Royce Lewis, Twins looking forward to his first full season in the big leagues

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A year ago at this time, Royce Lewis watched as his Twins teammates packed up to head north without him, unable to join them. He already had been placed on the 60-day injured list as he made his way back from his second anterior cruciate ligament surgery, meaning the earliest he could return was late May.

Recent seasons had been marred by injuries, and 2023 starting out with months of rehab, as well. His first torn ACL wiped out the entire 2021 season, then Lewis played in 12 major-league games before injuring the same knee in mid-2022.

When he finally came back from his second surgery last season, he dealt with a couple more injuries, straining his oblique and then his hamstring. But in between injuries, when he was on the field, he flashed his immense potential. And now, fully healthy, he’s looking forward to his first full season as a major leaguer.

“I’m very excited to get going,” Lewis said. “I feel like you can’t play every game unless you start with No. 1, so that’s what I’m looking forward to doing (and) just being available for (Twins manager) Rocco (Baldelli) and the staff as much as possible.”

In the glimpses that the team got of Lewis last season, the Twins couldn’t have asked for much more.

And, well, the excitement around the uber-talented 24-year-old and what he might be able to accomplish during a full season is high.

“A full season of a productive and healthy Royce, it changes your offensive outlook, your offensive outcomes. It changes everything,” Baldelli said. “… I mean, it’s not a shock to hear that a full year of Royce Lewis means that our offense is probably going to do some really good things.”

Last year, Lewis, the first overall pick in the 2017 draft, hit 15 home runs in just 239 plate appearances — four of them grand slams. He added four more home runs in six playoff games, including two of Game 1 of the Wild Card Series, propelling the Twins to their first playoff series victory since 2002.

He hit .309 with a .372 on-base percentage and .548 slugging percentage. His finished the season with a 150 OPS+ (100 represents a league-average hitter). He quickly became a fan favorite, both for his talent and his positive, enthusiastic nature.

Perhaps the most impressive thing he’s seen him do, Baldelli said, is excel after coming back straight from injury with little almost no ramp-up time.

“He just kind of walks in the door and performs,” Baldelli said. “He’s a performer.”

And now he’s a performer with a position, solidifying himself as the Twins’ third baseman. Lewis was drafted as a shortstop, but with veteran star Carlos Correa entrenched there, the Twins briefly tried him in center field — where he was when he crashed into a wall and tore his ACL for the second time — in 2022 before he eventually settled in at third last year.

“That, for sure, feels way more established for me,” Lewis said of knowing he’ll play third base this season. “You’re just more comfortable going out to the same spot every day knowing where I’m going, not moving around during our … fungoes (where) you go to short, third, second, or even taking outfield stuff. It makes it way easier.”

But while he feels established at his position, he still doesn’t feel established as a major leaguer. Though he has looked every bit the star since he was first called up in 2022, he has, after all, played just 70 games in his career.

“I still look at it like I’ve got to fight to show them that I belong here, and just continue to earn a spot each and every day,” Lewis said.

And after spending so much time watching his teammates — either from afar or while sidelined by injury on the bench — his motivations are simple.

“I want to win, and I want to play in the big leagues every day possible,” Lewis said.

Related Articles