Twins

Can Royce Lewis Become Minnesota's Next Transcendent Superstar?

Photo Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The next time you go to a game at Target Field, look around at the jerseys people are wearing. You’ll see plenty of Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa jerseys. The occasional Tsuyoshi Nishioka or Willians Astudillo jersey will pop out of the wilderness.

Still, some jerseys have remained constant at Target Field. I’m talking about the guy double-fisting Michelob Golden Lights in a Joe Mauer jersey, the parent herding his children in a Torii Hunter jersey, and the proud father taking his child to their first Minnesota Twins game.

These players have a unique place in franchise history and have become national superstars. They have risen above baseball’s East Coast stranglehold and made themselves must-see television. Nobody leaves their seat when they’re at the plate, and when they take the field, you might see something you’ve never seen before.

It’s been a long time since the Twins have had a player like this. But after 80 games, there’s a chance that Royce Lewis could be the next in line.

Lewis’s career had just as much frustration as it has excitement. Since the start of the 2021 season, Lewis has torn his ACL twice, suffered an oblique strain, a lower-body injury, and a quad strain that knocked him out for the first two months of this season.

However, in the 79 games he’s played, he’s looked the part of a transcendent superstar.

Lewis’s personality can make the staunchest fan feel like they’ve shotgunned an energy drink. His optimism is infectious, and his enthusiasm is unmatched. Even when the Twins played in their house of horrors at Yankee Stadium last week, Lewis took it in like a kid. He mimicked his idol Derek Jeter in the batter’s box and visited Jeter’s plaque in Monument Park.

Then there’s Lewis’s production on the field. Lewis went 3-for-5 with a double, a home run, and two RBI in Minnesota’s 17-9 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday afternoon. He’s hitting .314/.367/.589 in 79 career games. To put that in perspective, only two players have held that line with a minimum of 287 at-bats last season – Ronald Acuña Jr. and Corey Seager.

Justin Morneau is the only player in Twins history to hit .314/.367/.589 in a single season. And he did so in 2010 when he was limited to 81 games due to a concussion.

Lewis is also averaging a home run every 13.04 at-bats in his career. That trails Aaron Judge (11.52) among active players and only Mark McGwire (10.61), Judge, Babe Ruth (11.76), and Barry Bonds (12.92) for the highest ratio all-time. Harmon Killebrew leads the Twins/Washington Senators franchise with 14.22 at-bats per home run.

Warning flags over a small sample size should go up immediately when analyzing this data. Still, you can’t blame Twins fans for rubbing their eyes and wondering if Lewis is a player they created on MLB The Show.

The Twins have had their share of Hall of Famers, but few have been able to grab fans’ attention nationally. Killebrew may have been the first player as an 11-time All-Star and the 1969 American League MVP. However, his teammate Rod Carew became even more popular, gracing the cover of Time Magazine while hitting .388 in 1977.

Puckett was next in line and won two World Series with the Twins. However, his breakout moment came after an iconic catch and walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series. Two years later, he was the MVP of the 1993 All-Star Game.

Some dark years followed until Hunter robbed Barry Bonds of a home run in the 2002 All-Star Game and ran straight into casual fans’ living rooms.

Hunter’s play brought attention to the Twins, and they became an attraction in the 2000s. In 2006, Morneau won the American League MVP, Johan Santana won his third American League Cy Young Award, and Mauer won his first batting title. Mauer won the MVP Award three years later, hitting .365/.444/.587 with 28 homers and 96 RBI in 2009.

That led to another lull in the 2010s. Brian Dozier and Miguel Sanó briefly captivated people locally, and Byron Buxton has flashed the ability to become a national star. However, none of them could break through nationally like Carlos Correa did while winning a World Series with the Houston Astros in 2017.

It’s been a long time since the Twins have had a national superstar, but Lewis’s start has captured fans’ imagination. To become a national star, he’ll need to stay more on the field and grow into his new position at third base. But his personality and play on the field means there’s a chance that Lewis jerseys could start popping up in the future. Not just at Target Field – but nationally.

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