Mariners Insider Blog

Outfielder Kyle Lewis cited as Mariners’ top prospect despite major knee injury

Outfielder Kyle Lewis appeared at Safeco Field in June shortly after his selection by the Mariners in the first round of the MLB Draft. Lewis enters next season ranked as the organization’s top prospect.
Outfielder Kyle Lewis appeared at Safeco Field in June shortly after his selection by the Mariners in the first round of the MLB Draft. Lewis enters next season ranked as the organization’s top prospect. AP

Outfielder Kyle Lewis made quite an impression last season in 30 games at Short-A Everett prior to suffering a major knee injury that will likely sideline him until the middle of next season.

Lewis, 21, was cited Wednesday as the Mariners’ top prospect in rankings compiled by Baseball America.

"Lewis is an offense-first center fielder with plus power to all fields," the magazine raved, "and (possesses) a patient approach that allows him to control the strike zone and punish mistakes.

"He has some swing-and-miss to his game, like most power hitters, but he has enough feel for the barrel and understanding of what to do at the plate that he still is regarded as an solid-average hitter."

Baseball America ranked outfielder Tyler O’Neill at No. 2 on its list of the organization’s top prospects, followed by left-hander Luiz Gohara, right-hander Nick Neidert and just-acquired outfielder Mitch Haniger.

The rest of the top 10: right-hander Andrew Moore, shortstop Drew Jackson, just-acquired righty Max Povse, right-handed reliever Dan Altavilla and first baseman Dan Vogelbach.

To qualify, a player must retain rookie status entering next season. Altavilla and Vogelbach closed last season in the big leagues. Both players, along with Haniger, are likely candidates to break camp next season with the Mariners.

O’Neill and Moore project to open next season at Triple-A Tacoma. Povse is also a candidate to begin the season with the Rainiers, although he is more likely to start at Double-A Arkansas.

Several trades in recent weeks caused a late reassessment to the rankings.

The Mariners selected Lewis with the 11th overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft after he was acclaimed as the consensus college player of the year. He batted .299 in 30 games at Everett with 16 extra-base hits and 26 RBIs.

Lewis also had a .385 on-base percentage and a .530 slugging percentage before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in a collision at home plate. He also tore the medial and lateral meniscus.

He isn’t expected to resume baseball activities until April, and it’s unlikely he will return to game action until June. Once healthy, he projects to begin at Lo-A Clinton.

"There is concern about how his knee injury will affect his power base and already suspect speed," Baseball America noted, "but Lewis is a hard worker who plays the game with passion and a big smile.

"There is little doubt among observers Lewis will put in the work to get back to the diamond as quickly and strongly as possible."

O’NEILL RANKED AMONG FALL STARS

O’Neill was also ranked by Baseball America as the No. 15 prospect in the just-completed Arizona Fall League. He batted .292 in 19 games for Peoria with three homers and 14 RBIs. He also had 14 walks for a .395 OBP.

"With an upper torso like an Olympic weightlifter," the magazine noted, "the native of Canada has good bat speed and flashes "no doubt" power. O’Neill should continue to hit despite some swing-and-miss to his game.

"He’s a "bat first" guy, but his outfield defense grades as at least average and he has an above-average arm."

O’Neill, 21, was previously picked by the Mariners as their minor-league hitter of the year after batting .293 with 24 homers and 102 RBIs in 130 games at Double-A Jackson.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners

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