Royce Lewis Talks Hitting

Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Last Wednesday, in a piece titled “Royce Lewis Has Arrived in Grand Fashion,” Jay Jaffe noted that the Minnesota Twins third baseman had “clubbed his third grand slam in an eight-game span” in the team’s contest against the Cleveland Guardians that Monday. My colleague added that, per the Elias Sports Bureau and MLB.com’s Sarah Langs, Lewis joined Lou Gehrig, Jim Northrup, and Larry Parrish as the only player in MLB history to “bunch three such hits so closely.”

Lewis has done more than hit grannies. Since making his big league debut last season, the first overall pick in the 2017 draft has slashed a healthy .310/.355/.541 with 14 home runs and a 147 wRC+ over 245 plate appearances. Staying on the field had been an issue. As our lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen wrote in June, “Lewis’ career has been marred by persistent injury.” But as Longenhagen noted, “He is back and ready to make an immediate impact on Minnesota’s playoff push.”

I was in Cleveland for last week’s Guardians-Twins series, and thus was present for Lewis’ 3-for-4, six-RBI, grand slam performance. Prior to the game, I sat down with the red-hot rookie to talk hitting.

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David Laurila: Let’s start with my favorite icebreaker question: Do you view hitting as more of an art, or as more of a science?

Royce Lewis: “It’s more of an art for me. Certain people have gifts and talents that others may not have. At the same time, a lot of people have to work at it, and that’s where the science comes in. You’re working on the mechanical part of it, trying to get to certain positions that other people can get to naturally. Like, I can’t do what a Ronald Acuña Jr. does, or what Mookie Betts does, but at some point we all have to try to do it more consistently. Those guys seem to do it every day, naturally.

“So yeah, to me it’s more of an art. Some people are da Vinci, while others are up-and-coming guys, trying to figure it out like Leonardo.”

Laurila: What is your art? What do you do at the plate that comes naturally?

Lewis: “That’s a great question. I’ve never really looked at myself as… you know, I’ve just tried to work as hard as I can, to try to be consistent every day, to help my team out. I couldn’t tell you what my special skill is.

“My swing has also evolved over time. It’s been changing. The last three, four years, it seems like… I mean, it’s the same swing, but with different ways to get to the swing. That’s why I say I’m still growing and learning. I’m trying to be that Leonardo da Vinci, but I’m not there yet.”

Laurila: To what extent have the changes you’ve made been influenced by all the time you’ve missed?

Lewis: “I’d say a little bit, but it’s more so just adapting to the game — how the game has evolved and how the pitchers are always nasty. There is never a day off in terms of seeing who is pitching and being like, ‘Oh, thank goodness, finally someone easier to face.’ No. That never happens anymore. Maybe it did back in the day where you would get one of those fourth or fifth starter types, but nowadays, at least to me, it seems like you’re facing an All-Star-caliber pitcher, with All-Star-caliber stuff, each and every night. Especially when you get into the bullpen. Everyone is throwing 97-98 [mph] with cut, sink, rise, the hard curveballs, the hard sliders, changeups… all of this stuff that’s elite. Like I said, you have to try to grow with the game.”

Laurila: You mentioned a get-to-your-swing evolution. Have you tweaked your approach, where your hands are, your stance?

Lewis: “Approach and setup are the two main ones, really. It’s been about setting up to make sure that I’m on time each and every day.”

Laurila: Do you feel that timing is the most important part of hitting?

Lewis: “Absolutely. If you’re on time, you can be at your best more consistently. And that’s on time with everything, not just the fastball. You have to be on time with the fastball, the slider, the changeup, the curveball.”

Laurila: When I talked hitting with Triston Casas, he said that being on plane was more important than timing. Is that something you’ve put thought into?

Lewis: “No. Personally, I haven’t thought of being on plane. Honestly, I try to keep it as simple as possible when I hit. I try to think about things like, ‘What do I have to do in this situation to get the runner over?’ Sometimes it’s just, ‘How can I get on base for my team?’ Maybe I’m even thinking about a home run. The best way to do those things is by looking for certain pitches. So for me it’s maybe more about approach and then timing. Swing plane would come after that.”

Laurila: Changing direction a bit, are you at all surprised by how well you’ve been hitting — at the big league level, no less — given all the time you’ve missed?

Lewis: “No. I think it’s a blessing that I’ve been doing well, that I’ve been succeeding, but I’m not surprised by anything that I do. I have God on my side, and there’s also all the work I’ve been putting in. I’m always putting energy and effort into being the best I can possibly be.”

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Earlier “Talks Hitting” interviews can found through these links: Jo Adell, Jeff Albert, Greg Allen, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Bates, Jacob Berry, Alex Bregman, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Charlie Blackmon, JJ Bleday, Bobby Bradley, Will Brennan, Jay Bruce, Triston Casas, Matt Chapman, Michael Chavis, Garrett Cooper, Gavin Cross, Jacob Cruz, Nelson Cruz, Paul DeJong, Josh Donaldson, Brendan Donovan, Donnie Ecker, Rick Eckstein, Drew Ferguson, Justin Foscue, Michael Fransoso, Ryan Fuller, Joey Gallo, Paul Goldschmidt, Devlin Granberg, Andy Haines, Mitch Haniger, Robert Hassell III, Nico Hoerner, Rhys Hoskins, Eric Hosmer, Tim Hyers, Connor Joe, Josh Jung, Jimmy Kerr, Heston Kjerstad, Steven Kwan, Trevor Larnach, Doug Latta, Evan Longoria, Michael Lorenzen, Gavin Lux, Dave Magadan, Trey Mancini, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Marcelo Mayer, Hunter Mense, Owen Miller, Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Daniel Murphy, Lars Nootbaar, Logan O’Hoppe, Vinnie Pasquantino, Luke Raley, Brent Rooker, Drew Saylor, Marcus Semien, Giancarlo Stanton, Spencer Steer, Trevor Story, Fernando Tatis Jr., Spencer Torkelson, Mark Trumbo, Justin Turner, Trea Turner, Josh VanMeter, Robert Van Scoyoc, Chris Valaika, Zac Veen, Alex Verdugo, Mark Vientos, Matt Vierling, Luke Voit, Anthony Volpe, Joey Votto, Christian Walker, Jared Walsh, Jordan Westburg, Jesse Winker, Bobby Witt Jr. Mike Yastrzemski, Nick Yorke, Kevin Youkilis





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Oneearmember
7 months ago

It would be interesting to track all these guys the weeks after they gave these interviews to see if thinking about their hitting affected them one way or the other.