Twins to proceed with caution on Lewis' return

May 21st, 2023

MINNEAPOLIS -- is eligible for activation off the 60-day injured list at the very end of May. And during Spring Training, the 23-year-old prospect -- coming off a second consecutive season-ending surgery on his torn ACL -- already knew off the top of his head that the Twins will be playing in Houston that day.

That’s how eagerly Lewis, the organization’s No. 2 prospect, has anticipated his return to action -- but will the Twins bring him up when he’s first eligible?

“I think that's a real fair question, but it's not one that I'm prepared to actually answer,” manager Rocco Baldelli said on Sunday. “The truth is, there's a lot of factors when we decide who's coming and when.”

The Twins already dealt with one of those situations earlier this month, when Alex Kirilloff completed a rehab assignment with Triple-A St. Paul. In that case, the club decided to option Kirilloff to the Saints to keep him down there because they couldn’t find consistent playing time for him on the Major League roster.

Of course, Minnesota almost immediately reversed course on that decision, bringing Kirilloff up less than a week later on May 5 to inject some energy into a lifeless lineup -- and, at this point, it sure looks like Kirilloff is here to stay.

Lewis’ bat has been similarly impactful for the Saints, as he’s hitting .375 (6-for-16) with three homers and one stolen base in four games since moving up from Double-A Wichita. With that said, he has also played in only 73 games in Double-A and Triple-A and only 12 in the Majors following a rocky start to his professional career, making his bat far from a plug-and-play sure thing with the Twins, especially coming off two torn ACLs.

Still, he has crushed Triple-A pitching since the baseball world emerged from the pandemic in 2022 and still hasn’t slowed down. And perhaps for someone of Lewis’ natural talent, it’ll be easier to overcome that lack of end-stage development and immediately be a productive Major Leaguer.

There’s also the question of where Lewis would fit onto this roster, barring injury. The Twins have been highly complimentary of Willi Castro, and with the level of play Kyle Farmer has brought as the starting third baseman, it could be tough to find Lewis at-bats at either shortstop or the hot corner, which are the positions he has focused on during his rehab process.

The more natural fit would be in the corner outfield, where Kyle Garlick currently serves as the Twins’ right-handed option. But it would be understandable for Lewis and the Twins to shy away from using him in the outfield, considering that’s where he tore his ACL last summer while playing out of position.

With all that said, the decision may -- again -- be a tough one that might not entirely have to do with the performance of the player in question, though Lewis’ continued productivity is making it a tougher and tougher call indeed.

“I think when you're talking about Carlos Correa or Byron Buxton getting hurt, being on a rehab assignment and coming back, the second that they are healthy and ready to come back and play, they will be back,” Baldelli said. “There are a lot of other guys that it's going to be circumstantial as far as when exactly they come back.”

Triple-A St. Paul: Miranda’s struggles continue
The Twins were hoping that a reset in Triple-A would help  regain his best form at the plate, but his struggles have carried into the Minors, where he’s 5-for-35 without an extra-base hit through nine games with the Saints. Though he has hit the ball hard of late, he continues to hit it either into the ground or too high into the air, still seeking the hard-hit, line-drive contact that leads to the most damage.

Double-A Wichita: Enlow impressing
Former top pitching prospect  was named the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Week as he continued to impress in his second season since returning from 2021 Tommy John surgery, as he struck out 10 without issuing a walk in 5 1/3 innings against Arkansas on Thursday. He made it through waivers when the Twins removed him from the 40-man roster during the offseason -- and that looks like a good thing, as he now owns a 3.28 ERA with 47 strikeouts and 10 walks in 35 2/3 innings.