SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. -- Royce Lewis remembers when he fell in love with baseball. He was 2 years old, going to games with his dad, and his attention seemed to always come back to the spot on the infield dirt halfway between second and third base where his heroes
SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. -- Royce Lewis remembers when he fell in love with baseball. He was 2 years old, going to games with his dad, and his attention seemed to always come back to the spot on the infield dirt halfway between second and third base where his heroes stood, gloves in hand.
Lewis is still fixated with shortstop, even as a prep star fresh out of JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., and most likely bound for the upper echelon of the first round in the upcoming MLB Draft.
First, Lewis gravitated toward Derek Jeter. Nowadays it's Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor. Eventually, he's sure, it'll be Royce Lewis, too. And why not believe him?
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"He's going to be a shortstop at the next level," said Lewis' high school coach, Brett Kay, responding to recent questions about whether Lewis will stick in the infield in professional ball or be thought of more as a center-field prospect. "There's no doubt in my mind.
"Because the kid wants to work. And I'll never forget a statement that he said earlier … 'I want to make my own name for myself and not be modeled after anybody else.' And I thought that was a pretty mature statement coming from a young kid."
Maturity oozes from Lewis, but there's an overabundance of talent and pure passion for the game that comes as part of a very potent package. He recently won his third consecutive Player of the Year honor in the hyper-competitive Trinity League, a Southern California pro-ball hotbed that JSerra won in 2015 and '16.
Lewis has been in the top 10 and even the top five in mock drafts, and is one of six players the Twins are reported to be considering with the No. 1 overall pick. He admits that he isn't afraid to visualize what it would be like to play in a big league stadium someday.
"That's the dream," Lewis said with a big smile. "Looking out into the crowd, seeing all those fans and just being really happy."
On Draft day, the dream should be one step closer. Lewis has prepared for the moment for years, having taken part in a Team USA victory over Cuba in a Pan American Baseball Confederation event in Mexico and having hit a home run in Wrigley Field in the Under Armour All-America Game last July.
Meanwhile, Kay -- who played Minor League ball in the Mets organization alongside future big league luminaries as David Wright, Jose Reyes, Jason Bay and Angel Pagan -- says Lewis has the potential to be as good as, if not better than, all of them.
"First of all, he's an outstanding kid," Kay said. "Throw all the baseball stuff out the window, and from an organizational standpoint, he's the type of kid that you want to start an organization with. That's the type of kid he is. He's a special kid in every facet, and then you throw in the baseball stuff and he's the most dynamic baseball player I've ever coached in my life."
Kay raves about Lewis' bat speed, power, speed on the basepaths, arm strength, intuition, knowledge of the game and desire. That's a lot of tools.
"He's an athlete," Kay said. "He's an athlete playing baseball. He's the best athlete I think I've ever seen. And now you put him on a baseball field. … I can't imagine what's going through a 17-year-old's brain right now, but he just wants to go out and have fun, and he makes this baseball field his playground. And I mean that in every sense of the nicest way I could."
Kay talks about how it seems like Lewis wants every ball hit to him in the infield, not to show off his skills for any personal gain but just because he loves playing baseball so much. Lewis doesn't dispute it.
"I'm a high-energy, have-a-lot-of-fun kind of guy," Lewis said. "And I'll bring that to the table each and every day. A guy who brings his heart and just pulls it all out in the game. I love this game and it's an honor."
The 2017 Draft will take place from Monday, June 12, through Wednesday, June 14, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB Network and MLB.com at 6 p.m on the 12th. MLB Network will broadcast the first 36 picks (Round 1 and Competitive Balance Round A), while MLB.com will stream all 75 picks on Day 1. MLB.com will also provide live pick-by-pick coverage of Rounds 3-10 on Day 2, starting at 1 p.m. ET. Then, Rounds 11-40 can be heard live on MLB.com on June 14, beginning at noon ET.
Go to MLB.com/draft to see the Top 200 Draft Prospects list, projected top picks from MLBPipeline.com analysts Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, the complete order of selection and more. And follow @MLBDraft on Twitter to see what Draft hopefuls, clubs and experts are saying.
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.