The Star Tribune’s Phil Miller had an excellent look at No. 1 overall pick Royce Lewis in Friday’s paper. Lewis has been dominating Gulf Coast League pitching since arriving in Florida, and the prospect seems to be loving every minute of it.
That said, Lewis is still just 18 years old and has to clear five more levels before he is playing at Target Field someday. There’s still another (better) rookie league, two Class A levels, Class AA and Class AAA. Lewis’ progress will be checked regularly and meticulously over the next several years as he (hopefully, if you root for the Twins) winds his way toward the majors. Such is life for a shortstop chosen directly out of high school.
If you’re looking for a prospect who might arrive more quickly (and who is off to a similarly hot start in the minors), you might want to pay attention to No. 35 overall pick Brent Rooker, chosen in the supplemental first round. The Twins knew that Rooker, 22, was a polished hitter coming out of Mississippi State. So far, he’s shown just that.
Rooker started the year at Elizabethton, the Twins’ higher-level rookie league team. The 6-3, 215-pound right-hand hitting outfielder crushed seven home runs in just 22 games, posting a .952 OPS while showing good plate discipline (11 walks). That earned him a recent promotion to Fort Myers — the Twins’ high-level Class A team, which means he bypassed the low-A team in Cedar Rapids.
Rooker is 0-for-10 at Ft. Myers so far in three games, with two walks and three strikeouts. That’s far too small of a sample size to say whether he will stick there or not. If he ends up succeeding there this year, Rooker could be on the fast track to at least getting a chance in the majors.
Several other high 2017 draft picks are off to notably strong starts as well. Among them: fifth-round pick Andrew Bechtold (third baseman from Chipola JC) has a 1.008 OPS at Elizabethton. Charlie Barnes (fourth round, left-handed pitcher from Clemson) has been dominating Elizabethton. He’s pitched five shutout innings in each of his last three starts, giving him a 1.31 ERA for the year.
Long story short: Lewis is the name everyone is focused on right now, but the first draft for Derek Falvey and co. could ultimately be judged on its depth. Rooker could be the first in a wave to make it long before Lewis is ready.