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The start of the baseball season can be a very strange time statistically. Through about 10 or 11 games, one may notice some strange and skewed data that appears to be outside the norm. This is highlighted by Milwaukee Brewers’ outfielder Christian Yelich, who has started the season 3-31, a .097 batting average. On the other hand, you have players who aren’t considered stars that are atop the leaderboard in major categories such as San Francisco Giants’ second baseman Donovan Solano leading the majors with a .457 batting average.
One such unexpected player higher on the leaderboard is Seattle Mariners’ outfielder Kyle Lewis, the overall hits leader in the MLB with 17.
Lewis has had a strong start to the MLB season through the first 11 games. Along with his 17 hits, he accumulated a 10-game hit streak that was snapped last night in the Mariners’ 11-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics. He has hit three home runs, driven in nine runs and has notched a .357 BA with an On-base plus slugging (OPS) of 1.028. Lewis is seventh in BA among batters with at least 20 plate appearances (PA) and tied for eighth in RBI.
Lewis went deep in the first two games of the season in losses at Houston. He made his true impact in the third game of the series as he drove in two RBIs on a single in the eighth inning to give the Mariners the lead and eventually, their first win of 2020. In their series win over the Los Angeles Angels, Lewis batted in three runs in their two wins. Since both games were decided by three runs each, his production was key.
Coming into this season, the outfield was set to be a rotation of youngsters with veteran Mitch Haniger still out with injury. Lewis was expected to be one of the rotating pieces in a young outfield. With his start to the season, Lewis has solidified the center fielder position, an encouraging development during the rebuild.
Lewis, a prospect out of Mercer who was drafted 11th overall in 2016, last season made his MLB debut last September in their three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds. He homered in all three games and drove in nine runs in his first six games with the Mariners. He finished with an .885 OPS, .268 average and 13 RBIs. He has shown to be a player that can deliver deep and with base hits to drive in runs.
Lewis has had a fine start to his MLB career but there is one major area that needs development if he is going to be a true star in the league: plate discipline. Last year, he struck out 29 times in 75 PA, a 38.6 % strike-out rate. This season, he is second in the MLB in strikeouts with 19. With 48 PA, his strike-out rate is 39.5 %.
Lewis has been a player the Mariners have depended on and will continue to do so. He has given the team solid production. However, he is still young at 25-years old and has multiple areas of improvement (fielding included). His hitting streak is over and a decline in his production is inevitable. For a team that is rebuilding though, he is the perfect player to have in the outfield as the Mariners continue to establish their future core.
If Lewis can improvement his plate discipline, Lewis can develop into an elite player who the Mariners can build around in this long and arduous rebuilding process. With top-tier outfielder prospects in Julio Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic on the way, the outfield for the Mariners has the potential to be a great one in the future.