Can Royce Lewis Still Win AL MVP?

Royce Lewis
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins’ 2024 season hasn’t been perfect, by any means. Nonetheless, at 43-35, they are competing atop one of baseball’s better divisions and in the thick of the American League playoff race.

Willi Castro has been their most valuable player, and Carlos Correa has earned every penny of his $30+ million salary, through the first 2.5 months. Certainly they’ve had a handful of key contributors while trending towards 90 wins. Then… there’s Royce Lewis.

If you haven’t noticed Royce Lewis yet, are you even a baseball fan? Guy has a .348 BA, 1.262 OPS and is hitting home runs at an otherworldly pace (10 HR in 75 PA). Despite having played just 18 games, he already has 1.4 WAR on the season, which is already tied with Buxton and Carlos Santana for 6th best on the Twins. With over a month remaining until the All-Star Game, Royce Lewis should be under serious consideration for the AL roster.

Royce Lewis is a forgotten Minnesota Twins star… for now

We are coming up on the halfway point of the 2024 Major League Baseball season, so this week, ESPN released its 2024 mid-season MLB awards. Of course there is plenty of runway for them to officially take shape, but it’s a good time to look at who is standing out thus far this season.

Lewis, long a top-rated prospect, has been limited to just 86 games as a big leaguer because of some of the more horrific injury luck of any non-pitcher in professional baseball. This kind of continual disruption not only tamps down a player’s raw production but also robs him of key developmental time.

Or at least that’s the conventional wisdom — but tell that to Lewis, whose 10 homers are the third most on the team despite him only having 75 at-bats this season. He is up to 27 career homers in just 323 at-bats, spread over three different seasons because of all the injuries. That gives him a rate of 11.96 at-bats per home run.

Bradford Doolittle on how good Royce Lewis has been (ESPN)

Of course no one actually sees an 18 game sample size as being Hall of Fame worthy, but there’s no denying how exceptional he has been or how absolutely insane his production has been. But what if I said that Royce is a sneaky pick for 2024 MLB Most Valuable Player?

Related: What is a Slumpbuster? Royce Lewis Couldn’t Tell You.

It’s not surprising that Lewis isn’t listed by ESPN as a realistic MVP candidate, to this point. He’s only played 18 games. But if the newly-turned 25-year-old continues to hit at the pace he is right now, is it possible he could climb back into the race?

Well, his OPS+ 18 games in is 250. It would be pretty much unfathomable for him to hold that number the rest of the way. If he did, and wound up playing something close to 90 games, it would be hard not to hand him the award.

Royce Lewis for American League MVP…?

With 84 games remaining on the schedule, that would put Lewis on pace to finish with 12 doubles, 56 home runs, 4.8 fWAR, and 79 RBI on the season. The bookend numbers may not stand out, but 56 dingers would rival whatever New York Yankees Aaron Judge is going to do.

Doing all of that in such a short timeframe, while pushing the Twins back to the front of the AL Central… would absolutely factor into the equation. It would be nothing short of unprecedented for Lewis to make real hay in the MVP race, but then again nothing he has accomplished to start his career has been anything near normal. Go ahead and doubt this kid.

Any time Royce Lewis has a baseball bat in his hand a someone throwing a ball in his direction, something special can happen. We’ve seen that over and over again. How good has the start to Lewis’ career been? He’s hitting more home runs per at-bat than anyone in the history of Major League Baseball, not named McGwire, Ruth or Judge.

Lewis is a long, long, long way from qualifying for any kind of a career leaderboard. But if he did … that rate of 11.96 AB/HR would rank as the fourth best in history, behind only Mark McGwire, Judge and Ruth, and just ahead of Barry Bonds and Josh Gibson.

Bradford Doolittle comparing Royce Lewis to other historic power hitters – ESPN

Minnesota Twins go mostly unmentioned for AL midseason awards (ESPN)

While the Minnesota Twins don’t play on one of the coasts, they have boasted more than a handful of exceptional talents this season. Carlos Correa looks the part of the player that commanded three separate teams paying him more than $200 million. He’s 12th in fWAR among American League hitters, and will get MVP votes if this keeps up.

The most surprising player is noted as Jurickson Profar. He’s having a resurgent season, but has previously shown this level of play. His 2.7 fWAR is identical to that of Willi Castro’s, and the Twins utility man was signed as a minor league free agent after being cast off by the Detroit Tigers.

Related: Carlos Correa was Voted Overrated by His Peers, Then He Put His Cape On

No mention is made of Joe Ryan’s start either, despite him being 13th in fWAR among American League pitchers. Emmanuel Clase is called the best reliever, while Griffin Jax is somehow not mentioned among the top ten. It’s an embarrassment of forgetfulness, but Royce’s title only makes it worse.

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