ST. PAUL — Royce Lewis has been the Minnesota Twins’ shortstop in waiting for years now. Since the day he was selected first overall in the 2017 draft — June 12 to be precise — he has worn that expectation.
Carlos Correa is the Twins’ shortstop of the present and he’s the Twins’ shortstop of the future. For how long, it’s hard to say — he is signed for six guaranteed years and potentially could stay for up to 10, though at some point he might move off the position.
But Lewis doesn’t seem upset that something that once seemed to be his has now been stripped away from him. Quite the opposite.
Both Lewis and Brooks Lee, the Twins’ top two prospects, are shortstops. Rather than bemoan the fact that the position is now filled for years to come, both say they see themselves as the lucky beneficiaries of Correa’s leadership.
“I was just really excited that he’s back because the mentorship I got last year was so awesome,” Lewis said during TwinsFest last weekend at Target Field. “And then for me to get hurt and lose that, it really broke my heart. I mean this is my favorite player and someone that’s taught me so much in the two months that I was able to be with him, and I was just excited to get more time with him.”
Twins pitchers and catchers are scheduled to arrive in Fort Myers, Fla., for spring training on Feb. 15. Position players will arrive days later, and both will have their opportunity to spend ample time around Correa.
Lewis shared a clubhouse with Correa briefly last spring, then occasionally during the season — he played in 12 games at the major league level before suffering a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury in late May.
Lee, picked eighth overall in the 2022 draft, has spent even less time around Correa but said he’s looking forward to the opportunity in the days and years to come. Correa, he said, is his “idol” right now.
“I’m as lucky as anybody is in professional baseball,” Lee said. “Right when he re-signed, it was, ‘This was probably the best thing that could have happened to me.’ Just to have someone like that with the track record and the success. And ultimately, he’s a great guy, great leader, and it’s obvious every single day.”
While his future position is now up in the air, Lee said he was open to doing whatever is needed to help the team. At the time he was drafted last summer, Twins vice president of amateur scouting Sean Johnson said if he didn’t wind up at short, Lee “profiles at second or third.”
Regarded as one of the most polished hitters in last year’s draft, Lee moved quickly at the end of last season through the Twins’ system. He jumped all the way to Double-A Wichita by the end of 2022, hitting .303 with a .839 OPS and 37 hits in his 31 minor league games.
While it won’t happen imminently, Lee likes the sound of an infield that features both him and Lewis alongside Correa.
“That sounds pretty good to me. That sounds like an infield that can hit and play defense,” Lee said. “Wherever they put me, Royce and I, we’re both really eager to get back on the field.”
While Lee will start his season in the minor leagues, Lewis will begin his on the injured list as he continues to rehab from his second ACL surgery. Expected to return midseason, Lewis is seven months out from surgery and started hitting in early January.
What position he’ll return to, he’s not yet sure — though he did rule pitcher and catcher out and professed his preference to play on the infield dirt. He was injured last season playing his first major league game in center field.
After the Twins re-signed Correa, general manager Thad Levine got on the phone with Lewis. His message, the shortstop said, was to let him know how important he was to the team and how the Twins believe he’s a “championship-type player.”
While both Lewis and Lee are still a ways away, Correa said he is looking forward to investing in both of them, like he did with Jeremy Peña, his eventual successor at shortstop in Houston.
“When these guys come up to the big leagues, it helps. Eventually if they become superstars, it’s just going to make us better,” Correa said. “We draft based on talent, not positions, and their talent is good enough to play anywhere in the infield or the outfield. That excites me. The talent they bring to the table, the bats they’re going to bring, the stability in the lineup once they’re established on a big-league roster, it’s going to help us build what we want to build.”
The Twins begin reporting to the team’s facility in Fort Myers, Fla., for spring training in two weeks. Here are some key dates:
Feb. 15: Pitchers and catchers required to report
Feb: 19: Position players required to report
Feb. 20: First full-squad workout
Feb. 25: First games, split squad vs. Tampa Bay and Baltimore
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