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A Mariners ROY candidate? What insiders are saying about Kyle Lewis

Kyle Lewis had six home runs in 18 games with the Mariners in 2019. (AP)

There were two highlights that stand out above the rest from the 2019 Mariners season – one from the beginning of the year and one from the end of it.

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The first would be their scorching 13-2 start to the season, something that quickly faded into a memory as the rebuilding team slipped under .500 by mid-May. The second, though, is something that could turn out to have staying power – and, well, actual power – and that’s the bat of Kyle Lewis.

Lewis homered in each of his first three games in the big leagues, joining Colorado slugger Trevor Story as the only players ever to accomplish that feat. He went on to hit six home runs in 18 games after his promotion to the Mariners for September, and he continued to swing a hot bat when he returned to action both in spring training and Summer Camp this year.

Lewis was especially loud at T-Mobile Park over the last few weeks in intrasquad games, homering to all fields against his teammates, including this mammoth opposite-field blast on Tuesday.

As you might expect, Lewis’ potential has been a regular topic on 710 ESPN Seattle’s shows this week. Let’s take a look at some of the things that were said, coming from MLB reporters, members of the Mariners and the hosts of the shows themselves.

Jon Morosi, MLB Network insider

A regular guest on Bob, Dave and Moore (3-7 p.m. Monday-Friday), Morosi said he had heard high praise from Mariners opening day starting pitcher Marco Gonzales about Lewis, and he agreed.

“I know Marco Gonzales was mentioning him as a Rookie of the Year candidate and that’s a great call by Marco,” Morosi said Thursday. “I think Kyle Lewis has a chance to really surprise people. First-round talent, healthy now, opportunity to play. I think that’s a really nice combination of factors there for Lewis.”

Shannon Drayer, Mariners insider for 710 ESPN Seattle

The key thing Lewis showed in Summer Camp was a development in his approach at the plate, Drayer said.

“What I saw in Summer Camp that was the most encouraging and that I think could just shoot him to the top of that list is that the downside of Kyle Lewis has been the strikeouts – he has struck out quite a bit each year in the minor leagues. What we saw in Summer Camp was some really good two-strike hitting, and this seems to be a newer development for him,” she said.

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto

On The Jerry Dipoto Show with Danny and Gallant, which airs weekly at 8:30 a.m. every Thursday, the man who drafted Lewis talked about how he stands out so much on the field.

“Kyle is often the most noticeable player on the field because he’s hitting them 400 feet roughly every third swing he takes,” Dipoto said with a chuckle, “I guess if we were judging it by audible sound off the bat. (Lewis and rookie first baseman Evan White) have both been awesome and we’re so excited for where they’re going. Kyle’s been so good in this Summer Camp and I hope he’s able to maintain the place he’s in right now as we get into the regular season.”

The opposite-field power of Lewis has been getting a lot of attention, and Dipoto explained what he thinks it signals.

“Kyle just lets it travel so far into the zone, and he hit that ball (Tuesday) into dead right field about 10, 12 rows up, which is where left-hand power hitters pull the ball. For a right-hand hitter to hit the ball that way without leveraging his swing to the pull side is really indicative of top of the scale raw power, and we’ve always believed that Kyle had that. The world’s getting to see now what a healthy Kyle Lewis is capable of and we’re hopeful that he’s able to string it together for these 60 games and really make the most of this opportunity.”

Mariners pitcher Marco Gonzales

The veteran lefty starter had pretty high compliments for both Lewis and White when asked Tuesday morning on Danny and Gallant which of his teammates are the hardest to get out.

“I think two guys stand out for me – Kyle Lewis and Evan White, and I think those are pretty obvious choices,” Gonzales said. “These guys have showed up ready to play, two guys that really go about their business the right way. They’re fun to face, they compete the right way, they’re out there to make everybody better so I’ve really valued having them in the box because that challenge has gotten us to where we need to be.”

Brock and Salk

On their weekly podcast, a new episode of which becomes available at 7 p.m. every Tuesday night, Brock Huard and Mike Salk went through a list of young Mariners players and what they want to see out of them in the shortened 60-game 2020 season.

For Huard, it’s consistency at the plate.

“Just evened out. Just some level of consistency,” he said of what he’s looking for from Lewis. “Came out on fire (last September), and then the whole ‘Can he make adjustments?’ And you saw the pitchers obviously make adjustments because the guy can damage a fastball.

“… This is going to be a sprint. If you go through a week or two in a normal 162-game season, as every player, even the elite guys do, where there’s a slump or a bump in the road, it’s going to be exaggerated over the course of 60 games. So hopefully it’s not a week or two weeks or three weeks. Hopefully it’s a series or two series and you flush it and you get back on that consistency train. So can he hit north of .250? Can he have an on-base (percentage) north of .330? … You know the double and the triple and the home run and just that oppo-taco power is there – he hits .250, for me, over the course of 60 games, that would be a big step.”

Salk wants to see a better showing from Lewis in the field than last fall.

“How about passable defense?” Salk posed. “I know Scott said his defense has looked better and that he’s going to play a little bit of center field. What I saw in his brief stint in the majors last year was not major league-quality defense. He got turned around pretty bad on a couple of fly balls. … He’s going to have to figure out – can you play left or right field capably and not get yourself turned around? You don’t have to be a Gold Glover but you have to not be a liability.”

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