Friday, September 29 2023

CHICAGO — Royce Lewis was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft. He was the Twins’ top prospect as he worked his way through the farm system and the promise of his talent was cause for excitement across the organization for years.

But when Lewis returned to the Twins in late May, after two anterior cruciate ligament surgeries in his right knee, there was really no way for the Twins to anticipate what he might look like. If there had been expectations, it’s safe to say he would have exceeded them by now.

“I had no idea what to expect. No one had any idea what to expect,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “If anyone thinks or claims they did, they’re lying. It’s not true. He hadn’t played enough.”

In addition to two years being wiped out by injury, Lewis didn’t play in a game in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the cancellation of the minor league season.

Everything he’s been through makes everything he’s doing right now all the more impressive. Lewis finished the series in Chicago 6 for 14 with five walks and is now hitting .310 with a .915 OPS on the season. He entered the day leading all Twins position players with a 2.5 bWAR (Wins Above Replacement per Baseball Reference) despite having played in just 55 games this season before Sunday. Lewis has driven in 51 runs on the season and has 14 home runs, four of them grand slams.

“All we knew was what we had seen before and we were hoping that he returned and the skills came back reasonably quickly,” Baldelli said. “They came back faster than we thought.”

All that time away from the field meant that Lewis didn’t have the traditional development path. He’s played just 81 games in Double-A and Triple-A combined. And last year, he played in 12 major league games.

At 24, he’s played far less than his peers. But the Twins threw him into the fire — and had him learn a new position, third base, on top of all that — and he’s responded, bringing a jolt to the lineup.

“All I could expect is I’m going to work as hard as I can to be the best version of myself each and every day for my teammates, my team and myself,” Lewis said. “Just grow off that every day because that’s all we could do as baseball players. … You have to continue to work at it, grow each day and learn from your mistakes. I’ve made a lot. I’m a rookie. Rookie mistakes, that’s a real term. I’m constantly learning every day.”

And so the Twins have gone from not knowing what to expect from Lewis to getting more than they could have imagined.

“We’re seeing a superstar in the making right now this year,” shortstop Carlos Correa said. “The talent that he possesses is the type of talent that can carry an organization to winning a lot of ball games.”

Taylor return imminent

Center fielder Michael A. Taylor has proclaimed himself ready for a return — and it seems as if that’ll come within the next few days.

“I’ve done just about everything. We ran bases. Sprinting on the field, changing directions, my outfield work,” Taylor said. “I feel like I’ve checked all the boxes and I’m in a good spot. I feel like I’m ready.”

Taylor has been on the injured list since Sept. 3 with a right hamstring strain, but has reached the point where he is pushing it while running and called Saturday’s work the best he had felt in a long time. He also said he’s done his best to stick to his routine with his cage work, and he feels like he’s in a good spot there, too.

“(Barring) any setback or anything like that, we feel pretty confident that he’s got a very good chance to be activated on the Cincinnati trip,” acting manager Jayce Tingler said.


Sunday was Tingler’s first game managing in Baldelli’s absence. Baldelli returned to Minnesota to be with his wife, Allie, for the birth of their twin boys. … The Twins will send Joe Ryan, Kenta Maeda and Bailey Ober to the mound this upcoming week against Cincinnati. … Ryan Jeffers, after smoking third base coach Tommy Watkins with a foul ball: “He’s gotta be quicker. He was kind of moving in slow motion trying to get out of the way of that. Too much pizza and wings.”

Source: Yahoo Sports


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