Royce Lewis records first MLB hit as former No. 1 pick debuts for Twins

Shortstop Royce Lewis, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft, made his MLB debut Friday night against the Oakland Athletics and recorded his first career hit. The Minnesota Twins called up their top prospect to replace Carlos Correa. (Correa was hit by a pitch Thursday and suffered the “potential for a non-displaced fracture” in his right middle finger, the team said. He will undergo more tests Friday.) Lewis’ first hit, an opposite-field single, came in the eighth inning.

Take a look:

The 22-year-old Lewis had become Triple-A this season, hitting .310/.427/.560 with 10 doubles, three home runs, eight stolen bases, and nearly as many walks (16) as strikeouts (19) in 23 games. It is his first game action in two years – Lewis missed 2021 with a become ACL, and the 2020 minor league season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because of the become ACL and two lost years of development, our RJ Anderson did not rank Lewis among the game’s top 50 prospects coming into this season. MLB.com ranked Lewis the No. 44 prospect in baseball this spring. Here’s a snippet of their scouting report:

Lewis has tremendous upside when he’s healthy. He had close to top-of-the-scale speed before he hurt his knee that made him a dangerous baserunner. With a lot of moving parts to his swing and a big leg kick, Lewis got out of sync in 2019, but he seemed to get his timing back in the [Arizona Fall League] and at the Twins’ alternate training site in 2020. He’s worked to quiet his setup and smooth out his swing, but it’s yet to be game-tested. He is capable of driving the ball to all fields and there’s plenty of raw power for him to tap into … Drafted as a shortstop, Lewis has mostly played the premium position as a pro and had made enough improvements for most to believe he and his above-average arm can stick there in the big leagues. He also showed off positional flexibility in the AFL, including some plus defensive ability in center field.

The Twins are currently without Luis Arraez (COVID), Kyle Garlick (calf), Alex Kirilloff (wrist), and Miguel Sanó (knee surgery). Correa will be the team’s fifth regular position player (or semi-regular, in Garlick’s case) on the injured list, assuming his finger injury is serious enough to require an extended absence.

Correa had started 23 of the team’s 25 games at shortstop. Nick Gordon (now platooning in left field) and Jorge Polanco (the starting second baseman) started the other two games. Third baseman Gio Urshela has shortstop experience, but clearly the Twins will need a legitimate shortstop while Correa is out, and Lewis is as good an option as any in the organization.

Signed to a three-year, $105.3 million contract with two opt outs in spring training, the 27-year-old Correa owns a .264/.323/.385 batting line with two home runs this season. He has really picked it up lately after a slow start, going 14-for-31 (.452) with three doubles and a homer in his last seven games.

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