Lewis was a two-sport star at Shiloh High School in Snellville, Georgia. He played baseball and basketball. And Kyle was on to Mercer University on a baseball scholarship, while majoring in marketing.
Kyle had never taken baseball seriously until about 2012. It was just a hobby to keep him active and entertained from February to May. His attention always having been divided between baseball and basketball. Still, between his athleticism, his intelligence and his tools, baseball was also an option.
Lewis grew up in Snellville, Ga., with a love for the game of basketball. He played baseball for Shiloh High during the spring, but it wasn’t the year-round obsession that it has become with most youth baseball players aspiring to play at the next level.
“I never played travel ball or anything like that until that last year (2014), going into my senior year of high school,” Lewis said. “Going into that summer, I really had no experience with anything really competitive when it came to baseball. I had just played rec ball.
Lewis had one of the best college baseball seasons of 2015. He started 53 games and racked up a .367/.423/.677 slash line with 17 home runs, 19 doubles and 56 RBIs. He led the Mercer Bears in virtually every offensive category on the way to being named the 2015 Southern Conference player of the year in his first year in its new league.
In the summer of 2015, Kyle then played for the Orleans Firebirds, led by head coach Kelly Nicholson, in the Cape Cod League. This put him in front of key scouting decision makers prior to his draft year in 2016. He set the Cape on fire at the start of the season and had an OPS better than 1.000 as late as July 9, before coming back to earth a bit. He still finished the regular season hitting .300/.344/.500 with seven home runs.
“He was just an athletic piece and his skill level wasn’t there (as a high schooler),” Mercer head coach Craig Gibson said. “So he’s generally not what we sign. We like more guys that are a little more skilled, that can come in and play immediately. But he was a guy we took a chance on—that we thought if his skill level ever caught up with his athleticism, he’s going to be a good player. He’s the best player in school history,” Gibson said.
Lewis’ statistics read like something out of another era—a.395/.535/.731 slash line in 61 games. In 2016, he was named Baseball America's College Baseball Player of the Year.
He lists Adam Jones as his favorite athlete and Wiz Khalifa as his favorite music artist.
Kyle is a terrific young man. He seems to be a very grounded young man, a trait he says he learned from his parents.
"Everything decision is (well thought through). We don't make any rash decisions off emotion. I think it was naturally just put into me to take decisions seriously, the way I was raised and seeing how my parents did things.”
Scouts and evaluators have noticed that in recent years (2014-2016) the hitters from small schools can still go quite high in the draft. The list includes some busts (Kolbrin Vitek, for example), but it also includes A.J. Pollock, Evan Longoria and C.J. Cron.
June 2016: The Mariners chose Lewis in the first round (11th overall). And he signed for the full slot value of $3,286,700, via scout John Wiedenbauer.
In March 2016, Mariners scouting director Tom McNamara stopped by the office of GM Jerry Dipoto at the team’s Peoria, Ariz., training complex. McNamara had just returned from scouting Kyle Lewis at Mercer and meeting with his family.
“I probably went overboard, like I usually do,” McNamara said, “but we get excited about players with high ceilings.”
Dipoto told the rest of the story with a chuckle.
“(McNamara) said: ‘This kid might be the best player in the country,’ and he started rolling through him and then he said, ‘But he’s not going to be there,’ and dejectedly put his head down and started to walk out. I reminded him that the draft is a funny thing.”
That funny thing happened when Lewis, the Baseball America College Player of the Year and No. 4-rated draft prospect, was unexpectedly available and an easy choice for the Mariners with No. 11 pick.
“If somebody told me this morning that Kyle Lewis was going to be our guy, I would have jumped on it,” McNamara said.
The Mariners had Lewis ranked third on their board, thus they didn’t think he would be available to them. (Ryan Divish - Baseball America - 7/01/16)
June 11, 2016: Kyle Lewis said he can't wait to get started in pro baseball and that's just fine with the Mariners, who became the first Major League team to sign their first-round pick from the 2016 Draft when they inked the 20-year-old outfielder and let him hit batting practice with their club at Safeco Field. Lewis' day included Robinson Cano giving him a bat to use in his first hitting session and Felix Hernandez loaning him a glove to catch balls in the outfield. And, yes, putting his name on a contract for full slot value.
"That's a different type of feeling," acknowledged the junior out of Mercer University. "I had to take a step back after I signed the contract. I got chills for a moment. Just really exciting. Being able to get it going and take that first step is just huge for me. I want to hit the ground running."
Tom McNamara, the club's amateur scouting director, said Lewis will head to Peoria, Ariz., for a few days of workouts before joining the Short-A Everett club to start his pro career.
Lewis was Baseball America's College Player of the Year after hitting .395 with 70 runs, 20 homers and 72 RBIs with a .535 on-base percentage in his junior year at Mercer, a school of about 4,000 students in Macon, Ga.Mercer head coach Craig Gibson, who also coached A's outfielder Billy Burns, says Lewis has tremendous untapped potential due to his late start in baseball.
"This guy could be a 10-year All-Star," Gibson said. "He's got some ceiling left. The other kids taken ahead of him are good players, but Kyle has a lot more in that tank. He hit the ball out of the park and didn't run a lot for us, but that part of his game is going to develop. I think at the next level, he's a guy that can steal 25 bags and bunt for base hits. A lot more to his game is going to come out." (G Johns - MLB.com - June 12, 2016)
- June 12, 2016: USA Baseball announced Kyle Lewis as a finalist for the 2016 Golden Spikes Award sponsored by Major League Baseball and presented in partnership with the Rod Dedeaux Foundation.
The Golden Spikes Award, which was presented live on "SportsCenter" on June 30, 2016, honors the best amateur baseball player in the United States.
2016 season: Lewis isn’t only the top power-hitting prospect among the Mariners’ selections in the 2016 draft. He’s the top power-hitting prospect to emerge from the entire draft. According to Baseball America, anyway. Lewis "earned 70 grades for his raw power," the magazine reported, "and was showing that power in pro ball before a knee injury ended his season July 19."
A junior at Mercer University, he was the consensus college player of the year. Lewis, 21, then batted .299 (35-for-117) prior to the injury in 30 games at Short-A Everett with 26 runs, eight doubles, five triples, three home runs and 26 RBIs. He also had a .915 OPS.
"He was giving us every reason to believe," GM Jerry Dipoto said, "He was exactly the player we thought we were drafting."
Lewis suffered the injury in a collision at the plate and underwent surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee along with torn cartilage. He isn’t expected to return to active duty until late in the 2017 season. (firstname.lastname@example.org - Oct. 2016)
In both 2017 and 2018, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Lewis as the #1 prospect in the Mariners organization. He dropped to #4 in the spring of 2019. And he was at #10 in the spring of 2020.
Lewis draws comparisons with his childhood hero Adam Jones, another former Mariners top prospect.
Kyle plays the game with a smile on his face. He is an intelligent baseball player.
Jan 5, 2018: While the Mariners are taking a cautious approach with top prospect Kyle Lewis as he works his way back from major knee surgery that slowed the start of his pro career, the 22-year-old outfielder said he's feeling strong and ready for the start of Spring Training. Seattle's first-round pick in 2016 won't be invited to Major League camp, according to GM Jerry Dipoto, as the club doesn't want to push too hard. In October, Lewis was pulled out of the Arizona Fall League after just two games due to lingering issues in his recovering right knee. But that doesn't mean the youngster won't be ready to roll in 2018.
"I'm doing great. This is the best I've felt in about a year and a half," Lewis said between workouts from Phoenix, where he's spending his offseason. "I'm really excited. I'm getting ready to go. I expect this to be a fully strong, fully healthy year."
Lewis tore his anterior cruciate ligament as well as the medial and lateral meniscus in his right knee in a home plate collision while playing for Class A Short-Season Everett just a month after being selected with the No. 11 overall pick, but he still is Seattle's No. 1 ranked prospect and the No. 42 overall prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline.
The Mariners hoped to get Lewis some extra work in the AFL, but tendinitis in his patellar tendon led to the quick shutdown again in October. "It was definitely a setback," Dipoto said. "We're trying to protect him. When he came back and felt any kind of discomfort at all, we wanted to make sure he was 100 percent before he went back out on the field.
"We've determined he is structurally sound, now we just have to get to the point where he trusts it. That is the only hurdle to get over now. Kyle is an incredibly good athlete who works very hard. I know he's frustrated by this, but we're with him trying to jump that final hurdle. And our estimation is that come Spring Training, he's going to be ready to roll."
Lewis is working out several times a day with physical therapist Brett Fischer in Phoenix as well as the Mariners training staff in Peoria and said he has no limitations now.
"I'm doing everything," he said. "Running, agility, speed work, lifting, hitting, throwing, everything. I've got to keep working. I have to get myself right, especially the way last year ended. For me, every season is important, but this one especially considering the way the last one went," he said. "Getting a full slate under my belt will be the biggest accomplishment. Because if I do that, I know the performance will follow." (G Johns - MLB.com - Jan 5, 2018)
July 2018: Lewis represented the Mariners in the Futures All-Star game.
2018 season: Lewis's knee kept him out of action until May and he did make his way to Double-A for the first time, but he also only hit a combined .244 with a .711 OPS.
Sept. 2019: Lewis hit a first-inning sacrifice fly and singled in the fifth in a 1-for-4 night, becoming the first Mariner to record an RBI in each of his first four career games. The 24-year-old right fielder saw his home run streak snapped at three games. He is only the second Major Leaguer to manage that to start a career (Trevor Story in 2016).
He is 6-for-15 (.400) since being called up from Double-A Arkansas. Lewis is just the 10th Mariner with a hit in the first four games of a career and first since Abraham Almonte in 2013.
Kyle's 2019 season at AA-Arkansas was good, not great. When he made contact with the ball, he hit the ever-living crud out of it. His exit velos were among the best in the entire organization, including that of the big league club. Lewis was still learning the strike-zone, specifically how to lay off breaking pitches away. The defense was coming around, but most would tell you it wasn’t a finished product. A sound argument could be made that Lewis wasn’t quite ready for the big show. But with Rule 5 eligibility approaching, Jerry Dipoto decided it was time his very first draft pick in Seattle get caffeinated, inviting him up for a cup of coffee.
Lewis would get 75 plate appearances in 2019 and boy did he make the most of them. His .268/.293/.592 slash contributed to a 127 wRC+ in September, besting the Mariners. His 0.5 fWAR ranked just behind Austin Nola for best on the team the final month of the season. But crude numbers really don’t tell the story.
Lewis’ Brls/PA percentage of 13.3% ranked atop the league this season for players with a minimum of 40 balls put in play. Simply put, Lewis found the sweet spot in 13.3% of his plate appearances. That percentage is better than literally any other baseball player you can think of this season. The dingers were no-doubters. The doubles were scorched to the wall. Seemingly everything he hit had a vapor trail coming off it.
Impressive as his late summer fireworks were, Lewis is still far from a sure thing. There’s still the aforementioned issue of swing-and-miss in his game. The 38.7 K% is troubling, and will need to improve if Lewis is to reach his full offensive potential. His 39.0% Whiff% was also dreadfully high, among the likes of Mike Zunino and Joey Gallo. Swing-and-miss was always going to be a wart in Lewis’ game to watch for upon his arrival. It reared its ugly head, but the whiffs were outweighed by the riches.
Lewis is a smart hitter. He clearly makes adjustments at the plate. Nearly one-third of the pitches Lewis saw this year were breaking balls, and he calibrated for them quite well. His .333 average on 55 swings at breaking balls shows he can adjust in-game and not simply hunt fastball all the time. Better still, his 39.3% K% on breaking balls suggest they’re no more of an issue than any other pitch he’ll see. If it’s in the zone, Lewis is going to let it ride. He appears to be a maturing hitter at this stage, likely still figuring things out in the box.
The truth is, Lewis has been figuring things out in the box for the better part of two years. When he was drafted in 2016, he had one of the loudest pre-swing jigs you could find. Lewis looked like an amalgamation of Nolan Arenado and Alfonso Soriano at the plate, but in the worst ways. There was way too much going on. Lewis had absolutely no chance of developing a consistent cadence or timing. He was surviving for the most part on talent alone.
Fast forward to spring training 2019, and Lewis shows up looking like a totally different animal at the plate. His hands were lower. The leg-kick had been curtailed. The hand-wiggle, while still present, was greatly diminished. Lewis was now able to engage his core and drive off his back-leg with greater authority. These factors helped Lewis find far more power and consistency in 2019. He’s simply still finding his swing. As guys like Chris Taylor and Ketel Marte have shown, it can take some time to find something that really clicks.
It’s only just begun for Lewis. He drops the donut off his bat, points to the sky as if it cue Drip, Drip, Drip to signal his entrance through the rafters. Tory Lanez and Meek Mill hastily oblige. Fans rise. Lewis isn’t here to award you a first-pitch get-it-over fastball. Sonny Gray is at 105 pitches. He’s basically asking for this. Boom. Massive dong to right-center. No-hitter over. Gray’s night is over. This, just 24 hours after doing the same to Trevor Bauer. When will they learn?
Lewis is going to have every opportunity to man a corner outfield spot on a full-time basis for the Mariners in 2020. It’s not hard to imagine him becoming a fan-favorite next season if his torrid power surge is legitimate. I, for one, have reason to believe it is. (Joe E. Doyle - SBNation - Jan.1, 2020)
2020: Lewis was by far the best player on the Mariners this season. Superstar is written all over him. He got off to a hot start with a 10-game hitting streak, batting .425 including three home runs and nine RBI’s.
The rookie center fielder came back down to earth in August, hitting .286. The slump continued over the final month of the season. From August 29 to the end of the season on September 27, Lewis hit .141 with five extra-base hits, .554 OPS, and 36 strikeouts in 85 at-bats.
Maybe his slide was caused by him trying to carry the offense by himself. Then again, opposing hurlers could pitch around him without fear of someone else making them pay for it. Whatever the reason, his patience slipped, and he started to chase pitches. Patience improves with maturity and experience, but it’s something he needs to work on this winter.
Lewis ended the season with a slash line of .262/.364/.437/.801 with 11 home runs and 28 RBI. Despite his late-season challenges at the plate, Lewis played stellar defense in center field all year. He made several outstanding catches, including robbing a couple of home runs. His play in center reminded long-time M’s fans of Ken Griffey Jr. (Herb Nightengale - Oct. 16, 2020)
Nov. 5, 2020: Lewis was named the AL Rookie of the Year by Baseball Digest, the oldest and longest-running baseball magazine in the world.
Nov 9, 2020: When Kyle Lewis reported to Spring Training with the Mariners in February, he wasn’t the outfield prospect drawing much of the attention. Instead, younger and higher-ranked prospects Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez were the hot stories down in Arizona.
But the 25-year-old Lewis quietly went about his work, diligently preparing for his first full season in the Majors after a strong September introduction in 2019. And eight months later—following a year interrupted by the COVID-19 shutdown—Lewis emerged as the unanimous winner of the Jackie Robinson American League Rookie of the Year Award.
Lewis outpolled White Sox center fielder Luis Robert and Astros right-hander Cristian Javier to become the Mariners' first Rookie of the Year since right fielder Ichiro Suzuki in 2001 and fourth in franchise history, joined also by closer Kazuhiro Sasaki (2000) and first baseman Alvin Davis (1984).
Surrounded by his parents and friends at his Atlanta home when presented with the award by 1982 AL Rookie of the Year Cal Ripken Jr. on MLB Network, Lewis acknowledged that a flood of things rushed through his mind when his name was called.
“The road and all the highs and lows of the Minors Leagues and Major Leagues, the success and struggles with injuries and all that. When you get these milestone moments, there’s an overwhelming rush of emotions sometimes,” he said on a video call with Seattle reporters. “Seeing my family so proud and nervous watching the TV. Just a lot of those things kind of piled up.”
Lewis was the first choice of all 30 Baseball Writers' Association of America voters, a group made up of two writers from each of the AL’s 15 cities. He’s the 12th unanimous winner in the AL since the award began in 1947, joining Carlton Fisk, Mark McGwire, Sandy Alomar Jr., Tim Salmon, Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, Evan Longoria, Mike Trout, Jose Abreu, Aaron Judge and Yordan Alvarez. ((G Johns - MLB.com - Nov 9, 2020)
THE HOMETOWN NINE
Nov 24, 2020: Kyle Lewis wears size 13 cleats. Tycean Martin laces up a size 7 1/2 pair to compete in his youth baseball program in Seattle. But despite the obvious difference, the two have something very much in common.
Both are eager to learn what it means to walk in the other’s shoes.
Lewis understands adversity. He spent nearly three seasons working back from a serious knee injury suffered just 40 games into his pro baseball career and now is one of the up-and-coming stars in Major League Baseball at age 25.
But Lewis recognizes the tougher road being taken by Martin, a 13-year-old who has already undergone four open-heart surgeries and 22 medical procedures after being born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare congenital defect in which the left side of the heart is severely underdeveloped.
Martin, an eighth grader at Glacier Middle School in SeaTac, Wash., is one of the first nine kids from the Seattle area chosen to be part of the Mariners’ Hometown Nine program that will help fund and mentor minority youths in their baseball and softball pursuits.
He learned of his selection in a video call from Lewis that he’s since watched numerous times, relishing the message delivered by the Mariners' center fielder.
“He shared his story and how he’s had to fight through adversity and just his stuff about his life,” Martin said. “It was inspirational to hear because I know he’s gone through a lot. And I have, too. It was good to hear how he’s gone through a lot and how he’s fought for it.”
The Hometown Nine program was inspired by the 11 black players on Seattle’s 40-man roster as they talked of ways to help promote their game in minority communities. Part of the plan involves the Mariners paying for equipment, training and travel from eighth grade through high school for the nine youngsters who’ll be selected each year.
The other part will be for Mariners players and staff to help mentor the youngsters and provide encouragement both in their athletic and academic pursuits. For Lewis, that bond is already being formed with Martin.
“His story is different than mine, but it’s cool to be inspirational to anybody that I can,” Lewis said. “He’s had a lot to deal with. To show that resilience, I look up to him the same way he looks up to me.”
When Lewis learned that Martin likes to custom design shoes and has founded a fledgling business called T Money Kicks, he sent the youngster a pair of his size 13 shoes as well as some 7 1/2s for Martin to wear.
Martin is going to customize Lewis’ cleats with the Hometown Nine logo and send them back, with Lewis vowing to wear them during Spring Training.
As for Martin’s own baseball adventures, he plays first base, center field and pitches for the Washington Warriors select team. His father, Bobby Martin, said his son’s heart condition leaves Tycean with a lower blood oxygen level than others, comparing it to running at high altitude after just getting off an airplane.
“He has to work a little bit harder to get the oxygen he needs for the rest of his body, so he feels it when he sprints,” Bobby Martin said. “He’s got some synthetic parts [in his rebuilt heart]. It doesn’t replace all the functions of a full-functioning heart, but it gets it so he is able to do what he does right now. At this point, baseball and golf are the two sports that his cardiologist allows him to play.”
It’s been several years since his last open-heart surgery, and other than six-month checkups to make sure everything remains OK. Tycean doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about his unique condition.
“I try to just be like the other players and just try to be the best that I can,” he said. “I act like I don’t have anything going on.”
And as Thanksgiving approaches, the youngster wants people to know he appreciates them and the opportunities he’s been given in a life that started out a little rough.
“I’m thankful for my family and the support I have in my life,” he said. “I’m thankful for family and friends. And I’m thankful for getting accepted into Hometown Nine and the opportunity that I got. I want to keep working on my baseball skills and life skills and keep doing good in school, because I know they’re going to support me.” (G Johns - MLB.com - Nov 24, 2020)
2020 Season: Building on a strong showing after making his MLB debut late in 2019 (six homers, .885 OPS), Lewis continued to display plus power last season while proving to be a capable defender in center field.
The 25-year-old won the American League Rookie of the Year Award after finishing first among rookies in homers (11), runs (37) and FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement (1.7). (Thomas Harrigan - Jan. 3, 2021)
Jan. 2021: The Mariners-produced documentary about outfielder Kyle’s journey from first-round draft pick through a devastating knee injury to becoming the 2020 AL Rookie of the Year aired on ROOT SPORTS.
Kyle Lewis: Writing My Own Story features insightful interviews with Lewis, his parents, high school coach, and the trainer who helped him get in top condition for the start of the 2020 season, among others.
The program tells the story of how Lewis overcame adversity and setbacks at every step on his baseball journey that began as a top-rated prospect out of Shiloh High School in Snellville, Georgia. Lewis speaks frankly about his struggles on the field during college and dealing with the perception of professional scouts that his hitting lacked power despite his ranking as Baseball America’s 2016 College Player of the Year.
Just 30 games into his professional career with the Everett AquaSox, Lewis suffered a devastating knee injury with tears to his ACL, lateral meniscus and medial meniscus and partial tear to the medial collateral ligament. The program chronicles Lewis’s long and grueling road to recovery.
By Spring Training 2019, finally healthy, Lewis was invited to the Mariners Major League Camp. Years of struggle paid off and his potential finally began to be fulfilled. During his Major League debut on September 10, 2019, Lewis hit a home run in his second at-bat.
Lewis was unanimously selected by the Baseball Writers Association of America members as 2020 American League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year. He became the fourth Mariners player to win the award after Alvin Davis (1984), Kazuhiro Sasaki (2000) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001).
|Birth City:||Snellville, GA|
|Draft:||Mariners #1 - 2016 - Out of Mercer Univ. (GA)|
Lewis is an impressive righthanded hitter. He has tremendous power, a plus 60 on the scale. From solid bat speed and a feel for the barrel, he can hit the ball out to all fields. He is a run-producer. He is a bat-first outfielder. He has the ability to make adjustments at the plate. He has a 50 grade hit tool.
- At the plate, Lewis is balanced and short to the ball, with loose hands and the ability to adjust to fastballs in the zone, but he sometimes looks like he’s trying to make up for lost time in every at-bat. (Spring 2019)
In 2019, not only was Lewis healthy and able to pick up over 500 ABs, there was also no hesitation in his game at all. And the numbers reflected that, particularly in June and July. His home park in Arkansas is not great for hitters and he found balls he was crushing were landing in gloves, with a home/road OPS split of .555/.896 OPS as proof. Those balls were leaving the yard once he got to the big leagues. His strikeout rate did go up some and he’ll have to try to tone that down over the long haul at the Major League level. He saw a lot of fastballs during his big league debut, something that won’t keep happening as he establishes himself as a big league regular. Betting against him to figure it out would be a mistake.
Kyle has complex swing mechanics that include a deep load and a leg kick. But the simplicity of the swing itself and his ability to get the barrel of the bat out quickly, alleviating any problem. However, he comes with high strikeout totals as part of the package. There are a lot of moving parts to his swing, with a hand trigger and a leg kick, but he sees the ball well and generates the bat speed through the zone to produce high exit velocities. (Bill Mitchel - BA Prospect Handbook - Spring, 2020)
Kyle uses the whole field and lets the game come to him. He stays relaxed at the plate, not trying to force the issue.
"Once I started letting things come to me, my pitch recognition went up tremendously,” Lewis said after his tremendous 2015 season at Mercer. “I have been able to spit at tough breaking balls and tough changeups that I used to swing at. Once you don’t swing at those, you start getting into more advantageous counts and situations where you can be successful.”
Lewis' incredible pitch recognition sets him apart from other players. It allows him to control the strike zone and punish mistakes. He has some swing-and-miss to his game, like most power hitters, but he has enough feel for the barrel and understanding of what to do at the plate that he still is regarded as an solid-average hitter.
And in 2016, Kyle was displaying even better plate discipline. (Spring, 2017)
Kyle is an exciting player, combining athleticism and elite bat speed. He can drive the ball out to all fields, but he has a busy swing and his power does come with some swing-and-miss. His swing plane can be somewhat steep, but he’s developed a reputation for destroying mistake pitches and working at-bats until he gets the pitch he’s looking for.
Even though the thunderous power in his bat is usually the first thing mentioned in any Lewis scouting report, he doesn’t think of himself as a home run hitter. For Lewis, home runs are just a by-product of trying to hit balls on a line, a mentality that would make any hitting coach proud.
“I’m not trying to go up there and just slug home runs and swing for the fences. I’m trying to put hard line drives in play consistently,” Lewis said. “I think that if you try to hit low line drives consistently that you’ll get the elevation and you’ll get some balls out of the park, and I’ve been able to do that. But I think that as an overall hitter, I try to just be a hitter for average.”
Lewis hit a 461-foot moon shot over the batter’s eye at Fluor Field in the SoCon tournament that was as majestic as a home run can be—a ball down the middle, his front foot down, full extension on his arms. The blast elicited oohs and ahs from the crowd and the video of it spread quickly on Twitter. In the Bears’ dugout though, it wasn’t anything they hadn’t seen before. Just Kyle doing his thing.
“That’s nothing abnormal for Kyle,” teammate Trey Truitt said afterward. “Kyle does that all the time.” (Jim Shonerd - Baseball America - 7/23/2016)
Sept 10, 2019: Kyle Lewis made sure his first hit in the Majors was memorable, blasting a home run over the scoreboard in left field at T-Mobile Park in the fifth inning of the 4-3 victory over the Reds. For a youngster who had to overcome a major knee injury in his first year in pro ball after being drafted by the Mariners in the first round in 2016, this was a sweet start.
"It’s just another part of my story,” Lewis said. “I’m going to continue writing my story every day. You don’t know what that entails each and every day, but I'll continue to give it my best shot every day and see where I end up.”
Kyle Seager made sure Lewis’s hit came in a winning effort by launching a go-ahead two-run shot of his own in the bottom of the eighth to help break Seattle’s six-game losing streak. Seager has been red hot of late, batting .314 with 16 home runs in 43 games since July 22, but the 31-year-old seemed more thrilled for his young teammate.
“That was pretty special,” Seager said. “First day, the jitters and everything ... to get that first hit out of the way, and for it to be a pretty loud one was pretty cool.”
Lewis’ shot was projected at 426 feet with an exit velocity of 106.2 mph, the Mariners’ hardest-hit ball of the night, as the rookie turned around a 94-mph fastball on a 2-0 count.
“Lewis has big-time power,” said manager Scott Servais. “I’m super excited for him. It’s a great experience for these young kids. They’ve worked really hard to get here and they need to enjoy it. When you get your first hit as a homer, he should have a smile on his face.”
“It was a lot of fun,” said Lewis. “Just trying to keep it as simple as possible, trying not to make things bigger than they are. But when I hit that, it was definitely like an out-of-body experience a little bit, for sure.”(G Johns - MLB.com - Sept 11, 2019)
“That is Superman over there,” said rookie shortstop Donnie Walton, who was called up from Arkansas along with Lewis on Sept. 10, 2019. “He’s been doing that all year, but it just didn’t show because we play at a field where it doesn’t fly. It doesn’t have these baseballs. But we all knew.
“Jake Fraley and Evan White and all of us talked about it,” Walton said. “We were like, ‘If [Lewis] just gets to the big leagues, it’s gonna show.’ I think he flew out to the warning track a million times and hit a ton of balls hard right at people. We knew it was going to happen.”
Statcast numbers don’t lie. Lewis’ exit velocity on the 25 batted balls he’s put in play in his first 10 games has averaged 93.6 mph, well above the MLB average of 87.5. He’s not just pulling the ball hard, but has launched several well-struck opposite-field homers.
Statcast categorizes any hit with an exit velocity of 95-mph plus as hard-hit. Of Lewis’s 13 hits so far, 12 have been 95-plus and 11 have been over 100 mph. The lone exception was an 81.7 mph double he pushed down the first-base line after ripping a 107-mph homer to left-center.
Lewis looks the part of a big league slugger and his early results have borne that out. “The power numbers, they all talk about how he was playing in Double-A and in Arkansas, where it’s impossible to hit home runs and the baseball is different,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “All those things are real. People say, ‘Ah, it’s an excuse. But they’re real.’
“What we’ve seen here, Kyle has big-time opposite field power. We’ve seen that at T-Mobile. We saw it in Pittsburgh. He can get the ball in the air. He’s still got a lot to learn. He’s in here early, which is great to see every day, talking to some of our veteran guys, looking at video, out shagging fly balls early. He knows he’s got a lot of work to do in his game.”
"Every day is still a learning process for me,” Lewis said. “I’m just trying to work and keep my head down, honestly.”
When it comes down to it, Lewis is a gifted athlete who worked hard to overcome a serious knee injury and is seeing everything come together now that he’s finally healthy and getting his opportunity.
“I think the biggest thing with Kyle is they just made sure he stayed on the field this year,” Servais said. “We certainly like what we’ve seen at the plate. He’s handled his at-bats very well. He’s off to a great start.” (Johns - mlb.com - 9/20/19)
May 2020: Who is the best power hitter on the Mariners? Kyle Lewis.
The Mariners just got a taste of Lewis’ power potential last season when the 6-foot-4, 205-pound rookie made his September debut as a callup from Double-A Arkansas and became the first player in MLB history to homer in 6 of his first 10 games. His first Major League hit was a home run off the Reds’ Trevor Bauer. He wound up going deep in each of his first three games, and he became the fourth player in MLB history to homer in four of his first six games.
Lewis' 457-foot shot off the Reds’ Lucas Sims on Sept. 12 stood as the longest home run of the year by the Mariners, and he also had five doubles among his 19 hits in 18 games in his first big league exposure. While Lewis didn’t show huge power numbers in the Minors while playing in a very tough hitting environment for right-handers in Arkansas, his high average exit velocity indicated good things to come, and the Mariners expect he’ll continue developing that aspect of his game now as a starting corner outfielder. –Greg Johns
- As of the start of the 2021 season, Kyle had a .264 career batting average with 17 home runs and 41 RBI in 277 at-bats in the Majors.
Lewis works hard at improving his ability to use his outstanding set of tools.
"I need to work on getting my feet in the right position, because sometimes my feet get out of whack on throws. So once I really tighten up the footwork, I think the arm strength will show," Kyle said in 2015.
His instincts, reflexes and efficient routes make up for whatever he lacks in terms of raw speed in the outfield and make him an above-average defender. His plus arm, combined with fringe-average speed, have some evaluators predicting he ends up in right field. (Spring, 2018)
Kyle is very solid in right field. His strong arm makes that a better fit than center field. However, the Mariners will leave him in center for now.
Even with the knee injury, Lewis is still an average runner who will do a nice job in an outfield corner with a strong arm to boot. His plus makeup has been on display as he’s worked tirelessly to come back from his injury. (Spring 2020)
In 2020, Lewis was moved to left field, where he’ll be an above-average 55 grade defender with solid instincts and a 55 grade arm.
In a Sept. 14, 2020 home game against the Athletics, Lewis leapt off two feet and got enough air to lift his shoulders level with the top of the wall in left-center field. By the time he landed, his teammates were reveling. And soon Lewis was too, because he had robbed a grand slam from Ramon Laureano.
It reminded Mariners fans of Ken Griffey Jr.’s sensational home-run robbing catch of Jesse Barfield on April 26, 1990. Not just for the flair, but the unbridled joy and emotion both Lewis and Griffey displayed running back to the dugout.
It wasn’t the first time Lewis had reminded the Mariners faithful of Griffey.
“Humbling comparison,” Lewis said. “To be able to make plays is something I take pride in, especially wearing a Seattle uniform—because we know who the legend is out there.
“It’s cool to see those comparisons. I just take them in stride and keep it going so I can continue to write my story. Everybody’s got their own story to write. And I’ve got mine.” (TJ Cotterill - Baseball America - Nov. 2020)
Kyle has pretty good speed. He has been clocked at 6.5 seconds in the 60-yard dash.
He posts below-average run times to first base, reaching the bag between 4.3 and 4.6 seconds regularly, but his speed is better once under way. So, Lewis grades at 45.
Lewis is working on his footwork on the bases and use that first-step explosiveness to put lots of pressure on the opposition.
"I have long legs, so it takes a couple steps to get going," Kyle said in 2015.
July 20-end of 2016 season: Kyle missed the rest of the season after a grisly home-plate collision resulted in a knee injury that required surgery on August 11, to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament, as well as a torn medial and lateral meniscus.
Lewis was hurt trying to score a run for short-season Everett against Tri-City. Lewis collided with Tri-City catcher Chris Mattison after rounding third base as Mattison was coming up the line. Lewis clutched his knee and stayed on the ground for several minutes before limping to the dugout. As Lewis neared the plate, he slowed down and appeared to hyperextend his right knee just before colliding with Mattison.
“You can feel the pop and the not-normal-feeling you would get from a tweak or sprain,” said Lewis, 21. “It was a definitely a different kind of feeling, a different kind of pain.”
Lewis reports to the Mariners’ complex in Peoria, Ariz., for his daily rehab. It’s a laboring process with incremental successes that don’t involve a bat or a ball.
“That’s the tough part,” he said. “There’s a lot of pain every day. You go into it knowing that you’ll have pain. It’s a trying time.”
The small victories have kept Lewis progressing. He can do light lifting in his lower half, while still working diligently on his core and upper body.
“I’m right on track of where I was expected to be at this point,” he said in November 2016.
April, 2017: The current projection calls for Lewis, the Mariners’ top prospect, to return to game action in mid-July — or roughly one year after suffering the injury.
“It’s part of life,” Lewis said. “Everybody’s had to watch at some point. I try not to (get down). That wouldn’t do me any good. I try to be the best version of myself every day. The best version of myself wouldn’t be all sad about anything.”
And Kyle did miss the first half of the season recovering from a torn ACL in his right knee, and his comeback was further delayed when he aggravated his knee after banging it into the center field wall in his first game back.
October 2017: Lewis went 3-for-8 in two games in the Arizona Fall League before experiencing renewed soreness in his knee after jumping for a fly ball. So the Mariners shut him down immediately.
“We don’t think we’re dealing with any new issues or damage,” GM Jerry Dipoto said. “The rehab is just taking longer than anticipated.”
February 9-May 12, 2018: Kyle had a cleanup procedure on his right knee, removing a piece of bone that caused irritation. The hope now is that the procedure will take care of Lewis' ongoing issues since major surgery following a home-plate collision in 2016.
Spring 2019: Lewis is ready to put two knee procedures behind him and take the leap they’ve been hoping he would take ever since being drafted him 11th overall in 2016.
“He’s missed so much time,” Mariners farm director Andy McKay said. “But we feel better today than we’ve ever felt with his work and his progress. Most of us who have been around Kyle, we really don’t have a lot of concern about the ability. It’s the health.”
He’s healthy enough now that he earned an invitation to big league camp.
Lewis first suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and tore his medial and lateral meniscus in a collision at home plate during his pro debut in 2016. He returned in 2017 only to slam his surgically repaired knee into the outfield wall in his first game back.
He missed the start of 2018 after surgery to clean up some of the lingering issues with his knee, so this offseason is the first time Lewis will be entering spring healthy.
“Kyle was arguably the best player in that (2016) draft,” McKay said. “When you have injuries like this, it’s just time . . . You’re waiting for the body to heal, but you’re also waiting for the mind to heal, and that’s part of getting over that injury and trusting it.
“But I’ve seen him run down balls in center field where you go, ‘OK, we’re good.’ I’ve seen him run out of the box and I’ve seen the power. It’s all there.” (TJ Cotterill - Baseball America - March, 2019)