Royce Lewis’ return from a second knee surgery and subsequent emergence as a star-in-the-making was one of the most promising storylines of the Twins’ past season.
Lewis, formerly a shortstop throughout his minor league career, adapted well to third base, and as the Twins look ahead into next season, that’s where they’re penciling him in. Selected first overall in the 2017 draft, Lewis figures to be an important part of the Twins’ core moving forward.
After a productive rookie season, the Twins headed into 2022 with Jose Miranda as their third baseman to begin the year. But Miranda, who was limited during spring training due to a shoulder injury, struggled immensely to begin the season.
The Twins ultimately sent him down to Triple-A, only recalling him when they did because Lewis strained his oblique in early July. Miranda would quickly land on the injured list because of the shoulder. The last game he played was on July 9, marking what became a lost season for the 25-year-old.
Lewis, who began the season rehabbing his knee down at the Twins’ complex in Fort Myers, Fla., returned from the injured list in late May as a third baseman and captured the job. Though Lewis missed time with the oblique injury and again with a hamstring strain, he was one of the Twins’ most productive players when he was on the field.
The rookie hit .309 with a .921 OPS in 58 major league games. He hit 15 home runs in those games — four of them grand slams — and drove in 52 runs.
Kyle Farmer and Willi Castro also saw a good amount of time at third base, while Donovan Solano appeared there in 19 games. Later in the season, the Twins shifted Jorge Polanco from second base to third on occasion, having him play there when Lewis was out or limited to DH.
At his end-of-season media session, manager Rocco Baldelli said he anticipates Lewis going into the offseason and spring training preparing to play the hot corner.
Though he might still wind up taking some groundballs at shortstop just to stay sharp, the Twins head into the offseason with the left side of their infield seemingly set with Lewis and Carlos Correa.
Miranda will spend the offseason rehabbing his shoulder as the Twins work to get him healthy. Though he could see some time at third base next season — and first, also — it’s hard for the Twins to predict what they might get from him moving forward after this season.
“We know that the version of Jose we saw when he was fully healthy back in 2021 is a really exciting factor, but we can’t really have that expectation right now just because we don’t know where he’s at just from a health standpoint,” president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said.
Castro figures to be back and to see some time at third base as he shifts around the field and the Twins will also need to make a decision on Farmer in the coming months. If they bring him back, expect him to move around the infield, as well.
Another name worth noting? Top prospect Brooks Lewis, like Lewis drafted as a shortstop, is knocking on the door in Triple-A and got some experience at third base this season with the Saints.
But while the Twins have plenty of options to play third base, when he’s healthy, Lewis should be over there the majority of the time.