The Minnesota Twins surprised most of the baseball world by using their No. 1 draft pick on Royce Lewis, a southern California shortstop prosect who turned 18 last week.
Among the people most surprised: Royce Lewis, who told the Orange County Register he learned he was Minnesota's man at the same moment everyone else did – "7:11 p.m. Eastern time, 4:11 Pacific time, 6:11 Central time" – thus demonstrating a solid if not comprehensive understanding of American time zones.
In taking Lewis, the Twins passed on Hunter Greene, a hard-throwing pitching prosect with rare crossover skills as a hitter, and more-proven college prospects Brendan McKay (1B, Louisville) and Kyle Wright (a pitcher at Vanderbilt).
There's a reason no one knew who Minnesota was taking until the last minute. They didn't know, either. Twins vice president Mike Radcliff told the Star Tribune the team made the decision five minutes before the draft started, though hardly on a whim: Team scouts had watched Lewis play in person 16 (!) times.
This video round-up below gives a decent idea of what they would've seen at JSerra Catholic High School in San Capistrano, where Lewis hit .388 this past season. The kid's fast (25 stolen bases), big (6-foot-2) and lean (190-ish pounds).
And funny: Asked about his current ball-smacking ability, Lewis said, "I feel like I haven't grown into any of my man-strength yet." (A scary thought, that, for those who've seen him crush pitches into and over walls.)
The Twins said Lewis' charisma was a deciding factor, with scouting director Sean Johnson telling the Strib the teenager's personality could "change a franchise." This combination of physical gifts and presence has some comparing Lewis to recently retired Yankees legend Derek Jeter.
The connection checks out: Click here to see a clip of Lewis mic'd up on the field, including a couple instances of synchronized, multi-step handshakes with teammates, which are always fun. Below, watch Lewis run fast, work the count, smash bad pitches and poke easy ones, all while looking pretty comfortable in the batter's box, at shortstop, and in his own skin.
Having sent zero scouts to observe Lewis in person but watched several videos of him, City Pages selects Royce Lewis as a cool guy.