Mariners OF Lewis hoping tight relationships will carry team in the future
The Mariners will feature plenty of young faces throughout 2020, and one who should be on the big league club from opening day onward is outfielder Kyle Lewis, who got his first taste of MLB action last September.
Lewis had one of the best starts to a career not only in Mariners history, but in MLB history. He hit his first MLB home run in his first game and followed that up with home runs in each of the next two games, joining Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story as the only players in MLB history to homer in their first three games. In 71 plate appearances, Lewis hit six home runs, drove in 13 runs and had a slash line of .268/.293/.592.
Lewis, the No. 11 pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, was the first player general manager Jerry Dipoto drafted after taking over the Mariners.
He likely would have started the season as the team’s opening day left fielder, but he could slide over to right field due to Mitch Haniger’s two offseason surgeries.
Nevertheless, Lewis will be one of many top Seattle prospects getting extended playing time at the major league level this year, along with some of his best friends like Evan White and Justus Sheffield.
Lewis joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant in Peoria to talk about the upcoming season, the team’s young nucleus and much more.
As mentioned, Lewis is in extremely rare company for the start to his MLB career. Like it would with anyone, it gave him a boost mentally out of the gate.
“Yeah, (it gave me) tons of confidence and (I was) really just kind of like trying to take everything in stride and build out my story,” he said. “So that’s just a cool way to kind of start (my career) off and it’s something we’ll be able to talk about later on.”
Lewis will be looked at to provide some much-needed pop in the lineup this year and it’s not too crazy to think he could lead the team in home runs in 2020.
Though Lewis will likely strike out at a higher clip than most, that’s the tradeoff for his power.
“He has power. He controls the strike zone in a different way than people look at. Kyle makes very good decisions on what to swing at,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto explained at the team’s media pre-spring training luncheon. “There are empty swings, he’s gonna come up empty, and that’s part of the trade-off for getting the kind of power he has – particularly his power to the opposite field. When you hit the ball as far Kyle Lewis hits it to right-center field, you have to allow the ball to travel deeper in the zone. As a result, you are gonna run a higher strikeout rate more often than not.”
Let the kids play
Lewis is just 24 and will be one of many young 20-somethings playing their first full season at the big league level. He played with many of his soon-to-be Mariners teammates during the minors, such as at Double-A Arkansas last season, and he, like the top executives in the organization and the team’s coaching staff, hopes that those players coming up together and being similar in age will lead to something great.
The players apparently think the same way, with Lewis saying “the potential is there” for the young core to create something special in Seattle.
“Everybody talks about that,” Lewis said. “(We’re) just trying to get on the same page about what we’re trying to accomplish and try and do it together. Try and be genuine friends and build relationships that carry on to the field and it definitely makes it a lot easier to play … It’s just easy to show up and play when you’ve got guys who you believe in and they believe in you.”
Something else that helps the young players in being so close is they can keep each other accountable while still being extremely supportive.
“I think the competition part is you want to see everybody be as good as you can be (and) you don’t want any shortcuts,” he said. “So you want everyone to be as good as they can be at the top of their game and then let the chips fall where they may and (let) everything play out the way it’s going to play out roster-wise and playing time-wise and things like that.
“You want everyone to be great. As a human you want to root on everyone.”
During his brief time in the majors last year, Lewis was able to take away a lot as far as how he needs to approach life as a big league ballplayer.
“I think just the preparation that goes into being great every day,” he said when asked what his biggest takeaway from his month in the majors was. “The preparation and the way you can shape your life to be successful and make it a lot easier on your mind because there’s a lot going on out there.”
Even though there aren’t many veteran players left on the roster, Lewis has at least one established player he knows he can lean on.
“Kyle Seager helps a lot in that aspect,” he said. “I’m always asking him questions and probably sometimes it’s like ‘stop asking questions,’ but I keep asking him, just trying to learn everything.”
Lewis has just one goal in mind for 2020, and that’s staying on the field.
“Health is always the goal for me now. Just staying healthy and taking care of my body the right way,” he said. “And then I would say just continuing to make adjustments and continue to learn.”
Lewis suffered multiple knee injuries during his minor league career, which delayed his MLB debut. Now healthy, he’s looking to stay that way in 2020 and beyond. While many of his other teammates are setting goals pertaining to statistics and whatnot, Lewis just wants to go out and play ball.
“I feel like I don’t want to go in there with any expectations,” he said of the upcoming season. “I think expectations promote failure when you don’t reach certain things that (you aimed to). I never want to feel like I failed. I’m just going to go out there and work hard and apply myself and I know that if I do those two things then good things will happen.”
You can listen to Lewis’ full conversation with Danny and Gallant at this link or in the player below.
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