The Mariners had Lewis rated as the third best player overall available in the draft, and yet he fell to them at the No. 11 pick.
The guy that Tom McNamara believed the Mariners had no chance of getting this spring became their first-round draft pick on Thursday night.
Seattle selected outfielder Kyle Lewis out of Mercer University with the No. 11 overall pick of Thursday’s Major League Baseball amateur draft.
It was an unexpected selection since MLB draft analysts and projections had Lewis going anywhere from picks Nos. 3 to 8. But just one pick can disrupt those projections, and somehow the Mariners and their director of amateur scouting got the player they never considered would be available.
Kyle Lewis file
Drafted: No. 11 overall pick in the first round.
Height, weight: 6-4, 195
Bats, throws: Right, Right
Born: July 13, 1995
College/high school: Mercer University/Shiloh High School, Snellville, Ga.
Notable: Lewis had a monster junior season for Mercer, hitting .395 (88 for 223) with 11 doubles, two triples, 20 homers, 72 RBI, 70 runs scored and 66 walks. He posted a .535 on-base percentage and .731 slugging percentage. Lewis won the Southern Conference Player of the Year honors the past two seasons and was named the “College Player of the Year” by Baseball America. He’s also a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award and the Dick Howser Trophy, awards given to the top player in college baseball.
Find him: @KLew_20 on Twitter.
“If somebody told me this morning that Kyle Lewis was going to be our guy, I would have jumped on it,” McNamara said.
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Lewis, who turns 21 on July 13, was rated the No. 3 overall prospect by MLB.com and No. 4 prospect by Baseball America. The Mariners had Lewis rated as the third-best player overall.
He 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.
“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.”
As early as March, McNamara thought the Mariners wouldn’t have a sniff of that opportunity. General manager Jerry Dipoto chuckled when recalling a spring-training meeting he had with McNamara after he had just returned from watching Lewis.
“I probably went overboard like I usually do,” McNamara said. “But we get excited about players with high ceilings.”
Dipoto told the rest of the story.
“He said, ‘This kid might be the best player in the country’ and he started rolling through him and then he said, ‘But he’s not going to be there,’ and dejectedly put his head down and started to walk out,” Dipoto said. “I reminded him that the draft is a funny thing.”
Among the many honors, Lewis was named the “College Player of the Year” and first-team All-American by Baseball America and was two- time Southern Conference player of the year as a center fielder 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.
Joe Rizzo file
Position: Third base
Drafted: 50th overall pick in the second round.
Height, weight: 5-11, 215
Bats, throws: Left, right
Born: March 31, 1998
College/high school: Oakton High School, Oak Hill, Va.
Notable: Considered one of the most advanced high-school hitters in the draft, Rizzo hit .606 as a junior at Oakton High. His numbers tailed off some this season with a .392 batting average, four home runs, 12 RBI and 14 runs scored. But he tore up the summer circuit between his junior and senior seasons, showing high-level power in a myriad of showcases.
Find him: @joerizz6 on Twitter.
“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.”
Asked to give his own personal scouting report, Lewis offered this:
“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 and 137 runs.
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 and 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 feet 4, 215 pounds, Lewis has drawn comparisons to Orioles all-star center fielder Adam Jones, who was a first-round pick by the Mariners in 2003. He also been called a right-handed hitting Jason Heyward.
“I think you are scratching the surface of what I have in the tank,” he said.
With the Mariners’ second-round pick, they picked up a stocky third baseman with a compact but powerful left-handed swing and a high baseball IQ. It’s a profile that’s worked well for them with Kyle Seager. Seattle picked hard-hitting infielder Joe Rizzo out of Oakton High School in Oak Hill, Va., with the No. 50 pick of the draft.
“Besides his natural ability, he’s got a good approach,” McNamara said. “We saw him a lot this summer. And he saw a lot of good pitchers. His ability to put himself in a lot of good counts and square the baseball up, we really liked. And he’s a strong kid.”
Rizzo was rated as the No. 40 prospect by Baseball America entering the draft and considered to be one of the best high-school hitters.