Twins To Promote Royce Lewis

Per a report from Jon Morosi of MLB Network, the Twins will promote top prospect (and top overall pick in the 2017 draft) Royce Lewis today. He’ll likely take the roster spot of offseason signing Carlos Correa, who’s set to undergo a CT scan after clubhouse X-rays indicated a likely non-displaced fracture of his right middle finger — an injury not likely to keep him out for several months but that will likely require an IL stint. Should Lewis find his way into bench coach Jayce Tingler’s lineup (manager Rocco Baldelli is currently away from the team after testing positive for COVID), the Twins will be replacing one 1-1 (the Astros selected Correa first overall in the 2012 draft, one spot ahead of teammate Byron Buxton) with another.

It isn’t clear whether Baldelli, Tingler, and Twins’ front-office duo Thad Levine and Derek Falvey intend to keep Lewis in the majors after Correa returns — or, indeed, exactly how long Correa will be out — but it’s unlikely they’d have promoted him if they didn’t expect him to play every day, at least until their $105.3MM man returns. While he’s unlikely to maintain the same level of production in his first taste of the big leagues, Lewis’ red-hot start to the year in the International League may well indicate that he’s ready to meet the challenge. Through 107 plate appearances at Triple-A St. Paul, the 22-year-old is slashing a robust .310/.430/.563 with nearly as many walks (17) as strikeouts (20).

How he’ll react to the promotion remains to be seen, of course, but Twins fans will have high hopes for the club’s first top overall pick since Joe Mauer. While Correa ultimately landing in Minnesota was surprising for a number of reasons, Lewis’ presence wasn’t near the top of the list. Correa was and is widely expected to opt out of the final two years of his three-year guarantee to test the market again this winter (though that could change should his finger injury prove more serious than initial reports suggest), and Lewis hadn’t played an official game since 2019 after the cancellation of the 2020 minor league season due to the COVID pandemic and a February 2021 ACL tear that held him out of action for another full season. Indeed, that Lewis even opened the season in Triple-A was a bit surprising given he’d played only 33 games above High-A heading into the season.

Between the time missed and his relatively pedestrian numbers prior to the ACL injury (he slashed a combined .236/.290/.371 in 566 trips to the plate between High-A Fort Myers and Double-A Pensacola in 2019 before raking in the Arizona Fall League), Lewis had fallen somewhat precipitously down prospect lists. Baseball America, for instance, had ranked him the 9th-best prospect in the game ahead of the 2019 season, but he’d fallen to number 82 heading into 2022. The talent that led the Twins to take him first overall in 2017 clearly remains, though, and the toolsy shortstop will shortly get his first chance to prove he can hack it in the bigs — albeit a fair bit earlier than anyone would have expected as recently as a day ago.

Should Lewis prove himself capable of producing in the majors, it isn’t clear how the Twins will handle the infield logjam upon Correa’s return, though this would, of course, be something of an enviable problem to have. Lewis is unlikely to unseat Correa (by some metrics, including the 2021 Fielding Bible Awards, the best defensive shortstop in baseball) on a permanent basis, but he could likely shift to either second or third with relative ease, perhaps pushing Gio Urshela to first base (at least while Miguel Sanó recovers from recent meniscus surgery) or moving around the infield while others rotate in and out of the DH role. Regardless of how Lewis’ first taste of the majors pans out, though, Twins fans will surely be excited to get their first look at their likely shortstop of the future. But with their team holding an early lead in the AL Central, they’ll also hope to see him produce — particularly if Correa’s IL stint proves at all lengthy.

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