SEATTLE -- Kyle Lewis says he can't wait to get started in pro baseball and that's just fine with the Mariners, who became the first Major League team to sign their first-round pick from the 2016 Draft when they inked the 20-year-old outfielder on Saturday and let him hit batting
SEATTLE -- Kyle Lewis says he can't wait to get started in pro baseball and that's just fine with the Mariners, who became the first Major League team to sign their first-round pick from the 2016 Draft when they inked the 20-year-old outfielder on Saturday and let him hit batting practice with their club at Safeco Field.
Lewis' day included Robinson Cano giving him a bat to use in his first hitting session and Felix Hernandez loaning him a glove to catch balls in the outfield. And, yes, putting his name on a contract for the full-slot value bonus of $3,286,700 for being the No. 11 overall pick.
"That's a different type of feeling," acknowledged the junior out of Mercer University. "I had to take a step back after I signed the contract. I got chills for a moment. Just really exciting. Being able to get it going and take that first step is just huge for me. I want to hit the ground running."
Tom McNamara, the club's amateur scouting director, said Lewis will head to Peoria, Ariz., for a few days of workouts before joining the Short-A Everett club to start his pro career.
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Lewis was Baseball America's College Player of the Year after hitting .395 with 70 runs, 20 homers and 72 RBIs with a .535 on-base percentage in his junior year at Mercer, a school of about 4,000 students in Macon, Ga.
Mercer head coach Craig Gibson, who also coached A's outfielder Billy Burns, says Lewis has tremendous untapped potential due to his late start in baseball.
"This guy could be a 10-year All-Star," Gibson said. "He's got some ceiling left. The other kids taken ahead of him are good players, but Kyle has a lot more in that tank. He hit the ball out of the park and didn't run a lot for us, but that part of his game is going to develop. I think at the next level, he's a guy that can steal 25 bags and bunt for base hits. A lot more to his game is going to come out."
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Lewis is in full agreement on that front.
"I think that's a big part of my game that really hasn't been tapped into yet," he said. "Right now I think I'm on an upper progression every year. I just want to continue to be a complete player. I feel like I can do that in a game in a number of ways."
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Lewis acknowledged the nerves were running high when he stepped in to take batting practice in the Mariners final foursome in pregame work, alongside Dae-Ho Lee, Chris Iannetta and Shawn O'Malley. His first round went by in a blur as he looked rushed, but he settled down his second session, lined a number of balls to the opposite field and then drove the last pitch of that round over the wall in left-center.
"It was awesome," he said. "I was pretty nervous, I'm not going to lie to you. But it was fun. I just tried to go out there and be myself and put my best swings on things and just try to have fun with it and soak everything in."
Lewis said he always wore a Mariners cap in high school and was thrilled the veterans were so welcoming to him.
As for getting Cano's bat?
"I'll be keeping that one," he said with a grin. "I might have to use that bad boy in a game."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter [
@GregJohnsMLB]() and listen to his podcast.