The Mariners selected outfielder Kyle Lewis out of Mercer University with their first round pick -- No. 11 overall -- in the 2016 MLB amateur draft.
Jerry Dipoto stood in anticipation as he waited for what seemed like an interminable commercial break to be finished and the MLB Network telecast to resume. In his first year as Mariners general manager, Dipoto just wanted to hear commissioner Rob Manfred announce the organization’s first-round pick and finally make it official.
When the speakerphone, finally relayed the announcement: “The Mariners select outfielder Kyle Lewis from Mercer University,” the more than 30 people in the Mariners’ makeshift draft war room in Safeco Field, including CEO Howard Lincoln, team president Kevin Mather and the Mariners’ array of scouts and cross checkers, stood and applauded and offered handshakes around.
“It was a big relief for me,” Lewis said via conference call from a celebration in Atlanta with family and friends. “Everybody in the room was just waiting around and there was a lot of nervous energy. I’m just really grateful to the Mariners for giving me the opportunity.”
Every first-round pick is celebrated, but this one was special for many reasons. It was the first of Dipoto’s regime with Seattle. Getting Lewis with No. 11 overall pick of the draft made it more memorable. It was considered a steal by many draft analysts, who didn’t believe that he would still available when Seattle was slated to pick. The Mariners didn’t think so either. Some mock drafts had Lewis going as high as No. 3 overall and most had him going in the top 7-8 picks.
Most Read Sports Stories
- Analysis: Despite more reports of Russell Wilson's unhappiness with Seahawks, a trade in 2021 still seems unlikely
- Two months after winning the NFC West, the Russell Wilson-Seahawks rift is widening. Who's to blame?
- The Seahawks probably aren't trading Russell Wilson, but here's a look at his reported list of teams
- Olympics gymnastics coach kills himself after being charged
- It's mock draft season. Here's who the Seahawks could take with their first pick.
“We thought he was going to be picked before us,” said Tom McNamara, Mariners director of amateur scouting. “We’re very excited that he made it to us. He’s a 6-foot-4, middle-of-the-order potential bat that had a big year at Mercer University this year. He’s a good athlete who we believe has a lot of potential.”
Lewis, who turns 21 on July 13, was named the “College Player of the Year” and first-team All-America by Baseball America and was two- time Southern Conference player of the year as a centerfielder for the Bears. He’s a semifinalist for USA Baseball’s Golden Spikes Award and the Dick Howser Trophy, which is voted on by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Both awards go to the top college player in the country.
“What a steal for the Mariners,” said MLB draft analyst Jim Callis. “If I owned the No. 1 pick in this draft, I would have taken Lewis there. I think it’s the best combination of ceiling and floor in this draft. Even if he doesn’t stay in center field, that power profiles so well on the corner. I think the concerns about quality of competition he faced at Mercer are overblown, because what more could this guy do? He stood out in the Cape Cod League — a showcase for top college prospects — and he dominated the Southern Conference the last two years. I’m all in.”
Lewis put together a monster junior season at Mercer, hitting .395 (88-for-223) with 11 doubles, two triples, 20 homers with 72 RBI, 70 runs scored, 66 walks and 48 strikeouts. He had a ridiculous .535 on-base percentage with a .731 slugging percentage. The 66 walks in a season was a school record and second most in the NCAA. He reached base in 48 consecutive games and had 27 multi-hit games.
His own personal scouting report: “For me, I feel like I’m a complete player and I offer a package of power and speed that can hit for a high average and for power while being a plus defender. I think I provide a team with an impact in a number of ways.”
Over his three-year career at Mercer, Lewis hit .364 (196-for-539) with 33 doubles, two triples, 39 homers, 145 RBI, 137 runs scored.
Lewis was a two-sport star at Shiloh High School in Snellville, Geoergia, excelling at basketball and baseball. But he started to focus on baseball his senior season. Since he didn’t play travel ball and played at a school that wasn’t a baseball powerhouse, he had minimal college offers, despite being an All-State selection.
“I only had mid-major offers coming out of high school,” he said.
Lewis played sparingly as a freshman, but had a breakout sophomore season, winning the conference player of the year, after hitting .367 with 17 homers and 56 RBI. It earned him an invite to the prestigious Cape Cod League last summer. In the top collegiate wood bat league, he hit .300 with seven doubles, a triple, seven homers, 24 RBI in 39 games.
“It was huge opportunity for me to go out there and play against elite competition and have success,” he said. “It gave me a lot of confidence, knowing I could go out there and handle the wood bat and hit for a high average and continue to hit for power. Just be that complete guy and compete at the highest level.”
At 6-4, 195 pounds, Lewis has drawn comparisons to Orioles all-star centerfielder Adam Jones, who was a first-round pick by the Mariners in 2003. He also been called a right-handed hitting Jason Heyward.
Because he was such a late bloomer in baseball, he still feels there is much more to him as a player.
“I think you are scratching the surface of what I have in the tank,” he said.
Here’s his twitter information