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Fantasy Baseball: Prospect Royce Lewis an exciting replacement for injured Carlos Correa

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I have a good feeling about this one.

When Royce Lewis suffered a torn ACL last March, he vowed to come back better than ever.

“2022 is going to be scary and spooky, man,” he said at the time. “Just watch out.”

He seems to have meant it. His production at Triple-A through 24 games demanded to be noticed, which was especially encouraging given his well documented mechanical problems when last we saw him in 2019. His swing is quieter, his leg kick shorter, his approach much more disciplined. According to MLB.com, he worked to be more direct to the ball and also to improve his physique.

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“I keep telling people I feel like a powerlifter,” Lewis said in spring training. “It’s all I would do — is lift and go home, eat, sleep.”  

It’s why I made him one of my five prospects to stash in the latest Prospects Report.

What I didn’t count on is Carlos Correa, the team’s big free agent shortstop signing, hurting his finger just a day later. It turned out to be just a bruise, not a fracture as initially reported, which means Lewis won’t have free rein at shortstop. But he’ll replace him for now, with a chance to prove himself indispensable in the hopes of maybe bouncing around the diamond thereafter. He’s spent time at second base, third base and center field in the minors and can presumably play anywhere but catcher. It may turn out to be another Bryson Stott situation where the Twins are forced to send him down just because they can’t find enough at-bats for him, but I do think Lewis is a special talent.

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What’s not to like? He was the top pick in the 2017 draft, so he obviously has the pedigree. He’s put in the time to get the most out of his skill set, and the production speaks for itself. He’s also showing no ill effects from the knee injury, having swiped eight bases so far. 

I know prospect call-ups haven’t been as bankable the past couple years, for whatever reason. From Jarred Kelenic to Andrew Vaughn to Jarren Duran last year as well as slow starters like Spencer Torkelson and Bobby Witt this year, some of the most high-profile have let us down in a way we were unaccustomed to during the juiced ball era, and it’s to the point now where you hesitate to add someone based solely on a hypothetical.

But I have a good feeling about this one. His determination is obvious, and his growth apparent. He’s arriving with coldest month already in the rear view, which should help him avoid some of the growing pains Torkelson and Bobby Witt have experienced. And as loaded as your draft was in shortstop talent, it’s not an easy position to fill midseason, particularly if speed is among your needs. It won’t be the only way Lewis is contributing if he meets his potential right away.

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I’m conservatively ranking him 20th among shortstops right now, but with plenty of room to improve from there.

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