MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins opened the festivities at the 2017 MLB Draft on Monday night by adding an elite athlete to their organization, taking Southern California prep shortstop Royce Lewis with the No. 1 overall pick.
Lewis, 18, has the most complete package of tools of any player in the class. He is an incredible athlete with a knack for getting the barrel of the bat on the ball, and his 70-grade speed (on the 20-80 scouting scale) manifests itself on both sides of the ball, while the Twins also project the 6-foot-1, 185-pounder to grow into power, as he once hit a homer out of Wrigley Field as part of an Under Armour showcase. They also see him as a shortstop instead of a center fielder.
"We're so excited to have him as part of the organization," Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said. "Royce was a guy we targeted all spring. It's someone we knew would be considered as far back as last summer. We got to know him very deeply and he'll be a big part of our future."
Lewis, the 2017 Gatorade Player of the Year in California, was watching the Draft on MLB Network with his family at his grandparents' house when he received a call from general manager Thad Levine that he'd be the first pick.
"Once I heard my name called, it was an amazing feeling," Lewis, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 5 prospect in this year's Draft, said. "I'm just glad to have the opportunity. I can't wait to put on the jersey and get out there and start playing."
Lewis was somewhat of a surprise selection, getting taken over two-way stars Brendan McKay and Hunter Greene, as well as right-hander Kyle Wright. The Twins, who had the No. 1 overall selection for the third time in franchise history, are expected to sign Lewis for under the slot value of $7,770,700, which they can use on later picks, especially considering they also have the Nos. 35 and 37 selections. Minnesota has a Draft pool of $14,156,800 for the first 10 rounds.
Twins vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff said money was a factor, and they didn't believe any one player stood out strongly above the rest. They also didn't decide to pick Lewis until right before the Draft. It's a scenario similar to when they took Joe Mauer with the No. 1 overall pick in 2001 over Mark Prior, as that went down to the wire and money was a consideration.
"Royce is one of the elite athletes and makeup/intangible available in any Draft," Radcliff said. "We see him as an impact player on both sides of the ball. He also has a unique ability to impact the clubhouse and the locker room and the community. He's got that 'it factor' that a No. 1 pick needs."
Lewis, a UC Irvine commit advised by Scott Boras, believes his makeup, along with his physical tools, helped him stand out among other candidates for the No. 1 pick. He also joked that he hasn't grown into his "man power" just yet.
"I think I have more heart than many of the players out there," Lewis said. "It's the mental side of things going into the game. I'm thinking four or five steps ahead and my approach at the plate is changing pitch by pitch, game by game. I feel like I have a high maturity level."
Lewis' coach at JSerra Catholic in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., is Brett Kay, a former Mets farmhand who played alongside David Wright, Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan when they were coming up, and he says Lewis has the potential to be as good as, if not better than, all of them.
"He's the best athlete I think I've ever seen," Kay said. "I can't imagine what's going through an 18-year-old's brain right now, but he just wants to go out and have fun, and he makes this baseball field his playground. And I mean that in every sense of the nicest way I could."
The Draft continues on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage beginning at 1 p.m. ET.