For some reason, many Mariner fans have forgotten about one of the centerpieces of the rebuild. Although he missed most of last season, Kyle Lewis can still be one of the most impactful players on this team, and potentially the AL West. We are all hopeful the 2020 American League Rookie of the Year can stay on the field, but what should we expect from him if he can?
Kyle Lewis can still be an impact bat in the Mariners order in 2022.
Lewis missed a lot of the 2021 season with a variety of knee issues, unrelated to the ones he suffered in the minor leagues. Lewis played just 36 games in 2021, missing time to start the season and finishing the summer months shelved on the IL. Lewis slashed .246/.333/.392 even after a slow start, and was just heating up before the knee injury, according to Baseball Reference.
Zips sees some consistency in his first two MLB seasons, albeit playing just 84 games combined in the shortened 2020 season and 2021. They project he will have a similar line, slashing .240/.308/.395 in their model. This is similar to his first two seasons, but with lower OBP numbers.
First of all, the major key with Lewis is the Mariners being creative enough to find a way to keep him on the field. The best case scenario for Seattle is him being able to take over in center field, allowing Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez to man the corners with Mitch Haniger. However, this may be unrealistic with his injury history and they may need to figure out an alternative to keep him healthy.
If Jarred Kelenic is able to man center, Lewis could shift to left field; this would allow him to not have to cover as much ground, hopefully preserving his body better. The best option would be for him to DH mostly, playing outfield a couple of times each week to spell Mitch Haniger. The Mariners do not have a primary DH on the roster, so this would be a great way to utilize two players with a lengthy injury history while keeping their bat in the lineup.
When Lewis has played, he has been very productive. He has posted a WRC+ of 121 according to Fangraphs in his first three seasons combined, which is well above league average of 100. Lewis has plenty of pop, and if he is in the lineup, the power will be there. He had just started to find his power stroke when injury struck in 2021, and he has shown plenty of power to all parts of the field so far. Zips has him hitting 15 home runs, and if he stays healthy, he should easily surpass that.
Zips is also hesitant on K-Lew’s ability to get on base, but there is a lot to suggest he will be much better than they think. While he has a lot of swing and miss in his game, Lewis actually walked at a 14% clip in his rookie season and a 10% clip last season, both above league average. He did this while posting a strikeout rate that was just above league average.
Kyle Lewis is a rare talent, and he is truly a player that can take over a baseball game. This is a rare quality, but Lewis has it. Combine this “it factor” with power that should exceed projection and on-base ability that should exceed projection, and Lewis is automatically a huge contributor. The question will always be health, but he seems like a player that if he can play, he could completely alter the 2022 Mariners.