Shortstop Royce Lewis, who was taken first overall by the Twins in the 2017 draft, will be the final member of the Top 5 of that class to make his big-league debut when he does so on Friday against the Oakland A’s at Target Field.
Lewis was summoned by the Twins to make the trip from Triple-A St. Paul after Carlos Correa suffered a bruise to the middle finger on his right hand when he was hit by a pitch on Thursday in Baltimore. The initial fear was that Correa would have to go on the injured list because the Twins suspected he had suffered a fractured finger, but the team learned that was not the case on Friday and Correa will avoid the IL. Lewis, however, still got the call as infielder Luis Arraez went on the COVID IL, as did struggling starter Dylan Bundy.
Lewis, who will turn 23 on June 5, had his progress slowed by the fact there was no minor league season in 2020 because of the pandemic and then he missed all of last season after suffering a torn right ACL. The top three picks in the 2017 draft were all out of high school. Lewis had played at JSerra Catholic in California, while the Reds selected hard-throwing righthanded pitcher Hunter Greene from Notre Dame (Calif.) High School and the Padres took lefthanded pitcher Mackenzie Gore from Whiteville (N.C.) High.
Greene, 22, made his debut this season with the Reds and is 1-4 with an 8.71 ERA in five starts. He got rocked in the Reds’ 10-5 loss Thursday in Milwaukee, giving up eight runs and nine hits in 2.2 innings. Gore opened the season in Triple-A but has gone 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA in four starts since being called up by the Padres.
The final two picks in the Top 5 were both college players.
Brendan McKay of Louisville was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays as a two-way player and made his major league debut in 2019. However, he had shoulder surgery, a flexor strain in his forearm and then underwent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. He is now focusing exclusively on pitching and trying to make his way back to the big leagues. Righthanded pitcher Kyle Wright was taken fifth by Atlanta out of Vanderbilt and has spent parts of the past five years with the defending World Series champions. Wright is 3-1 with a 1.74 ERA in five starts this season.
Lewis will arrive after having had early-season success with the Saints. He was hitting .310/.430/.563 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 24 games. The expectations will be high from Twins fans, but it’s important to remember that first impressions in baseball (especially at the plate) don’t serve as a true indication of future success.
Correa, one baseball’s best shortstops, had heated up at the plate of late. He was slashing .412/.444/.588 with one home run and eight RBIs in his past eight games after starting the season hitting .167/.254/.250 with one homer and three RBIs in his first 16. Correa signed a three-year, $105.3 million deal with Minnesota in late March after failing to get the type of multiyear contract he wanted on the free agent market. He can opt out of his contract after each of the first two seasons and the expectation has been he will do exactly that following the season.
That would open the door for Lewis to take over at shortstop. At least for the next few days, Lewis appears in line to get that opportunity.
- Don’t be surprised if one of the Vikings’ defensive packages this season features first-round pick Lewis Cine, 2021 fourth-round pick Cam Bynum and veteran Harrison Smith on the field in a three-safety look. Two of them would play deep and the other likely would be in more of a linebacker role. Using Smith this way would enable him to continue causing pre-snap confusion for opposing offenses.
- One of the points of emphasis for the Vikings in developing Cine will be making sure he makes smart hits but doesn’t lose his aggressive style of play. The 6-foot-1, 201-pound Cine was ejected from a 2020 Georgia game against Florida after he was called for targeting on a hit on tight end Kyle Pitts. Obviously, the Vikings are going to want to avoid penalties, but having wide receivers who shy away from contact is also the goal.
- While Kevin O’Connell is an offensive-minded coach, that doesn’t mean he won’t have input on the defensive side of the ball. What’s interesting is that while former Vikings coach Mike Zimmer spent day-and-night trying to figure out how to stop offenses, O’Connell has the advantage of knowing exactly what defensive looks he hates seeing and, thus, will be able to relay that information to new defensive coordinator Ed Donatell.
- While the Vikings’ full 2022 schedule will be announced at 7 p.m. next Thursday, a select game will be revealed by each of the NFL’s TV partners (ESPN, CBS, FOX and NBC) beginning on Monday. Each team will announce its first home opponent at 5 p.m. on Thursday. We already know the Vikings will play the Saints, in a home game for New Orleans, at 8:30 a.m. on Oct 2 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in Week 4. That means the Vikings’ bye will be the following week.
- The Vikings have to be thrilled to avoid a game in the very loud Superdome in New Orleans. That means Minnesota will have nine home games this season, with seven in opposing stadiums and one at a neutral site. The 17-game schedule, which was introduced in 2021, meant the Vikings had to play nine away games last year.
- The Twins are not scheduled to face righthander Frankie Montas during their three-game series this weekend against the A’s at Target Field. The Twins were connected to Montas in potential trade talks before acquiring Sunday’s starter, Chris Paddack, from San Diego just before the season. Montas is 2-2 with a 3.44 ERA in six starts for the A’s, who at 10-15 are in last place in the AL West. The A’s jettisoned many of their best players before the season.
- Lefthanded closer Taylor Rogers, whom the Twins traded to the Padres for Paddack in early April, has 11 saves in 12 appearances and hasn’t given up a run. San Diego is 16-9 and one-game behind the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers. Outfielder Brent Rooker, who also was traded to San Diego in that same deal, is slashing .227/.393/.545 with two homers and four RBIs in seven games with the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate in El Paso. Rooker has struck out 12 times in 22 at-bats.
- Kirill Kaprizov’s hat trick for the Wild on Wednesday in their Game 2 victory over the Blues was the first three-goal game by a Wild player in the postseason. The North Stars had four playoff hat tricks in their time in Minnesota (1967 to 1993). The last came from Bob Brooke against the Blues on April 5, 1989. The feat also was accomplished by Steve Payne (April 8, 1981 against Boston) and twice by Dino Ciccarelli (May 5, 1981 against Calgary and April 10, 1982 against Chicago).