SECAUCUS, N.J. — The Minnesota Twins think they’ve got their shortstop of the future in the speedy and slick-fielding Royce Lewis.
The California high school star was taken with the No. 1 pick in the Major League Baseball draft Monday night. It was the third time the Twins led off the draft, and first since they took hometown high school catcher Joe Mauer in 2001.
“My body just went numb,” Lewis said during an interview with MLB Network. “It was an unbelievable feeling.”
Lewis played both shortstop and outfield in high school. But the Twins, who lead the AL Central after going 59-103 last year, classified him as a shortstop when Commissioner Rob Manfred made the announcement at MLB Network studios.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Lewis hit .377 with four homers and 25 stolen bases for JSerra Catholic High School, establishing himself as a top prospect with excellent speed and a solid bat.
“This guy gets it,” said Mike Radcliff, the Twins’ vice president for player personnel. “He’s got that ‘it’ factor that a No. 1 pick needs to survive and move forward and have success at the end of the journey. He checked all the boxes for us.”
Lewis was a standout on USA Baseball’s gold medal-winning Under-18 team at the Pan American Championships last year and was selected as this year’s National High School Coaches Association’s high school senior baseball athlete of the year.
“You watch him play on the field, it’s infectious,” Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said. “He’s a guy who loves his teammates. You can see him moving around all the time, being a part of it. We’re just so excited to have him.
“We know he’s going to be a leader the second he steps on the field. We’ll let the baseball play take care of itself.”
With the second pick, Cincinnati took California high school right-hander Hunter Greene, one of the top two-way talents in a draft stocked with them.
Greene, chosen as a pitcher, also played shortstop at Notre Dame High School, but a fastball that can reach 100 mph has the Reds projecting him as a future ace. He was 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA and 43 strikeouts with only four walks in 28 innings this season. Greene, featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated this season, also batted .324 with six homers and 28 RBIs.
The first of four prospects in attendance at the draft site to be selected, Greene was asked to give a scouting report on himself as a pitcher.
“Man, I’m a monster,” he said, chuckling. “I’m different on the field than I am off the field. I’m just going to go out there and compete and challenge and pound the zone and go after guys like I know I can and like everybody else knows I can.”
And while the Reds drafted him as a pitcher, Greene sounded as though he still might have designs on playing the infield, too.
“I don’t even know yet,” he said, wearing a Cincinnati cap and jersey. “I still love doing both and I think the ballclub is excited for getting two players for one. So I think they’re pretty pumped up for that, so we’ll see how it works out.”
Falvey said the Twins’ choice came down to the waning minutes and the decision to pass on Greene was “really tough.”
“We felt Royce separated himself from those other guys just a bit, and we feel like he’s somebody that we’ll build around for the future,” Falvey said.
At No. 3, San Diego selected North Carolina high school left-hander MacKenzie Gore.
With his big leg kick, Gore throws a fastball that sits in the low- to mid-90s (mph) to go along with a knee-buckling curve. He also has a hard slider and solid changeup in his arsenal.
It was the first time since 1990 that the top three picks were all high school players.
Louisville two-way star Brendan McKay was drafted fourth overall by Tampa Bay as a first baseman.
McKay had teams considering whether they should draft him as a pitcher, hitter — or both. The Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year is hitting .343 with 17 homers and 56 RBIs for the College World Series-bound Cardinals. He’s also 10-3 with 2.34 ERA and 140 strikeouts and 33 walks in 104 innings on the mound.
Atlanta selected Vanderbilt right-hander Kyle Wright with the No. 5 pick, looking to augment a large stable of touted arms already in the Braves’ farm system.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Wright, who grew up a Braves fan, went 5-6 with a 3.40 ERA, 121 strikeouts and 31 walks in 103 1/3 innings pitched. With his mid-90s fastball, sharp curve and physical size, Wright is considered a potential front-end starter.
After North Carolina high school outfielder Austin Beck went sixth to Oakland, a pair of University of Virginia teammates were picked with the next two selections: first baseman Pavin Smith to Arizona and outfielder Adam Haseley to Philadelphia.
UC Irvine second baseman Keston Hiura was the ninth pick. Rounding out the top 10 was Kentucky high school outfielder Jordon Adell, the second player in attendance to be selected.
At No. 13, Miami took New Mexico high school lefty Trevor Rogers, who was also at the draft site and is the cousin of former Marlins outfielder Cody Ross.
“Cody would have taken him 1/1 I think,” Marlins vice president of scouting Stan Meek said. “He loves him. He says he’s a great kid, a hard worker and the kind of person we want in our system.”
In a touching moment that drew a standing ovation from the former major leaguers serving as team representatives, 11-year-old Yankees fan Landis Sims — born without hands or feet — announced his favorite team’s first-round selection: South Carolina right-hander Clarke Schmidt at No. 16 overall.