Turns out, Royce Lewis might be too talented for the Gulf Coast League too.
Just a few months after graduating from JSerra High School and getting selected No. 1 overall in the Major League Baseball Draft, the 18-year-old shortstop is tearing up the 17-team Gulf Coast League, much the way he shredded through the Trinity League the past four years.
Playing for the Minnesota Twins rookie-level team in Fort Myers, Fla, Lewis homered in his first professional at-bat on June 26 and hasn’t slowed down.
He was hitting .308 through the first 24 games as of July 27, blasting three home runs in all while driving in 12 runs. He’s been a terrific table setter for his teammates, scoring a league-leading 28 runs at the 24-game mark, and has displayed a keen eye for the strike zone, totaling 10 walks and only 11 strikeouts.
“His mentality, for his age, that was one thing that put me in shock,” manager Ramon Borrego told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Playing shortstop, he’s solid right now. Hitting-wise, he’s solid. He’s got really good instincts to steal, really good instincts for baserunning. He’s the whole package.”
It certainly hasn’t been a simple adjustment for Lewis, who is finding the humidity of southwest Florida doesn’t relent during the summer months.
“The sweat, that’s the only thing that bothers me, sweat going in my eyes,” he said. “My dad said I should wear a bandanna, but I said no, I’ve got to show off the hair.”
Lewis’s sense of humor and ability to quickly connect with players from widely different backgrounds has also caught the eye of those around the team. Onlookers would never know he signed a $6.725 million signing bonus on June 17, the largest ever paid to a high school player.
“What makes him stand out is his charisma,” Twins scout Derrick Dunbar told the Star-Tribune. “He’s a very charismatic guy, and that comes through in how he plays. I’ve seen him dancing on the field a couple of times. He’s always smiling, always talking, very engaged with his teammates and coaches. This is the first time I’ve seen him, but it’s been fun to watch him.”
Those who follow the Trinity League were lucky to watch Lewis shine for four years. Those who live in the minor league cities and towns which Lewis will pass through will likely have a much shorter window to watch him in person, as he appears destined to quickly rise through the six levels of minor-league baseball in his climb to the major leagues.
Still, Lewis doesn’t want to look too far ahead, instead enjoying the view along the way.
“It’s an amazing thing. I love it,” he said of his current situation. “I’m having so much fun out here working at my craft and baseball every day. It’s a dream that’s finally came true.”
Blake Hunt might have been a bigger surprise in the latest draft. The former Mater Dei catcher was selected in the second round by the San Diego Padres, and he’s also grinding it out at the low rookie level this summer, only he’s playing in the scorching temperatures of the Arizona League.
Hunt has displayed a hot bat in his first 19 games, stringing together an 11-game hitting streak from July 7-23 and belting his first two home runs in that span.