AFL MVP aspirant Lewis keys Salt River's clinch

October 22nd, 2019

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Royce Lewis' Arizona Fall League season keeps getting better. After winning the Bowman Fall Stars Game MVP and Championship Chains Hitter of the Week awards in the previous nine days, the Twins' center fielder provided the key hit to deliver the Salt River Rafters the East Division title Monday night.

Lewis' ninth-inning double sparked a six-run rally for an 11-7 victory over the Glendale Desert Dogs. The Rafters (16-10) will meet the Surprise Saguaros (16-10) for the AFL championship Saturday at 11 a.m. MST at Salt River Fields.

"That's what we came here for, to get a ring," said Lewis, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 Draft. "I remember [Salt River manager Keith Johnson] saying Day 1, as soon as we got here after our meeting, 'Congrats for being a champion.' And we were all like, 'What are you talking about?' and he was like, 'You're the champions.'

"So that was our goal from Day 1 and we've been working real hard as a team ... Now we're getting after it, and that's exciting."

The primary focus of the Fall League is player development, and Lewis has taken several positive steps after a disappointing 2019 regular season in which he hit .236/.290/.371 with 12 homers and 22 steals between Class A Advanced and Double-A. He's still just 20 years old and shows the potential for solid or better tools across the board.

A top candidate for the AFL's MVP award, Lewis ranks among the league leaders in most offensive categories and is hitting .359/.420/.590 with three homers and five steals in 20 games. After going 2-for-5 on Monday, he trails Scottsdale third baseman Alec Bohm (Phillies) by .002 in the batting race.

"I've been working hard all year and just been fine-tuning little things," Lewis said. "I think if anything, it was more of a mental adjustment all year, and every day I've been progressing a lot more. For being 20 years old, that's a good thing. I know I'm young and I've got a lot of time in the Minor Leagues, so just taking my time with it."

Lewis' double drove in second baseman José Devers (Marlins) to cut Surprise's lead to one while also advancing shortstop Geraldo Perdomo (D-backs) to third base. Both Perdomo and Lewis scored on wild pitches by Mitchell White (Dodgers) to give the Rafters the lead, and right fielder Luke Raley (Twins) capped the outburst with a three-run homer off Tyler Johnson (White Sox). Raley's third blast in his last three games traveled 369 feet with an exit velocity of 104 mph, and it gave him five RBIs on the night.

Glendale dropped to 11-15, the worst record in the Fall League. Designated hitter Micker Adolfo (White Sox) hit a 414-foot homer with an exit velocity of 106 mph off Dakota Chalmers (Twins) in the fourth inning. Catcher David Fry (Brewers) also went deep for the Desert Dogs, a 360-foot shot with an exit velocity of 103 mph against Vincenzo Aiello (Marlins) in the seventh.