MWL notes: Twins' Lewis keeps his focus

No. 20 overall prospect eliminating distractions with Cedar Rapids

Royce Lewis is hitting .315 with 13 steals in 14 attempts this season with the Class A Kernels. (Paul R. Gierhart/MiLB.com)

By Curt Rallo / Special to MiLB.com | May 24, 2018 12:00 PM ET

When Twins farm director Jeremy Zoll showed up in Cedar Rapids last week, even though it was a scheduled visit, talk around Veterans Memorial Stadium was that top prospect Royce Lewis could be packing his bags for the next stop in the organization, Class A Advanced Fort Myers.

Zoll quickly departed Cedar Rapids, but Lewis did not.

"I'm blessed to have the opportunity to be in the position I'm in," said Lewis, who as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 Draft signed a record $6.725 million contract for a high schooler and has already been celebrated in Cedar Rapids with his own bobblehead promotion.

But the 6-foot-2, 188-pound shortstop knows he won't be skyrocketing through the organization just yet.

"For me, I know that age plays a factor," said Lewis. "It's kind of a curse to be 18. It's a blessing and a curse at the same time.

"Being 18, I know that the organization has a lot of time and patience with me, to make sure I'm ready," Lewis said. "I couldn't agree more. By me believing that and understanding that I have a few years to go before I start moving, all I can do is play as hard as I can, and that's what I'm focused on."

Video: Royce Lewis sees his bobblehead

Lewis, who's hitting .315 with 13 steals in 14 attempts this year, says a steely focus reinforced by his parents has him locked into the task at hand: his continued development in Cedar Rapids.

"I just think I was born with mental toughness," Lewis said of being able to block out distractions. "I've always had it. Every once in a while, you make mistakes. I look at my mistakes, and I'll have a lot of conversations with my father about getting back that mental toughness. He always talks about being mentally tough, and how that's the way you get through everything you deal with every day. my Mom is also there to remind me to stay focused.

"I keep working hard, as hard as possible," Lewis said. "It's a grind, and it's tough. Hopefully no one sees the struggles. I keep that behind closed doors. I'm just focused on playing the game I love."

A career in athletics seemed to be destined for Lewis.

"My dad always said I'd be playing something, because my first word was ball," Lewis joked. "I love all sports, but I truly love baseball. I have a lot more fun being on the field. I'm free when I'm out there. I started loving the game when I was three, playing tee-ball.

"I love baseball because we're playing every day. Football, you play once a week. That's tough. You could have a bad game, and you don't have a chance to bounce back for another week. I love playing every day."

Lewis feels he still has a lot of boxes to check before he leaves the Midwest League.

"Every at-bat counts," Lewis said. "The amount of times I've seen a certain pitch … low and away slider or fastball inside … until I can automatically just swing and hit that pitch, or field a tough ball and make a play to first, I wouldn't say I'm ready to move up or not move up. Whenever I get the call, I'll work hard to step up to the challenge and produce.

"I think everything will develop. My power will develop as I grow up. I just want to grow in every aspect of the game. I'd like to be a really smart player, and know the ins and outs of the game. I love learning about baseball every day. I've learned something every day since I've been in pro ball, and it's been great."

In brief

Walk-off balk: Fort Wayne's five-game winning streak ended with a walk-off balk at West Michigan. With the first game of a doubleheader tied at 0-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning, West Michigan loaded the bases after the first two batters were retired. Fort Wayne reliever Ben Sheckler was then called for a balk, and the TinCaps' winning streak was over.

Streaking Dragons: Dayton has been riding a season of streaks. The Dragons lost their first three games of the season, then reeled off a nine-game winning streak. That was followed by an eight-game losing streak. Dayton then won nine of 10, lost its next eight, then won four in a row.

Stingy pitching: Quad Cities' starting pitching has been on target this year. River Bandits starters have limited opponents to three or fewer runs in 31 games in a row. The starting contingent for the River Bandits includes eight pitchers.

Curt Rallo is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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