Royce Lewis doubled in the Minnesota Twins’ first spring training at-bat of 2020, a very nice impression for the team’s top overall prospect as he looks to ascend through the minor leagues.
Of course Lewis has yet to reach the majors, but as fans know, being a top draft choice or a top prospect does not ensure a prosperous MLB career. Just look at the Twins’ top prospects (according to Baseball America) this century:
2018-20 — Royce Lewis: Has slashed .266/.331/.409 through three seasons of minor league ball after being selected with the top pick in 2017, reaching Double-A for the first time last season.
2017 — Nick Gordon: Spent part of 2018 and all of 2019 in Triple-A, but Jorge Polanco’s contract extension and Luis Arraez’s emergence have blocked him from immediate sight of the Twins’ infield, while a slow ascension and Lewis’ selection have knocked him down the prospect list.
2014-16 — Byron Buxton: A force in center field when healthy, Buxton’s abbreviated 2019 (.262/.314/.513; 114 OPS+) was his best at the bat among his five MLB seasons to this point.
2012-13 — Miguel Sano: Sanó also put forth a dominant fifth major league season, slashing .247/.346/.576 with 34 home runs, and is moving defensive positions from third to first base in 2020 to make room for Josh Donaldson.
2011 — Kyle Gibson: Put up a 4.52 ERA and 67-68 won-loss record in seven seasons as a Twin before signing with the Texas Rangers this off season.
2009-10 — Aaron Hicks: After three partial seasons with Minnesota and a .655 OPS, Hicks was shipped to New York, where he has thrived with the Yankees (OPS’ his last three seasons: .847, .833, .769).
2008 — Nick Blackburn: 4.85 ERA and 43-55 record in six years in the majors, all with Minnesota; led the league in hits allowed (240) in 2009.
2007 — Matt Garza: Threw in two partial seasons in Minnesota, traded to Tampa Bay in the Delmon Young deal, pitched 10 more good seasons in the majors.
2006 — Francisco Liriano: Helped the Twins set the AL on fire in 2006 (12-3 record, 2.16 ERA, All-Star, third in Rookie of the Year voting), traded to the White Sox in 2012 (the Eduardo Escobar deal), currently with the Phillies as a non-roster invitee.
2002-05 — Joe Mauer: Fifteen years in the majors (all with the Twins), 2009 MVP, one of the best catchers in MLB history while in his prime, number 7 retired by Minnesota, all-time beloved Twin.
2001 — Adam Johnson: Pitched in just nine games in the majors, allowing 30 earned runs in 26.1 innings; was drafted with the second pick in 2000, four picks before (some things come around) Rocco Baldelli.
1999-2000 — Michael Cuddyer: Played his first 11 years in Minnesota, won a batting title in Colorado one year before his Rockies and ex-Twins teammate Justin Morneau did the same, finished his 15-season career with a year as a Met.
Being a top prospect is different than being a top pick in that the former have already shown potential against minor league competition, but it is still not a sure sign of success as a big-league ball player. Given Lewis’ youth, much more time is needed before fans and front offices learn if he will be a star, a solid major league, or a flashbulb.