Kyle Lewis is tired of the prefacing statements. He’s tired of the misguided narrative surrounding his name. Kyle Lewis has been playing baseball five or six days a week for almost two full seasons now. It’s time for everyone to put what happened in 2016 behind them.
By now you’ve probably seen Lewis’ name in Minor League Player of the Week headlines. You’ve probably seen his name is gaining helium in prospect circles. Hell, you’ve probably seen Lewis’ name mentioned in newspaper quotes and clippings regarding potential September call-ups. The reason you’re seeing his name so much this season is because he’s a very good baseball player. Unfortunately, those headlines generally begin something along the lines of...
“Finally healthy, Lewis...”
“The kid battled back from a major knee injury, Kyle Lewis...”
“The Mariners finally get to see Lewis on a consistent basis. Lewis...”
“It’s good to see Lewis back on the field, he’s showing why he was picked where he was...”
“Mariners prospect Lewis feeling healthy...”
“The good news is after missing the majority of the 2017 season, Lewis...”
“Gruesome injury finally behind him, Lewis...”
Every single one of these headlines or quotes came from March 1, 2019 or later. The thing is, Lewis played in 86 games in 2018. Better yet, he played 49 games in 2017. Lewis has been in game action for quite some time. He’s growing tired of the perception that lingers that he’s some fragile porcelain doll that needs to be handled with substantial care.
“I largely feel like I’m misunderstood. It’s a recurring theme,” Lewis said. “People everywhere think I’m injury prone, but I’m not.”
Lewis is quick to point out he suffered one freak injury. It was his one and only significant injury in six years of competitive ball from college to present day. There was a knee scope that kept him out two additional weeks shortly after returning from his knee injury, but that’s it. That’s his entire medical chart.
“Don’t get me wrong, it was a major recovery process, but I’m healthy, I’m right,” Lewis said.
That’s it. That’s the last sentence we’ll mention regarding his injury. Because that injury doesn’t define Lewis. And it shouldn’t.
Talent defines Lewis.
Drafted out of Mercer in 2016, many felt the Snellville, Georgia product had five-tool potential. Folks were stunned he fell to Seattle at number 11 overall. Three years later, he’s beginning to make those projections quite tangible.
Earlier this week, Lewis received a few glowing comparisons. One NL scout compared him to Justin Upton. One talent evaluator compared him to Jorge Soler with a higher defensive ceiling. It’s clear his reputation and prospect status are recovering. His numbers this season have certainly helped.
Lewis is slashing .271/.351/.415 at Double-A Arkansas this season, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Playing half of your games at Dickey-Stephens Park (D-SP) should be a punishment, not a prerequisite pitstop to promotion. D-SP is pretty well-known for it’s stiff breeze that blows in from left field each night. It may be 360 feet to left-center, but on most nights, left-center plays closer to 410.
D-SP has clearly done a number on Lewis and many others this season. Lewis is slashing just .192/.281/.275 at home this season. But when dropped in a more friendly park — literally any away park that is — Lewis is slashing .343/.415/.546.
“(At Dickey-Stephens) You feel like you’re killing the ball, barreled up, but it’s caught,” Lewis said. “It is what it is. The away numbers tell a different story.”
He’s not the only one. Guys like Evan White, Dom Thompson-Williams and Nick Zammarrelli III all see significant gains in their slash lines when playing away from D-SP.
A little salt in the wound for Lewis and the guys seeing box scores from Triple-A where they’re strapping rocket engines to stitched cowhide and sending it into orbit.
“Man, me and the guys talk about that a lot,” Lewis said. “Myself and some of the other guys on the team might have 30 bombs playing up there.”
It’s strictly hypothetical, but Lewis may have a point. Give him a better ballpark, let him hit super-core balls — it’s easy to imagine a sexier slash-line given the variables.
He’ll switch from Top Flites to Titleists soon enough. Lewis may find himself in Seattle in a few weeks getting his first cup of coffee after Arkansas’s season ends. Ryan Divish reported as much.
Lewis is due to become Rule 5 eligible this offseason, so Seattle will have to add him before November 1 or risk losing him to another team.
“I mean, we’ve had conversation (about being promoted), but nothing set in stone,” Lewis said. “It would obviously be ideal, but it’s hard to say. You never want to expect anything.”
Instead, Lewis is focused on continually building a strong structure for future success.
“Whatever happens, I want to look back on this season and say I hit on laying a foundation for 2020,” Lewis said.
But it’s not just his own personal success. Lewis is invested in the future success of the organization and that starts with creating a winning culture in Arkansas.
“The team around me, we’ve got six first round guys down here, it’s genuinely so fun,” Lewis said. “We all hangout every day and nothing’s forced. Coming to the yard with these boys is special. We all connected so easily.”
“Sheff, Dunn, Evan, everyone, we’re all super close,” Lewis said. “We hit the pool and BBQ all the time. Jarred too. He’s come in and fit right in.”
The Mariners are pretty set on having Lewis playing with Arkansas through the Texas League postseason before being called up https://t.co/n2a7xvVe2R— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) August 14, 2019
Lewis and the Travelers are set to begin the Texas League North Division Finals on September 4. Depending on how the postseason goes, Lewis could find himself in Seattle as early as September 8. If things go well for Arkansas and they end up winning the Texas League Championship, Lewis likely won’t find himself in Seattle until September 16 or 17.
He’ll likely get 2-3 weeks of regular at-bats with the Mariners this season.
“I’m glad my talent is getting it’s chance,” Lewis said. “I get a lot of questions about my knee, but questions are changing.”