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Playing center field, Lewis steals show in AFL

@wboor
September 20, 2019

PHOENIX -- Royce Lewis did a bit of everything on Thursday night as the Twins’ No. 1 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, hit a homer and also crashed into the wall as he made a running catch in center field. Yes, Lewis, who spent just eight innings in the outfield during

PHOENIX -- Royce Lewis did a bit of everything on Thursday night as the Twins’ No. 1 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, hit a homer and also crashed into the wall as he made a running catch in center field.

Yes, Lewis, who spent just eight innings in the outfield during the Minor League season, got the start in center in Salt River’s 4-1 win over Mesa.

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“It felt pretty good,” Lewis said. “It’s just going out there and getting a feel, kind of just learning it in BP and giving your best effort and just being an athlete.”

The 20-year-old will certainly be adding to his defensive versatility this fall as he’s already played a couple of different positions. Lewis has played all but 17 innings of his Minor League career at shortstop, yet in two games in Arizona, he’s played nine innings in the outfield and nine at third base, where he started Wednesday.

“I’m just a team guy,” Lewis, the No. 9 overall prospect, said. “I’m willing to get some at-bats, help my career and help my game no matter how that is -- whether that’s playing third base or center field of wherever else."

Lewis, who couldn’t recall the last time he regularly played outfield and said it may have been in Little League, showed off his natural athleticism in the top of the fourth as he raced 121 feet and reached a sprint speed of 27.2 feet per second to make a catch up against the center-field wall.

Riding the momentum of his defensive efforts, Lewis then showed off his offensive skill set with a two-run homer, his first of the fall, in the bottom half of the frame.

“I went in there with some good juju,” the 2017 No. 1 overall Draft pick said. “When you make a good play on defense and you come back for offense, it’s always cool knowing that you are coming up. You have some good juju by your side and I got into a good count, 3-1, and got a fastball right in my spot.”

Lewis crushed the 94.5 mph fastball 404 feet out to left, continuing what has been a strong start to the Fall League season.

After hitting .236/.290/.371 over 127 games with Class A Advanced Fort Myers and Double-A Pensacola during the regular season, Lewis is 4-for-7 with a double, homer and four RBIs through two games in Arizona.

“The environment and just feeling a little bit closer to home on the West Coast, growing up in this dry heat … ish,” Lewis, who grew up in Southern California, said when asked about his fast start. “Feeling a lot more comfortable over here, seeing my family and friends a lot more often. It’s pretty special.”

William Boor is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.