The Minnesota Twins agreed to terms with No. 1 overall pick Royce Lewis on Saturday, and held his introductory press conference between games of a doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians with his parents, as well as his agent Scott Boras in attendance.
For what it’s worth, the slot value for the No. 1 pick was $7.7 million, with the Twins saving just a bit over $1 million to spread to the rest of their picks in the top-10 rounds. No No. 1 pick has ever signed for full slot value at No. 1 overall, and presumed top pick favorites Brendan McKay and Kyle Wright expecting to get $7.025 million from the Rays and $7 million from the Braves, respectively. The previous record in the slotted picks era of the draft was $6.7 million to Kris Bryant from the Chicago Cubs in 2013 — the year the Twins selected prep righty Kohl Stewart.
In other words, in isolation, Lewis’ bonus would have broken that record if it stood alone, too.
Lewis, who recently graduated from JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., won the 2017 Gatorade Player of the Year award as the best high school player in California — over Hunter Greene, for what it’s worth — and also won his league’s player of the year award for the third season in a row. In 2016, the Los Angeles Times named him their high school player of the year, and he’s played in countless showcases and events, including the same U17 and U15 teams as Greene, as well as the Under Armour All-American Game at Wrigley Field in 2016 and the Perfect Game All-American Classic at Petco Park (he was MVP of both).
Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey opened the press conference by welcoming Lewis and his parents to Minnesota. “It’s a very exciting day for the Minnesota Twins franchise and our future,” Falvey continued. “You’re all now part of our Minnesota Twins baseball family. We look forward to our continued partnership in growing Royce into a major-league player and achieving his dreams,” Falvey said to Boras, who has known of Lewis since he was a young boy.
(fast forward the above video to 51 seconds to see Lewis face Twins third-round pick Blayne Enlow!)
Falvey said that when he and Thad Levine took over as partners in the front office, they knew that at some point they’d have to make the No. 1 overall pick, and they trusted that Sean Johnson and his staff were going to help them identify the premier talent in the nation to use their pick on, and build their future around. “What you don’t know when you’re starting to prepare for the selection,” Falvey continued, “is whether or not you’re going to select a player that you have seen that has the utmost level of work ethic, integrity, character and passion for the game that this guy on my left has. We felt we selected both the top talent in the draft and the top person. That’s a credit to his parents, his family and to Royce. We couldn’t be happier.”
The relationship with Boras dates back roughly eight years, the agent noted on Sunday afternoon.
“We have had the good fortune of knowing the Lewis family from many years ago when Mr. Lewis came to me at a restaurant with another major-league player and said, ‘You know, I think my son is pretty good. Do you know of anybody that could maybe evaluate him and have him play travel ball?’” Boras said. “I gave his name to a coach, and Royce went and worked out. The coach called me, and said: “My God, this is the best youth player I’ve ever seen.” From that day forward, nothing surprised me about Royce, and what his capacity is.”
Young Royce was just 10 years old when that happened.
Lewis was very excited to get the contract signed, and said it’s every boy’s dream to sign on to play professional baseball. “It’s really exciting,” Lewis said, before noting that he’ll head out to Fort Myers to join the Rookie-level GCL Twins in the near future.
Lewis didn’t hear much of the pre-draft buzz, and it was for good reason — he’s not on social media. So he wasn’t aware whether he was in the mix or not to go No. 1. “
I never really looked into the reports of all that extracurricular stuff,” Lewis said. “For myself, I believed in my ability and I always knew I could reach the top. So I never had any doubts. But, when the pick came, I found out when the rest of the world found out, around 4:11 Pacific time. My family and I were going crazy, jumping up like little kids and crying. It was a lot of fun, and that’s when I found out.”
Boras maintains that he never had any doubt where the Twins would go with the top pick. “I had the opportunity to meet Derek and Thad — who I’ve known for a long time — at the Winter Meetings,” Boras said. “When I met them, I knew who their No. 1 pick was going to be. This was not a surprise to me, because I’d known the Lewis family. I knew kind of the fit for the players they were seeking. I assure you, in the many years I’ve been in this business, who Royce is as a person at his age, certainly his skill level is that of a 1-1 player, but who he is as a person is distinguishable from many. I think he’s someone that, someday, will be something that all of us in baseball hope players will be. I’m very excited. It’s a credit to his parents.”
Boras said that he never felt like he had to sell the Twins on Lewis, and that the youngster’s play did the talking. “I think we were all at a high school game together watching Royce play, and when I saw Royce take a 3-2 slider — a very difficult pitch for a high school player to take — take it, get on first, steal second, steal third and score on a popup that was beyond shortstop, I kind of knew with the Thad’s glean in his eye that he had seen everything that we had been seeing for years,” Boras said.
“Suddenly it was very clear to us that the Twins had done a very exhaustive job of determining who for them was the best player,” he added.
Lewis spent the day in the Twin Cities on Saturday, and said he fell in love with the area. “My family and I noticed the Minnesota Nice. That was the first thing we noticed,” he said. “We thought that was awesome. I said, “Hey, I’ll be a perfect fit here!” I think the city is beautiful, very clean. I love the Twin Cities — both of them. I went to St. Paul, and to the Nook to have a Jucy Lucy. I love the city so far, it’s been great.”
Ultimately, Lewis concluded that over the last week, his life has changed dramatically. “It’s been amazing, though,” he said. “It’s a child’s dream, like I said before. I’m having such a great time, and it’s been so much fun. You know, meeting all the people I get to meet. I just met Paul Molitor recently, and that’s on my mind. I’m like ‘Whoa, over 3,000 hits. A .306 career batting average. I’d like to do that someday.’ But yeah, it’s been a blessing.”