Seattle Mariners Former Top Prospect in Make or Break Season
Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto got off to a great start in his first draft with the franchise. Thanks to a little bit of luck, most “experts” applauded the team when Dipoto selected Kyle Lewis with the 11th pick of the 2016 draft.
After the Mariners farm system had spent a few years as the laughing stock of the league, it appeared the team was on the right track after adding Kyle Lewis to their system. A candidate to go number 1 overall, Lewis fell to 11 thanks to a handful of teams trying to get cute and manipulate their bonus pool.
The 6’4″, 210 lbs., Golden Spikes award winner, was billed as the next Adam Jones. The right-handed hitter had plus power and despite some timing issues, most scouts believed he would be an above-average hitter. We even rated him as the #2 prospect in our ranks last summer.
He had average speed, and some scouts wondered if he could stick in CF, but he was universally expected to be an above-average defender as well. And for the first 30 games of his professional career, the Mariners saw exactly what they wanted from Lewis.
He slashed .299/.385/.530 in Everett and appeared to on the fast track to the big leagues by 2019. Unfortunately for Lewis and the Mariners, a freak injury at home plate wrecked his timeline, along with his ACL.
The injury ate up most of Lewis’ 2017 season, though he did manage to play in 49 games with mediocre results. The Mariners let it be known that they were taking things slow with Lewis and that 2017 was just about getting him healthy. The team was hoping for a major step forward from Lewis but instead saw no growth from him whatsoever.
In 2018, Lewis slashed .244/.306/.405 in just 86 games. He was unable to handle the full-time workload, and never got it going at the plate. The Mariners even attempted to jumpstart Lewis, promoting him to AA Arkansas despite a poor showing in the hitter-friendly California League.
The Mariners remain optimistic about Lewis. Dipoto has stated several times this off-season that Lewis could make his MLB debut in 2019. He will start the year in AA and could see time in Spring Training. Lewis has one last shot to regain his prospect value and must show significant progress at the plate.
If he doesn’t hit, Lewis’ prospect status will move dangerously close to junk bond status, and his future with the Mariners will be all but over. At 23-years-old, there is still time for Lewis to have a long and productive career in MLB. With his current toolset, there is no reason he cannot be a solid .260/.340/.480 outfielder with above-average defense. A legit 3-4 win player.
However, no matter how good the tools, Seattle needs to start seeing results in 2019 to plan on Lewis ever making an impact in Seattle. Whether it is in Seattle as a starter, or rebuilding trade value to bring in help from the outside, 2019 is critical for Lewis and the Mariners.