Considering how swift and aggressive his ambush has been on Midwest League pitching thus far, now might be a good time to check in on Royce Lewis before he earns a promotion to High-A. He’s currently slashing .339/.379/.403 with a home run, 10 RBI and 5 steals. The Twins’ top prospect has hit safely in seven of his eight previous games and if you ask him about his recent surge, without hesitation he’ll mention a return to old habits. The No. 20 overall prospect according to MLB.com has reverted to trusting his hands and using a more conventional approach at the plate, opposed to the high leg kick that he implemented over the winter. Lewis never settled in to the added component and after accruing just six hits in the first seven games, he decided to scrap the new feature and return to what he considered natural and trustworthy.
With just more than a month left before his 19th birthday, Lewis is eager to find the power he tapped into last season across stints in rookie ball and Low-A. In 54 games between the Gulf Coast League and Cedar Rapids he blasted four home runs and collected fifteen extra-base hits. This season he’s left the yard just once, while only 2 of his 21 hits have went for extra bases. Normally, when a highly touted prospect turns in an 8:4 K:BB ratio it might raise a red flag, but with the immense talent that Lewis has flashed to this point plus the fact that he’s done this over 66 plate appearances tells us that there is nothing to raise any concern over. The tools are there, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Lewis is a plus-plus runner from the right side and some evaluators consider him to have the quickest bat of the 2017 draft class, which portends to plus power in the future. Some questions have been raised as to his ability to handle the shortstop position at higher levels, but that won’t stop his progression through the Twins system at any juncture. At 6-1, 185 pounds Lewis carries elite athleticism with him every time he takes the field, so even a move to center field before he hits the majors wouldn’t be a detriment to his overall value to the organization.
Twins’ prospects Edwar Colina and Jovani Moran combined to toss the first no-hitter for Cedar Rapids since 2013, in a 10-0 rout of the South Bend Cubs. Colina, the 5-11. 182 lbs native of Venezuela worked six innings, striking out two, but issuing five walks, while lowering his ERA to a paltry 0.60. Moran took over in the seventh inning, promptly yielding a free pass and plunking the following batter. After settling in, Moran would face the minimum the rest of the way earning the save and a lace in Midwest League history.
Over his last 50 at-bats, which spans 14 days, Brandon Marsh is showing why he was selected in the second round of the 2016 amateur draft. The 20 year-old Burlington outfielder slashed .340/.424/.580 with three home runs and 12 RBI, while posting impressive 14.9 percent & .219 walk and isolated power rates respectively. Marsh remains perfect in the stolen base department as well swiping four bags in four attempts – impressive for his 6-2, 190 pound frame. He currently resides in the top 10 in OPS (.948), wOBA (.430) & wRC+ (160) amongst the MWL leaderboards. Perhaps the one glaring weakness that Marsh could stand to tamp down a bit would be his healthy 28.9 percent strikeout rate. Marsh has recorded at least two strikeouts in each of his last five games, but that shouldn’t impede his progress towards High-A Inland by midseason.
According to Dylan Sinn of The Journal Gazette, MacKenzie Gore , the top pitching prospect in the Padres organization, threw a simulated game against TinCaps hitters under the watchful eyes of manager Anthony Contreras and pitching coach Burt Hooten. The game consisted of two innings as the No. 3 pick from last year’s draft seemed fine physically and showed very little rust as his fastball had plenty of zip and his off-speed offerings weren’t that far from game ready. Gore, who hasn’t pitched since his first start April 10 vs Lansing is on track to take the hill at Quad Cities or Kane County next week barring any setbacks.
Jeisson Rosario, the fourth-youngest hitter in the Midwest League, is a perfect 8-for-8 on stolen bases this year, which ranks him fourth in that leaderboard category. Rosario has never wowed evaluators with any super tools, but his approach at the plate is what separates him from other 18 year-old hitters. Last season in rookie ball his batted ball profile showed his propensity to hit the ball to the opposite field, which is not a bad thing at all, unless you’re doing it 54.2 percent of the time, which was precisely the case. Over the winter, he’s worked on pulling the ball a bit more and the results so far have been impressive, as he’s produced a pull percentage of 35.2 and an opposite field percentage of 38.9. Nice work for a player whose 19th birthday isn’t until well after the season ends.
Lake County right-hander Elijah Morgan was named MWL pitcher of the week after turning in his best stat of the season on April 27 at Bowling Green. Morgan, the Indians 8th round selection out of Gonzaga was dominant against the Hot Rods, racking up 8 strikeouts and allowing just two hits over 5.2 innings, while lowering his ERA to 1.37 o the season. Through five starts, Morgan is missing plenty of bats as his 11.96 K/9 is good for fourth in the Midwest League.
Another prospect that’s worth taking notice of in the loaded Blue Jays system is 21 year-old shortstop Kevin Smith. He was recently named Midwest League player of the week for his blistering performance at the plate where he went 13-for-30 with a home run and eight runs batted in. Smith, who’s in the midst of a twelve-game hit streak, put up a ridiculous .433 batting average and .471 OBP for the week and he now leads the MWL in total bases with 50, while ranking third in slugging percentage at .554.
With his red-hot performance over the last seven games, Burlington Bees outfielder Torii Hunter seems to have hit his stride just in time for the warmer weather. The former Notre Dame wide receiver slashed .500/.560/.591 over that same period, scoring five runs and collecting three steals along the way. He attributes his hot-streak to making better decisions on pitch selection and not chasing balls out of the zone as he did to begin the season. In all fairness, Hunter only began to concentrate solely on baseball in 2017 after ending his football career in 2016. He’ll turn 23 on June 7, pushing him slightly over the median age for Low-A, but if we can take anything away from his performance in rookie-ball last year (.352/.432/.441) the son of the nine-time Gold Glove winner will surely be able to make up for lost time.
At just one week shy of his 18th birthday, Justin Lopez crushed his first home run of the 2018 campaign. The 6-2, 170 pound native of Bobare, Venezuela is currently the youngest player in the Midwest League. The fact that he’s playing shortstop and at a relatively high level of proficiency shows just how high his ceiling could be. San Diego thought enough of his ability that they signed him to a $1.2 million contract in July of 2016. He’s considered more of a defensive player at the moment, but his strong wrists and quick hands allude to projectable power down the road.
Featured image of Royce Lewis – via Twins Daily (photo credit William Parmeter)
I call Fort Wayne, Indiana home and spend more time than I'd like to admit cheering on the TinCaps every summer at Parkview Field. I'm infatuated with all things baseball and am currently on a quest with my family to attend a game at all 30 MLB ballparks within the next few years. Wish me luck. I'm a bit too analytical at times, in fact, you could say I have a rather unhealthy relationship with wOBA, which makes wRC+ insanely jealous. I'll be covering the Midwest League for Prospects1500.