Royce Lewis Makes Twins Legitimate AL Pennant Contender

royce lewis Minnesota Twins
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins won again on Friday vs the White Sox. matching the exact score (10-2) from one night earlier vs the same opponent. This time, the blowout began in the 2nd inning, when Royce Lewis hit a grand slam in his 2nd at-bat. It was his 4th grand slam in 18 games, by far an MLB record.

Royce Lewis is an up-and-coming phenom

Royce Lewis may be 24 years old but he is still a rookie. Hitting more grand slams than any player in MLB history, as a rookie, is an incredible feat. It isn’t a small sample size fluke, either. Lewis’ consistent offensive production, capable defensive and ability to come through in clutch moments have completely changed the dynamic of the Twins’ lineup.

In 53 games this season, Lewis is hitting .302 (.909 OPS), with 14 HR, 50 RBI, the latter of which is 3rd on the team. Both players ahead of him — Carlos Correa (64 RBI, 132 GP) and Max Kepler (60 RBI, 119 GP) — have played more than double the amount of games he has.

Royce returned from the injured list on August 15, after a 1.5 month recovery, and immediately started mashing. Since, the Twins have pulled away in the AL Central, thanks to Lewis’ 10 HR, 35 RBI and .982 OPS. In that time, the offense, as a whole, has an OPS of .815 and averages 6 runs per game.

But where Lewis seems to excel is when the pressure is on. In 53 high leverage plate appearances this season, the former #1 overall pick is batting an absurd .396 with a 1.286 OPS, including 7 home runs and 31 RBI. With 2 outs and runners in scoring position, that OPS jumps to 1.312.

But just as important as his own performance, Royce Lewis’ presence in the lineup seems to have given new energy and confidence to veterans around him. The Twins are notably better, both on offense and defense, with him in the lineup.

Playoff Twins

The worry all season, for Twins fans, has been at the plate. They’ve proven to have one of the better starting staffs, top to bottom, in baseball, including three legitimate playoff starters in Sonny Gray, Pablo Lopez and Joe Ryan. They have bullpen options like Louie Varland, Jhoan Duran and Kenta Maeda, not to mention the recovering Brock Stewart and Jorge Alcala.

And with Lewis in the lineup, during the second half, it’s been the Twins offense that has carried them, in no small part due to Royce’ consistent and clutch production. Come playoff time, it’s a recipe that should win them a series or two.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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