Since winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2020, the last two years have not gone as planned for Kyle Lewis.
After a decent start to his 2021 season, Lewis tore his meniscus and needed a third major surgery on his right knee. It took almost a year to work his way back, and when he did, he played only a few games before a concussion sidelined him for an additional month.
Upon returning a second time, Lewis tallied 46 albeit uninspiring plate appearances with the Seattle Mariners before being sent down to Triple-A Tacoma to finish the season. The Mariners went on to clinch their first playoff berth since 2001 without him.
Now, Lewis is a Diamondback. And after overcoming the initial shock of being traded from the team that drafted him, he is excited to be in Arizona.
“It took a few days to adjust,” Lewis said. “But really excited now, honestly, to turn the page.”
The timing worked out particularly well for Lewis, who recently purchased a home in North Scottsdale for use during spring training.
“When the trade went down, we were pretty excited about it. It was kind of a surreal moment because it’s like, dang, now I can stay in the house all year.”
There has never been any doubt about Lewis’ talent. The Mariners drafted in the first round for a reason back in 2016, and he was soon regarded as the organization’s top prospect. Upon his arrival to the majors in 2019, Lewis was as advertised.
His injury report is long, however, and it goes back a lot farther than his meniscus surgery in 2021. Since tearing his ACL (among several other ligaments) just 30 games into his professional career back in 2016, health concerns — specifically about his right knee — have loomed over his otherwise promising career.
On the positive side, it sounds like Lewis is healthy going into 2023.
“Obviously I’ve had some ups and downs, but as far as moving forward, I feel great,” Lewis said. “I fully expect to show up to camp ready to roll and ready to contribute any way that I can.”
The Diamondbacks have not settled on a firm role yet for Lewis, but it’s worth noting that he played the vast majority of his games as a designated hitter in 2022, both in the majors and minors. When the trade first happened, general manager Mike Hazen said the team will monitor his workload and left open the possibility of using Lewis at DH with some degree of regularity.
Healthy or not, Lewis’ days as a plus center fielder are likely behind him. The Diamondbacks don’t need him to be that, however. The impetus for the deal was his bat, and in that regard, Lewis is confident about what he brings to the table.
“I know what I can do at the plate,” Lewis said. “I’ve got power, a good eye, plate discipline. You know, swinging at the right pitches, bringing what I believe to be an advanced approach at the plate.
“That’s always something that I feel like I pride myself on.”
Lewis also believes he can contribute defensively, but it remains to be seen how much opportunity he will have to do so.
With the Mariners poised to contend for the next few years, Lewis is leaving a pretty good thing in Seattle. He is focused on his new team, however, which he believes could make some noise in 2023.
“Looking at this Arizona team, we’re in a similar spot,” Lewis said. “I don’t see why this team can’t make the playoffs. I feel like this team is definitely in a position to compete and put together a season that is memorable.”
Lewis is familiar with Diamondbacks farmhand Seth Beer from his journey through the minors, and he has already connected with manager Torey Lovullo. Lewis also said that D-backs shortstop Nick Ahmed reached out soon after the trade.
Entering the 2023 season, Lewis has a shot at a full-time role with the D-backs. With a swath of injuries in the rearview mirror and plenty of lessons learned along the way, perhaps Lewis can find a way to get back to the hitter he was when he first arrived in the majors. Suffice it to say that if his bat reaches that level — or really anything close to it — the trade will look very good for the Diamondbacks.
Follow Jesse Friedman on Twitter
Top photo: Lindsey Wasson/USA TODAY Sports