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2016 Phillies Draft Preview: Kyle Lewis, OF

Kyle Lewis looks like everything you want in a Outfielder. Tall, athletic looking, good speed. But he plays at a small school (Mercer University) and that could hurt his draft stock some. Are the tools good enough to overcome the level of competition questions?

Search for Draft and take what you can get. Can Jahlil hit?
Search for Draft and take what you can get. Can Jahlil hit?
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Kyle Lewis is a 6'4" 195 lb Right Handed hitter and thrower who plays for Mercer University (located in Macon, Georgia, it's previous best known alumni are John Birch and Nancy Grace, yes, I had to google the school name). I've seen a lot of Minor League and amateur baseball over the years and there are always a few guys who just ace the 'eye-test'. You see them and can just envision them dominating the sport. They have the ideal build and move fluidly. Often times that's the only test they pass and most of the guys I've seen ace that test are out of baseball or role players today (of course, one of them is Giancarlo Stanton, so they don't all bust). Kyle Lewis is one of those guys that just looks the part. What makes him somewhat hard to evaluate is that he plays in a small conference, beating up on Pitchers with futures off the diamond. He has faced some quality competition though and the tools look legit.

We can start with Lewis' Defense. He profiles as a Corner Outfielder and with his Plus speed he should add a lot of value in the Jason Heyward mold (as a fielder). His arm is plus, but not a cannon. He's playable in Right, but if Jorge Alfaro's bat were to take off and he got moved to the OF, it would certainly displace Kyle Lewis to Left Field. Reports on his defense seem to indicate he takes good routes and is fairly natural in the field with excellent range. Now, since I mentioned his speed and range one may ask 'Why not Center Field?' well he would be playable in Center the same way Nick Williams or Aaron Altherr are; playable, but not ideal. Other prospects like Quinn and Tocci would bring better range (as does Herrera). In addition, as Lewis fills out I'd imagine he'll slow a bit.

Speaking of speed, reports seem to peg him as around a 60 on the 20-80 scale, so he won't clog up basepaths and he should bring some value with steals, but he's not likely to be a 30/30 guy. He'll probably settle in with 15-20 steals a year. Admittedly, this can be tough to read for any amateur or Minor Leaguer who are working against Pitchers who don't hold them on and Catchers either still developing technique or simply not blessed with good arms, not to mention baserunners who are still quite raw themselves.

Lewis has a blazingly fast bat, but with a somewhat unorthodox swing. I'm going to do something I haven't done before and show 2 videos below to illustrate an improvement. The first video is from last May and what you'll see is that to start his swing Lewis loads his hands back and tilts the barrel forward. This helps create some extra whip to his swing, but it also adds some length. I'd seen some reports noting it as a potential issue, similar to the way Franco used to load his hands and add artificial length to his swing. In the second video from this March you can see the load is still largely the same, but the exaggerated load with the barrel whipping forward is mostly gone (solidly present in 2 swings, hints of it in 3 others, by my count). His leg kick is also less pronounced in the recent video. First video is courtesy of Perfect Game, second one is from Matt Czechanski.

Lewis best tool is probably his Power where he has Plus potential with that bat speed. Once drafted his team may well try to get some of the extra stuff out of his swing and streamline it a bit. That said he has the type of bat speed you can live with some of the extra stuff if he can keep up with fastballs without having to cheat and guess to keep his timing. This past offseason Lewis focused on improving his patience at the plate so he could get better pitches to hit. It has been successful. He's already lapped his Walk total from last year, almost matched his Homers, his AVG is up 60 points and he's sporting a video game-esque 1.341 OPS.

To temper some of that enthusiasm, it's fair to note he's doing it against some weak competition. However, he dominated last year with a wood bat against top level pitching in the Cape Cod League, so this isn't just big fish, small pond. It's crazy to think that within 3 months of each other the Eagles, Phillies and Sixers may all have Top 2 Draft Picks and end up drafting small school stars (LSU isn't a small school, per se, but in Basketball terms it may as well be). There are some special tools here, but there are some risks with the level of competition and the unorthodox swing. Still, the Phillies have focused on guys with good plate discipline of late and Lewis has more Walks than K's this year, so I'm willing to trust their judgement if Lewis is their pick.