Correa blocking Twins' prospects? 'Hopefully, we're all playing together'

January 28th, 2023

MINNEAPOLIS -- The top two prospects in the Twins’ organization are both first-round shortstops, so it was natural to wonder how they’d feel about their futures in light of Carlos Correa’s return to the Twin Cities on a deal that figures to plant him at shortstop for at least the next six years.

Brooks Lee and Royce Lewis couldn’t be more excited.

“I'm as lucky as anybody is in professional baseball,” said Lee, the Twins’ first-round pick in the 2022 MLB Draft. “Right when [Correa] re-signed, it was, 'This was probably the best thing that could have happened to me,' just to have someone like that with the track record and the success. Ultimately, he's a great guy, great leader, and it's obvious every single day.”

“I was just really excited that he's back, because the mentorship I got last year was so awesome,” said Lewis, selected No. 1 overall by the Twins in 2017. “And then for me to get hurt and lose that, it really broke my heart. I mean, this is my favorite player and someone that's taught me so much.”

Lee, Lewis and Correa were gathered together in the visiting clubhouse at Target Field for the return of TwinsFest on Saturday, and they’ll reunite in Fort Myers, Fla., for Spring Training in three weeks, where Correa is certain to continue taking the youngsters under his wing. It will be Lee’s first Spring Training as a professional, while Lewis will progress to more “active” and “lateral” running, he said, in his recovery from a second torn right ACL.

Then, they’ll go their separate ways -- for now.

Correa will take his place at shortstop on the big league club. Lee, who finished his first professional half-season with Double-A Wichita, will return to the Minors. Lewis will start the season on the injured list, eyeing a midseason return. But it shouldn’t be long before their paths converge back on the Twins’ 26-man roster -- and what then?

The Twins have long maintained that they don’t view having too many shortstop prospects as a problem. Elite middle-of-the-field athletes are rare, and if anything, that’s a good problem to have, with the ability to flex that athleticism out to other infield positions and even to the outfield as needed. They did just that with Lewis last season, moving him to center field before he again tore his ACL in a collision with the outfield wall.

“I’m looking forward in investing in them a lot, like I did with [Jeremy] Peña in Houston,” Correa said. “When these guys come up to the big leagues, it helps. Eventually if they become superstars, it’s just going to make us better. We draft based on talent, not positions, and their talent is good enough to play anywhere in the infield or the outfield. That excites me.”

Both Lee and Lewis are mature enough to understand that already. Having pushed to the high Minors, Lee already has his eyes on the big leagues. He just wants to get there, and doesn’t care where the opportunity might be.

When the Twins re-signed Correa, general manager Thad Levine called Lewis to say that the organization viewed him as a “championship-type player,” regardless of position. Lewis doesn’t have any guesses as to where he’ll make his eventual return, though he does prefer the infield, as he thinks of it as “safer” -- and it’s hard to blame him, given his current injury situation.

Sometime down the line, it’s not tough to imagine that trio -- Lewis, Lee and Correa -- united in an infield alignment together, with one perhaps having moved to third base and another to second, as some Draft evaluators projected for Lee and Correa in any case.

"Yeah, that sounds pretty good to me,” Lee said. “That sounds like an infield that can hit and play defense. Wherever they put me, Royce and I, we're both really eager to get back on the field. Whenever that happens, hopefully we line up at the Major League level and I can get pushed in there. Hopefully, we're all playing together.”

Inside those clubhouse walls, they’re already imagining what that future might look like.

“The talent they bring to the table, the bats they’re going to bring, the stability in the lineup once they’re established on a big league roster, it’s going to help us build what we want to build, which is a dynasty that’s going to show up every single year in the playoffs and help us win a World Series,” Correa said.