Kyle Alexander Lewis
Height: 6'4" Weight: 205 lbs.
Bats/Throws: Right / Right
Born: 07/13/1995 in Snellville, Georgia
Offseason home: Palm Coast, Florida
College: Mercer University
MLB Debut: 09/10/2019
Acquired: Drafted 2016 (1st round)
Free Agent after: 2025 season
Awards: AL Rookie of the Year (2020)
Twitter handle: @KLew_5
Lewis returned to the Mariners from his latest stint on the injured list after just ten games in a rehab assignment to Triple-A. He hit well in that small sample (.314), but hadn't shown he was ready to play the outfield again; nevertheless, the M's activated him on May 24th with plans to use him as the everyday DH for the time being. File that one under best-laid plans, as in just his fourth game of the year, he was hit in the head by a José Urquidy fastball—just one of several HBPs courtesy of the Houston Astros this year—and hasn't played again since. Initially, manager Scott Servais assured us all that Lewis was fine, he was just being held out because of "planned days off," which never passed the smell test and then the lie was made clear when the club placed Lewis on the 7-day concussion IL. Presumably, Servais and the M's were just hoping Kyle would quickly get over being beaned in the noggin like that and didn't want to let on to opposing teams that they wouldn't have to worry about him coming off the bench for a couple days; all that accomplished, though, was diminishing the level of trust the press and public have in what Scott Servais tells them.
Before the concussion, Lewis looked like he might be ready to regain the form that made him Rookie of the Year in 2020, belting a pair of very long homers while going 4-for-15. But four games is too small a sample to really conclude anything from, so we'll have to wait and see how he performs after he regains his full equilibrium.
The 2020 Rookie of the Year has yet to prove himself. That may sound strange; I mean, he won ROY, right? He's proven he belongs! Well, yes and no. He won the award on the strength of one month of play. In the first half of 2020’s short 60-game season, Lewis was on fire, posting a batting line of .373/.463/.569 through the first 29 games. He was hitting for average, hitting for power, drawing walks, even stole a couple of bags. K-Lew could do no wrong. Then came the second half. From game 30 onward, the fire was soundly doused; it seemed the league had figured him out, evidenced by a line of just .154/.264/.308, including 43 strikeouts (36%). Which month was a more representative sample? Well, we still don't know. Last year he began the season on the injured list with a bone bruise in his right knee but was activated after three weeks; he played 36 games before going down again, needing surgery on a torn right-knee meniscus. It was hoped the M's would have Lewis back for the stretch run, but while recovering from the operation—the third surgery he's had on that knee—he suffered another bone bruise and was shut down for the year.
So, basically we have three distinct months from which to form any judgments of Lewis' ability/readiness: stellar first month of 2020, dismal second month of 2020, middling month in 2021 (.246/.333/.392, 25% K rate) in which he may have been playing hurt. He's never set foot at the Triple-A level, jumping from Double-A straight to the Majors at the end of the ’19 season, so we don't even have much from the minors to look at. In a year-and-a-half with Double-A Arkansas (2018-19) he was a solid though not spectacular power hitter, batting .253 with 15 homers and an OPS of .727, nothing to get too excited about. It's entirely possible that early 2020 was the real deal, and that Lewis can adjust to how pitchers adjusted to him. It's equally likely that what we saw in 2021 was the best snapshot—a player with good potential, but needing some more development. Time at Triple-A might not be a bad idea, and with him coming back yet again from a knee injury, there'll be a good excuse to put him there on a rehab assignment for at least a couple of weeks; from there he might prove himself ready to be a big-league regular or better served by a longer stay in Tacoma. Of course, it's also a distinct possibility that the troubling right knee will continue to be a problem. No way to know at this point, so we'll just wait and see.