The Twins announced Wednesday morning that shortstop Royce Lewis, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft and one of his top two prospects, has been diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and will require surgery. The procedure comes with an expected recovery time of at least nine months, so it is likely to end your entire season. Lewis is scheduled to undergo surgery on Friday.
As Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey explained to reporters (Twitter link via MLB.com’s Do-Hyoung Park), Lewis had been dealing with some knee pain during offseason workouts. That may not have explained the tear, but he also recently slipped on some ice during snowstorms in Texas, where he lives during the off-season, compounding the discomfort. It is not known precisely when the tear occurred, but the end result is the same.
It’s a brutal blow for both the Twins and Lewis, who had a chance to break through to the majors in 2021. While their 2019 season between Class-A Advanced and Double-A wasn’t particularly good, combined .236 /. 290 / .371 slash: Lewis bounced back from that performance with a great performance in the 2019 Arizona Fall League. Through 22 games there, Lewis posted a .353 / .411 / .565 clip, hitting three home runs and nine doubles while hitting 5 of 6 on attempted stolen bases. That production earned him AFL MVP honors.
While some prospect rankings have seen the outfielder Alex Kirilloff surpassing Lewis as the Twins’ best prospect, that’s more a testament to Kirilloff’s progress than a decline in Lewis stock. Lewis has been a consensus Top 30 prospect throughout MLB since the time he was drafted, landing 17th on the MLB.com rankings in 2021 and 26th on Baseball America.
The setback for Lewis is particularly poorly timed due to the lack of a minor league season in 2020. While he spent the summer working out at the Twins’ alternate training site in St. Paul, the 2021 campaign would have given him to Lewis the opportunity to participate. in a much more competitive environment and promote his development as he progresses towards his major league debut. Now it will be more than two years between that great performance in the AFL 2019 and his next at-bat in a real game setting.
As a high school recruit, Lewis won’t even turn 22 until June, so the youth are still on his side as he works to recover from a devastating injury. Looking down, your ability to regain mobility in that knee will be particularly important, as there has already been some debate about your final position. Lewis was selected at shortstop and has spent most of his career there, although some in the industry feel he would be better equipped to play center field. He also spent a bit of time at third base.
There’s no guarantee Lewis would have made it to the majors in 2021, although with some Double-A and / or Triple-A time under his belt, it would at least have been a consideration in the event of an infield injury. He’s still an important part of the organization’s future, but Lewis will now have to navigate a substantial hurdle on his way to a Target Field debut.