The day before the Major League Draft was set to begin, the Minnesota Twins still had seven or eight names on the board as they tried to decide whom to select with their No. 1 overall pick.
JSerra shortstop Royce Lewis was the last name hanging.
Lewis won baseball’s version of the lottery when he was selected first overall on June 12, becoming the highest drafted high school player from any current Trinity League school.
“My body just went numb,” Lewis said on MLB Network a few minutes after he was drafted. “It was an unbelievable feeling.”
Once the numbness wore off, Lewis celebrated by taking a leap in the swimming pool, devouring some cake and bowling a few rounds with friends and family.
Lewis, who turned 18 on June 5, signed with UC Irvine last fall and could still opt to play for the Anteaters, but with the Twins likely laying several million dollars in signing bonus on the table this summer, joining the professional ranks seems inevitable.
“I would like to play baseball as soon as possible,” Lewis said via conference call.
Lewis feels like he’s just scratching the surface of his abilities.
“I feel like I haven’t even grown into any of my man strength yet,” Lewis said. “Being young like this, it’s pretty amazing knowing I still have a lot of potential I haven’t even tapped into yet.”
Becoming a No. 1 overall pick seemed unlikely when Lewis arrived at JSerra as an undersized freshman nearly four years ago. But his ability to crush a baseball, run like the wind and use his glove with ease couldn’t be overlooked. He won the first of three Trinity League player of the year honors as a sophomore.
“I think you use speed for everything: defensively, offensively, and it helps with range,” Lewis said. “For sure the speed’s been there since Day 1. That’s my favorite tool, I guess you would say, because it’s always there and it never leaves you.”
Even with opposing pitchers becoming more aware of his ability in the batter’s box, Lewis hit over .400 the past two seasons.
“This guy gets it,” Mike Radcliff, the Twins’ vice president for player personnel, told the Associated Press. “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 is just the fifth player from one of the five Orange County-based Trinity League schools to be drafted in the first round out of high school.
Steve Buechele of Servite went No. 9 overall to the White Sox in 1979, then played 11 years in the majors as a third baseman with the Texas Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs.
Dwayne Peltier of Servite was selected No. 23 overall by the Pirates in 1972, but the shortstop and third baseman never made it to the Major Leagues.
Sergio Santos of Mater Dei was taken No. 27 overall in 2002 by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He pitched in the majors from 2010-2015.
Gerrit Cole of Orange Lutheran was selected No. 28 by the New York Yankees out of Orange Lutheran in 2008, but the right-handed pitcher elected to attend UCLA, where he was taken No. 1 overall three years later by the Pirates. Cole is currently in his fifth season with Pittsburgh, making the NL All Star team in 2015.