expected to develop power in future years. It was rumored that the Twins had struck a pre-draft deal to sign Lewis to a contract somewhat below slot value, after having backed off from another potential top choice, University of Louisville P/1B Brendan McKay, because of what were characterized as excessive financial demands. On June 17th, the Twins signed Lewis to a contract including a signing bonus of $6,275 million.

Lewis was assigned to the GCL Twins to begin his career. He began it with a bang as he connected for a home run in his first career plate appearance on June 26th. He had a very solid initial season between the Gulf Coast League and the Cedar Rapids Kernels of the Midwest League, hitting .279/.381/.407 in 54 games, with 54 runs scored and 27 RBIs. He also stole 18 bases in 21 attempts. In 2018, he split the year between Cedar Rapids and the Fort Myers Miracle of the Florida State League, hitting .292/.352/.451 in 121 games to confirm his prospect status. He belted 29 doubles and 14 homers while driving in 74 runs and scoring 83.

He was named to the roster of the American League team for the 2019 Futures Game. He once again played for two different teams that season, starting off at Fort Myers and finishing up in AA with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos of the Southern League. In spite of his taking part in the mid-season showcase, his hitting regressed, as he batted .236/.290/.371, with 12 homers and 49 RBIs. But when he was sent to the Arizona Fall League after the season, he tore the circuit apart, batting .353 and slugging .565. The Twins were unable to find out which of the two Royces was the real one, because the minor leagues were shut down by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. He spent that summer at the team's alternate training site, but in 2021 he was unable to play any games after he tore his ACL in spring training. He kept up his competitive juices by playing a lot of mini golf an by bowling that summer. By spring training in 2022, he had become a bit of a forgotten man, with a number of top draft picks from more recent vintages getting the hype that was once his, even though he was still only 22 when that season started.

He began the 2022 season in AAA with the St. Paul Saints and batted .310 in his first 24 games, with 3 homers, 21 runs scored and 11 RBIs. In spite of this strong start, he would likely not have been called up were it not for an injury to SS Carlos Correa, which brought him to Minnesota on May 6th. He started that game against the Oakland Athletics at shortstop, batting 7th and went 1 for 4 in a 2-1 win. On May 13th, he hit his first career homer, and it was a grand slam, hit off Bryan Shaw of the Cleveland Guardians in a 12-8 win. He was only the second player in Twins history to have his first career long ball come with the bases loaded, after Danny Valencia. On May 29th, in his first game back after been called up a second time, he crashed into the center field fence making a catch of an Emmanuel Rivera fly ball against the Kansas City Royals and suffered a season-ending injury, tearing his ACL. He finished the season at .300 with 2 homers and 5 RBIs in 12 games.

One year to the day after his season ending injury, on May 29, 2023, he made his return to the majors and hit a homer and a game-tying single in a 7-5, 10-inning win over the Houston Astros. He had started the season in AA for a couple of games, and had played 8 more in AAA before making his return to the Show, having hit .333 with 4 homers in the 10 minor league games. On August 27-28, he became the first player in Twins history to hit a grand slam in two consecutive games. he had hit one in a 7-6 win over the Texas Rangers the first day, and followed that with another grand slam, this one off Xzavion Curry of the Guardians in a 10-6 win the next day. That gave him three grand slams among his first ten career homers, making him only the 10th player in history to do that. Not done, he hit another one on September 4th, this one in a 20-6 rout of the Guardians; it came off Lucas Giolito, whom Cleveland had just picked up off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels and increased Minnesota's lead on Cleveland to six games with less than a month to go. Having now made it a habit, he added another slam on September 15th, off Jesse Scholtens in the 2nd inning of a 10-2 win over the Chicago White Sox. Unsurprisingly, he was the first player in major league history with five grand slams among his first 16 career homers; the four slams in one season also set a Twins record, and the four in a span of 18 games were a major league record, annihilating the previous mark of 39 games by Don Mattingly in 1987. He finished the season at .309 in 58 games, with 15 homers and 52 RBIs, for an OPS+ of 150. He had a storybook postseason debut in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series against the Toronto Blue Jays on October 3rd, as he hit a two-run homer off Kevin Gausman to put the Twins ahead in the 1st inning, and then did it again with a solo shot to lead off the 3rd, providing all of his team's runs in a 3-1 win that broke Minnesota's record streak of 18 straight postseason losses dating back to 2004. He was just the third player in history to homer in his first two postseason at-bats, following Gary Gaetti, who had also done it for the Twins back in 1987, and Evan Longoria in 2008. Even more impressive, those were his first two plate appearances after not playing since September 19th due to a hamstring injury. In spite of the time missed that September, he had stilled copped the American League Rookie of the Month Award after hitting .313 with an OPS of 1.060 and 6 homers and 23 RBIs in half of month of work.

Hopes were high for Lewis heading into the 2024 season, but it took all of one game to dim these, as he went 2 for 2 with a homer in an Opening Day win over the Kansas City Royals on March 28th, but had to leave the game with a strained quad muscle. The early prognosis was not good, as the injury was described as severe and he was immediately placed on the injured list, replaced on the roster by top prospect Austin Martin. "Maybe I'm too electric for my own good," he stated after the injury.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Rhett Bollinger: "Twins pick 'elite athlete' Lewis No. 1 overall",, June 12, 2017. [1]
  • Rhett Bollinger: "'Patient' Lewis wise beyond his years: Twins' top prospect slashed .279/.381/.407 in Minors as 18-year-old",, January 21, 2018. [2]
  • Jesse Borek: "JSerra prepped Royce Lewis for everything baseball (and life) would throw at him",, February 28, 2024. [3]
  • Nathan Han: "Lewis hits HR, game-tying single one year after injury: 'Can't make this stuff up'",, May 29, 2023. [4]
  • Jonathan Mayo: "'I believe he's going to be a Hall of Famer': How the Twins landed Lewis",, October 8, 2023. [5]
  • Do-Hyoung Park: "'I'm young and I'm having fun': Lewis' first HR a grand slam",, May 14, 2022. [6]
  • Do-Hyoung Park: "2 slams in 2 games? Lewis 1st Twin to do it in key win vs. Guardians",, August 29, 2023. [7]
  • Do-Hyoung Park: "Lewis hits (yet another) grand slam in Twins' statement rout of Guards: Third baseman has 3 slams in span of 8 games, and 4 among his first 13 career HRs",, September 4, 2023. [8]
  • Do-Hyoung Park: "'He was born for this': Royce homers in first two postseason ABs",, October 3, 2023. [9]
  • Joey Pollizze: "Lewis makes Twins, MLB history with 4th grand slam of '23",, September 16, 2023. [10]

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