How far can Royce Lewis soar in 2024?

January 3rd, 2024

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Injuries are perhaps the only thing that have kept  from already becoming a national household name.

The Twins' promising young third baseman missed the entire 2021 season after tearing the ACL in his right knee, then played just 12 big league games the following year before tearing the same ACL on May 29, 2022. That second injury sidelined him for the rest of the '22 campaign and the first two months of the '23 season. After returning exactly one year to the date of his second torn ACL, Lewis later missed six weeks with a strained left oblique and the final two weeks of the regular season with a strained left hamstring.

Yet despite being limited to only 58 games, Lewis racked up 15 homers (including a franchise-record four grand slams) and 52 RBIs. Obviously, it's not as simple as this, but that pace extrapolated over a 162-game sample is 41 home runs and 145 RBIs.

Along with his impressive raw numbers, Lewis also hit .309 with a .921 OPS and a 150 OPS+.

To put that in perspective, here are the only other rookies to hit .300 with at least 15 homers and a 150 OPS+ over the past 45 seasons:

• Yordan Alvarez (2019)
• Fernando Tatis Jr. (2019)
• José Abreu (2014)
• Yasiel Puig (2013)
• Mike Trout (2012)
• Ryan Braun (2007)
• Albert Pujols (2001)
• Mike Piazza (1993)

Just look at the names on that list. Those eight players have combined for 47 All-Star selections and eight MVP Awards. The only one to be eligible for the Hall of Fame to this point (Piazza) was inducted in 2016.

That's some impressive company -- and the Twins would gladly welcome Lewis following in the footsteps of nearly any one of those players in the long term.

As for the short term ... with Lewis finally getting a healthy offseason, what might the 24-year-old have in store for 2024?

Well, for starters, Twins beat reporter Do-Hyoung Park recently picked Lewis as the Twins' top breakout candidate for 2024, though he acknowledged that some may consider Lewis' 2023 run -- however brief -- his breakout season.

Park wrote, in part: "Is it cheating to put Lewis here? Maybe. Lewis already announced himself to the baseball world in ’23, when he couldn’t stop hitting grand slams and crushed a pair of homers in the victory that snapped Minnesota’s postseason losing streak. Lewis has hit for a career .309/.372/.548 mark despite having his two seasons broken up by a second torn ACL -- and now, he finally gets a healthy offseason."

Looking ahead to the 2024 season, Steamer projections on FanGraphs forecast a 27-homer season from Lewis to go along with 89 RBIs, 13 stolen bases and an .819 OPS. It's also projected that Lewis will lead all Twins position players with 3.8 WAR.

Now while projection models can certainly provide offseason entertainment and spark conversation, they are far from a concrete system -- especially in this instance. Not only does Lewis have a limited big league track record on which to base these projections, but we're also still six weeks away from players reporting to Spring Training.

Still, it's hard for Twins fans to not get excited about the type of 2024 production Lewis could provide with a fully healthy season.