Blue Wahoos' Royce Lewis Ends Year In Big Way As AFL MVP

After battling through injury, early year struggles, Lewis' bat comes alive in playoffs, Arizona Fall League

By Bill Vilona, Senior Writer / Pensacola Blue Wahoos | October 28, 2019 5:41 PM

In five Southern League post-season games, the Blue Wahoos' Royce Lewis flashed all the elements which have made him one of baseball's top prospects.

That sustained performance continued into the Arizona Fall League, giving Lewis another big award, a team championship, and feel-good vibe entering next season.

Lewis, only five months past his 20th birthday, was voted by league managers as the AFL MVP, after he helped lead his team, the Salt River Rafters, to a win in last Saturday's championship game in Scottsdale, Ariz.

"It's pretty special," said Lewis, speaking to MLB.com. "I'm just glad my family and friends are able to come out (Saturday) and celebrate with me."

Lewis, the overall No. 1 selection in 2017 by the Minnesota Twins, went 2-for-5 in the game, including a double, as Salt River beat the Surprise (Ariz.) Saguaros 5-1 to claim the six-week league title. In 22 games, Lewis batted .353 with a league-high 30 hits, including three home runs, 20 RBI.

He was also named MVP of the AFL Fall Stars Game on Oct. 13.

This followed his performance for the Blue Wahoos against the Biloxi Shuckers when Lewis went 8-for-20 at the plate with five runs scored, a homer and three RBI. The Blue Wahoos came back from an 0-2 deficit to extend the series into a deciding fifth game before the Shuckers rallied in the eighth inning to win.

Lewis, a Southern California native, who played 33 games in 2019 for the Blue Wahoos, is expected to return to Double-A and the Blue Wahoos when the 2020 season begins in April. He is currently ranked among the top 10 overall prospects in minor league baseball by various outlets.

He was one of four Salt River players in the AFL, who spent at least part of the past season with the Blue Wahoos. The others were catcher Ben Rortvedt and pitchers Jovani Moran and Dakota Chalmers.

Salt River's AFL team consisted of prospects with the Twins, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Colorado Rockies, the Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays.

During the short season, Lewis played four different positions: third base, second base, center field, as well as his staple position, shortstop.

"It's always fun to end on a good note, and to know you've put in all this hard work and it's coming out pretty strong," said Lewis, speaking to the The Athletic's Dan Hayes. "Ending on a good note is always good, especially when you're going on a three-month break, so you don't have to think about how you were doing all year."

Lewis endured a challenging year, after sustaining an oblique injury during spring training. He struggled the first half of the season with the Fort Myers Miracle, batting .238 for the Twins' High-A affiliate in the Florida State League.

Lewis was promoted to the Blue Wahoos on July 28. After getting three hits in his first nine at-bats, he cooled to finish with a .211 average in the regular season.

His bat got hot in the playoffs against Biloxi and stayed that way in Arizona. Lewis told MLB.com his biggest takeaway from 2019 was handling the leap in levels while dealing with recovery from an injury. He's projected in the Twins' long term future.

"When the day comes (for MLB debut), I now understand how to be a pro and how to be a professional and go about my business," said Lewis to MLB.com "Whether I get a hit or now, whether I make an error or make a great Gold Glove defensive play, I'll be the same person every day."

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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