No hesitation for 1st-rounder Lewis

No. 11 pick in 2016 Draft ready to get pro career started

No hesitation for 1st-rounder Lewis

SEATTLE -- It's been a whirlwind week for Kyle Lewis, who was selected by the Mariners in the first round of the 2016 Draft on Thursday night, signed with the club on Saturday, spent the weekend attending games at Safeco Field and checking out Seattle and then flew back home to Georgia on Monday to get a few things in order before beginning his pro baseball career.

Lewis was the first first-round Draft pick to sign, but the 20-year-old saw no reason to wait around. He knows what he wants and he's ready to get after it.

Mariners' 2016 Draft picks

"I don't think we've ever had a first-round pick come in this quick," said Mariners amateur scouting director Tom McNamara. "After we drafted Kyle on Thursday, we called him at 12:45 a.m. East Coast time and asked if he could get to Seattle the next morning, expecting he'd need a day. He said, 'I'm ready to go.'"

"I didn't want to have to wait," said Lewis, the No. 11 overall pick as an outfielder out of Mercer University in Macon, Ga. "I had the contract pretty much ready to go, so I figured, 'Why not? Let's get up here and get it going.'"

Lewis said he'd never been further west then Dallas until flying to Seattle on Saturday. He acknowledged it was a little different atmosphere than what he was used to in Georgia, but after his weekend visit, he tweeted that "Seattle is truly an amazing city."

Seattle Draft pick takes BP

Lewis will be assigned to Class A Everett, which opens its season Friday at Tri-Cities, but the club is still deciding whether to have him join the team for its first road trip or have him work out this week in extended spring camp in Arizona and debut when the AquaSox open at home on June 23 against Boise.

After batting .395/.535/.731 with 20 home runs and 72 RBIs this year at Mercer, the 6-foot-4, 205-pounder is eager to show what he can do at the pro level.

"I'm excited," he said. "I fully believe once I'm out there able to play every day, it's going to be a good situation. I think I have the talent and ability to help and impact teams wherever I go."

Lewis was undrafted out of Shiloh High School in Snellville, Ga., didn't receive much attention from the nearby ACC and SEC powers and settled on Mercer, a private school of 4,000 students about 90 minutes from where he grew up. It turned out to be a perfect fit.

"People keep asking me how so many people missed on him when he was coming out of high school," Mercer head coach Craig Gibson said. "But nobody missed on him. He was what he was. If I'm an ACC or SEC coach, he was a ways off.

"But academically, he was a great fit here. He's a great student," Gibson said. "No doubt he was a great athlete, too, but the skill level wasn't there yet. In high school, they thought he was a first baseman. But with his body type, I wanted to let him play in the outfield to use his tool set more. His first year, he didn't play much. We had a senior in center field that was pretty good. By year two, that was his spot, and he took it and ran."

Mariners draft OF Lewis No. 11

There is debate among pro scouts whether the lanky youngster can stick in center or if he will be moved to a corner spot. Lewis' favorite player is Adam Jones, and he'd love to follow his footsteps in center. Gibson said not to bet against him, and that Lewis has better speed than many of the scouting reports indicated.

"A lot of the pro guys never got a great run time on his home to first," said Gibson, who has had 16 players drafted out of Mercer since 2004, including A's outfielder Billy Burns and Giants reliever Cory Gearrin. "He's a big guy and he gets bent back with a big swing at the plate. But the guy can really run. The run tool is going to be good to cover the outfield. It'll play in center. And his throwing arm has gotten a lot better.

"When he first came, he probably had a left fielder's arm, but that has certainly developed. I think he sticks in center, I really do. It'll be interesting to see."

Lewis on being drafted

Gibson said Lewis comes from a great family -- his father is an engineer out of Georgia Tech and his mom, who went to Georgia State, sells real estate in Atlanta. His brother Kenny, who graduated from Georgia and now works in marketing in Los Angeles, also accompanied the family to Seattle for the weekend.

"He's just a good guy off the field, too," Gibson said. "He's very mature. There's a lot of positives. I've been in SEC and ACC country for a long time and seen a lot of players. And the ceiling is unbelievable for him. He hasn't played a lot of high-level baseball yet, but his bat speed is as good as anybody's. It's electric. I really didn't think he'd make it out of the top three [in the Draft]."

The Mariners had Lewis third on their Draft board and didn't expect him to still be available at No. 11 either, but they were thrilled when he was. And if Lewis was disappointed not to get picked as high as some had projected, he certainly didn't show it.

"I think naturally you get nervous, but I tried to stay calm and believe in the idea I'd end up where I'm supposed to be," he said. "I knew I'd go eventually, so when the Mariners called, I was nothing but happy and ready to get going. It didn't really matter at that point, where you get picked. It's going to be a clean slate. I knew I was going to be in a good situation."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.