CHICAGO – The Minnesota Twins have had anything but a smooth ride offensively this season. Their superstar shortstop Carlos Correa has been up and down — much like the rest of the team’s lineup — and center fielder Byron Buxton, as usual, hasn’t been able to stay on the field. But an unlikely hero has emerged and has Minnesota on the precipice of the AL Central crown.
Royce Lewis was supposed to be the guy. He was picked No. 1 overall in the 2017 MLB Draft, was a top-10 prospect for several seasons and had everything in front of him to succeed. And just as he was about to make his mark, a torn ACL during spring 2021 put his development on hold. Twelve long months later, Lewis finally got his shot to be part of the Twins future. In a short time, he displayed all the tools that made him the first pick in the draft. But the unthinkable happened again.
Lewis tore his ACL for the second time while making a play in center field. And just like that, the promising career of one of baseball’s most highly-touted prospects was in jeopardy. One torn ACL is enough to change the lives of several athletes; two torn ACLs is almost unheard of, especially in a non-contact sport like baseball. Baseball onlookers began to wonder if the former number one pick could ever reach his true potential.
He’s answering those questions in a resounding fashion.
“It’s so much fun,” Lewis told reporters last week. “This team is so special. … Just to crack the team and be a part of it. For me, I’m going out there and proving myself each and every day because this game is hard. You’re going to go through those times where it’s tough, but you’ve got to enjoy the fun while you have it. We’re playing really good right now. It’s fun.”
Lewis is in the middle of his breakout in Minnesota and has been a force in the middle of the Twins’ lineup. The third baseman is slashing .308/.370/.551 with 15 homers and six stolen bases in 56 games this season. Since August 15 when he returned from a brief IL stint, he has a .996 OPS with 11 homers.
“Our young players, they’ve started their Major League careers very well,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “They came in and produced from the very beginning. They came in and looked comfortable like they could just come in and resume the good play they were giving us in Triple-A.”
Minnesota was looking for a difference-maker in the middle of their lineup, and with Correa and Buxton going through their individual struggles, Lewis’ production has come as a welcomed sight.
The Twins’ strength this season has been their starting pitching, which has been a top-five unit in all of baseball. But as Minnesota gets closer to clinching the AL Central and setting their eyes on the postseason, getting more offense is going to need to be a focus over the season’s final three weeks. Over the last month of the season, Minnesota is tied for seventh in MLB in runs scored.
In a year with so many young players getting an opportunity to reach the big leagues and have success, Lewis’ ascension and breakout has been one of baseball’s best stories. Being able to finally stay healthy is something that the Twins’ star and the organization wanted to see. Being able to help carry them into the postseason has to make it even sweeter.