On June 9th, the Cincinnati Reds will have the 2nd selection in the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft. Over the next few weeks, the team here at Red Reporter will scour the internet to bring you scouting reports, statistics, and moving pictures of all of the prospects being linked to the Reds pick.
Kyle Lewis has really opened some eyes over the last year and a half. The 6'4", 195lbs junior out of Mercer University played his prep ball in Georgia before committing to the Bears. He played merely a part time role his freshman year before grabbing hold of a full time spot in 2015.
He made the most of said full time spot, however, batting .367/.423/.677 in 226 ABs in his breakout sophomore season. Though, many were skeptical about how many grains of salt they should take those numbers with since Lewis plays in the inferior Southern Conference.
Lewis then took his talents to the Cape Cod League last summer and, much to the delight of scouts, didn't slow down. The right handed slugging outfielder slashed .300/.344/.500 and smacked 7 dingers.
Though 205 ABs in his junior season, Lewis has an eye-popping triple slash of .415/.544/.737 making scouts believe that this kid is really for real, and he's catapulted up the mocks ever since. At this point, it wouldn't be a shock to very many people if the Phillies went ahead and took him 1-1.
Lewis' best physical tool is raw power. His swing is a little noisy but the ball jumps off his bat and he's improved his ability to manage the strike zone every year. His tear through the Cape provides re-assurance that the bat is real, the gaudy numbers not just a distortion due to metal and competition. Lewis' other tools such as running speed and arm strength are at least average according to most evaluators, and while not a big stolen base threat his tools serve him well on defense where he should be very good at either corner.
Professional Scouting Grades (via Fueled By Sports)
Kyle Lewis's player card on MLB Pipeline's Prospect Watch:
Lewis looks like a right-handed version of Jason Heyward at the same stage of their careers, though he figures to deliver more power and less defensive value. With his leverage and bat speed, he has easy pop to all fields. Lewis' swing is busier than most scouts would like, but his approach is generally sound.
But we have seen in recent years that hitters from smaller schools can still go quite high in the draft. In the past decade, there are 10 college hitters from one or two-bid conferences who have gone in the top 20 picks of the draft. That list includes some busts (Kolbrin Vitek, for example), but it also includes A.J. Pollock, Evan Longoria and C.J. Cron.
Kyle Lewis, Cape Cod League 2015 (via Amanda Irvine, YouTube)
What should the Reds do?
It's not a bad time to have the second overall pick since there's not a consensus number one pick. If you're looking for Bryce Harper, you're going to be waiting a while on this draft.
Viewed through that light, the Phillies can take whoever they want at number one, and the Reds are still going to end up with a guy that they like. Lewis has been a fast riser over the last few months. That's not to say it's either the obvious pick or the fool's pick. It is what it is.
Lewis appears to have the tools: by all accounts is he'll play a great corner outfield and has a chance to stick in center at the big league level. Obviously, a centerfielder with the power potential of Lewis is rare. And, more obviously, anytime a guy is being compared to Jason Heyward, it's someone that you have to consider taking high in the draft.
There's also still a lot of time to evaluate. Lewis tore through the beginning of the season, raking and blasting everything that had come his way. But as Reds prospect maven/talent evaluator Doug Gray points out, Lewis's line is down in the month of May, slashing .356/.508/.511 since the calendar turned. Those are still huge numbers, but when you consider the numbers above and the fact that one of the best tools that Lewis is supposed to flash at the big league level is the power, then it's at least worth monitoring as the evaluation process goes forward.
As it stands right now, Kyle Lewis is a decent pick, even as high as second overall, especially if you believe that he can hit for that kind of power at a premium position.