The Twins placed infielder Royce Lewis on the 10-day injured list on the weekend due to a strained left oblique. The club was initially hopeful that he would only require a minimum stint but manager Rocco Baldelli yesterday informed reporters, including Bobby Nightengale of the Star Tribune, that Lewis has been diagnosed with a Grade 2 strain which comes with a standard recovery time of six weeks.
The youngster’s career thus far has alternated between incredible flashes of talent and extended injury absences. The first overall pick of the 2017 draft, he was a top 100 prospect for much of his time in the minor leagues. A torn ACL in his right knee wiped out his entire 2021 season but he was able to return last year. He looked great once back on the field, hitting .313/.405/.534 in 34 Triple-A games and .300/.317/.550 in 12 major league games. Unfortunately, he tore the ACL in his right knee a second time last summer, wiping out the second half of 2022 and putting him on the IL to start this year.
He was activated in late May and didn’t seem to miss a beat, despite all that missed time. He’s hit .326/.354/.474 through 26 games so far this year for a wRC+ of 132. Unfortunately, he’s now back on the injured list yet again and won’t return until mid-August, assuming the six-week estimate proves accurate.
2023 was already going to be an injury-shortened season for Lewis, but he and the club were likely hoping that he could at least build up a decent body of work in preparation for a fully healthy season in 2024. But he’ll now be faced with another extended absence before hopefully returning to get some more playing time down the stretch. Due to the injuries and the 2020 minor leagues being cancelled by the pandemic, he hasn’t reached 50 games played in a season since 2019.
Lewis had been serving as the club’s everyday third baseman over the past month-plus and the Twins will now need to come up with alternate plans for the hot corner. José Miranda was recalled when Lewis hit the IL and has gotten the start there the past two days. He had a solid campaign last year with a .268/.325/.426 batting line but is hitting just .213/.267/.309 this year and even slashed a paltry .255/.326/.360 in Triple-A.
Unless Miranda can get back into a good groove, the club may have to think about pursuing reinforcements at the August 1 trade deadline. Lewis could potentially be working his way back by then but they may not want to be reliant on him with his mounting injury history. The club is currently right at .500 with a 43-43 record but that’s good enough for first place in the American League Central right now, putting them in position to buy.
Jeimer Candelario is having a good season and stands out as one of the most obvious trade candidates, given that he’s an impending free agent on a poor Nationals team. Some less-obvious names might emerge as well with so few clear sellers this year, perhaps leading to more trades between contenders. The Orioles, for example, have many infielders but need pitching and could perhaps line up on something with the Twins. But there will also be competition as clubs like the Angels, Brewers, Yankees and others could be looking for infield upgrades as well.