When going through the recruiting process, most elite high school athletes get caught up in the name of the university recruiting them. Rarely do top-level prep athletes consider colleges that aren’t a high-major program. But this wasn’t the case for Royce Lewis, who many publications rank as the 2nd-best prep baseball player in the 2017 prep class.
Recruited by most of the top college baseball programs on the West Coast, including UCLA, Lewis focused on what each university could offer academically and athletically. In the end, he concluded that UC Irvine was the best fit for him.
“I took a look at all those California schools, and UCI stood out the most to me,” Lewis said. “The coaches were amazing, the field is great and the school is a great school. I like science a lot and their majors are science based. They have a lot of pros going there to hit, like Albert Pujols and Nolan Arenado.
“I just felt the coaches were appreciative of me being there more than a lot of other coaches. Once you get to UCI, everyone gets treated the same. They treat you with a lot of love and respect.”
A California native, Lewis is a game changing talent on both sides of the ball. A 6-foot-1, 180-pound shortstop, Lewis has elite speed, makes consistent hard contact at the plate and possesses the potential to remain at shortstop long-term.
However, scouts are torn on what position Lewis profiles best at defensively. While he has the range, athleticism and arm strength to play shortstop, many scouts feel Lewis could be an even better centerfielder.
Lewis has played mostly third base and centerfield at JSerra Catholic High School the last three years with talented shortstop Chase Strumpf in front of him. With Strumpf now at UCLA, Lewis will return to his natural position this season.
“I view myself as a shortstop,” Lewis said. “Growing up I’ve always looked up to Derek Jeter and Carlos Correa. Those are my two favorite players, and Francisco Lindor is another rising star that I like. That premium position and staying on the dirt is something I’d like to do.”
Besides preparing for his senior season, Lewis has had a busy off-season displaying his skills on the national showcase circuit. Lewis had great success this past summer, which included winning the Perfect Game All-American Classic MVP, after going two-for-three with a triple, two RBIs and three stolen bases.
“It was the best thing for me this summer,” said Lewis about participating in showcase events. “Every event you’re playing with the top-notch guys. Every single player from top to bottom was great.
“You learn from every single guys what they do on and off the field. It also helped me to understand where I’m at and where I need to get better to improve at the plate and defensively.”
After an outstanding summer on the showcase tour, MLB.com ranks Lewis as the third-best prospect in the 2017 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Despite scouts and draft experts tossing his name around as a potential early first-round selection in June’s draft, Lewis isn’t paying any attention to it.
“I don’t try to think about it,” said Lewis about the draft. “I go about my life and am treated like a normal kid. I don’t have social media so I don’t see it on a day-to-day basis, which is also really cool. I’m acting totally normal about it. When the time comes, I’ll think about it.”
Lewis is only focused on leading his team to a state title, while building off his productive junior season that saw him hit .429 with 42 hits, four home runs and nine doubles.
“I want to go out with a bang,” Lewis said. “I want to have a lot of fun. I’m going to get this whole team and we are going rally together. My goal is to win a fourth Trinity League title in a row and then go for the CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) championship.”
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