Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Twins send Royce Lewis back to minors after stellar 11-game stretch to make room for returning Carlos Correa

An injury to superstar shortstop Carlos Correa forced the Twins into bringing Royce Lewis to the majors and now Correa’s return forces Lewis right back to the minors. In between, though, Lewis — the number one overall draft pick in 2017 — did his best to show he belongs at the top level in baseball. 

Correa’s return to the first-place Twins — who are 21-16 and have a 2 1/2 game lead over the White Sox — is a big deal, obviously. He’s an MVP-caliber performer at his best and was one of the better players on a team that won the AL pennant three of the last six seasons. In signing him, the Twins grabbed a bona fide All-Star shortstop. Perhaps his short-term injury will help the Twins in the long term now, too. 

In a 5-2 loss to the A’s Tuesday night, Lewis was one of the few Twins bright spots. He was 2 for 4 with a double and home run. Here’s the homer: 

Through just 11 games in his MLB debut, Lewis hit .308/.325/.564. That’s a 162 OPS+, 161 wRC+ and a big leap above the league average slash line of .235/.307/.377. All small-sample caveats apply, of course, but Lewis certainly looked the part of a legitimate big-leaguer in his time. 

He will be back, of course, possibly with a new role. After informing reporters Tuesday night of Lewis’ impending demotion, manager Rocco Baldelli noted that Lewis isn’t going to remain strictly a shortstop. 

“We’re going to move him around the field a little bit, to get him a little bit of exposure at some different spots,” Baldelli said, via The Athletic. “The last thing we would want to do is start sending him all around the field to play in places where he’s literally never played a game. You can do that at times if you do it one-off and you send a guy out to a particular spot. But bouncing him all around right now, probably not the best way to go and not the best way to prepare him to play at this level. But he was fantastic for us.”

The overwhelming majority of Lewis’ time as a professional has been at shortstop (308 games). He’s appeared at third base in 13 games, center field six times and second base five times. 

Judging from Baldelli’s comments, it seems like the Twins might want to try Lewis in those spots but not really branch out any further. The Twins have Byron Buxton in center field, but perhaps if he falls injured Lewis could take over there. Maybe down the line they will give Lewis a shot to be an upgrade over Gio Urshela at third base. 

It’s all something to keep in mind as Lewis heads back down to the farm. For the time being, however, consider his first stint in MLB a strong success hinting that it’s, hopefully, a sign of things to come. 

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