Just How Good Can A Healthy Kyle Lewis Be in 2022?

Month two of the baseball season is underway and the hype around Kyle Lewis is building once again. After an Astros series which left the Mariners looking flat, Lewis feels like the spark this lineup needs.

Before the massive hype trains known as Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez were here, Seattle had another by the name of Kyle Lewis. After a wild, home run filled start to his career in 2019 and a Rookie Of The Year win in 2020, Lewis saw his 2021 season derailed by injuries.

What He’s Shown In Previous Seasons:

As a prospect, power was always a big reason for the hype. Although he didn’t profile as a 40+ home run guy, Lewis consistently (when healthy) showed that 30 home runs would always be in play.

After joining the team at the end of the 2019 season, Lewis ended up hitting six home runs in his first 10 games. He’d go on to finish that 2019 season hitting .268 with five doubles, six home runs and 13 RBI in 18 games.

11 extra base hits in 18 games is absurd.

2020 brought just as much success for Lewis. In the covid shortened season, Lewis mashed his way through 58 games to the tune of 11 home runs, 28 RBI, five stolen bases, a .364 OBP and a unanimous Rookie Of The Year award.

The 2021 season was supposed to be the real rise of the Kyle Lewis empire but injuries had other ideas. Lewis ended the year only playing 36 games and not making an appearance after May. Despite the injury shortened season, Lewis still showed signs of improvement. He lowered his strikeout rate (25.2%), raised his line drive rate (23.7%) and lowered his ground ball rate (33.3%).

Reasons To Be Excited:

Over the course of his three partial seasons, Lewis has played 112 games. In those 112 games he’s hit .258 with 12 doubles, 22 home runs, 58 RBI and an impressive .343 OBP. Already an immediate upgrade for this seasons Mariners lineup.

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Digging a little deeper though, it’s easy to see that a fully healthy Kyle Lewis will be nothing short of a menace.

First of all, his career barrel rate of 14.3% is nuts. Especially compared to the 6.7% league average. When you profile hitters, how well they barrel up the ball is one good indicator of sustainable success. He’s also got a well above average sweet spot rate of 40.7% and an xSLG of .471 (league average is .408). He also doesn’t chase the ball much at only 25%.

He does have a propensity to strikeout (29.5% career K rate) but he does a good job of offsetting that with a solid 11.4% walk rate.

There’s also the now infamous home run he hit in his first rehab AB in Triple-A Tacoma this season. Currently on a 20ish day rehab stint, Lewis hit an absolute nuke of a home run, sending it 464 feet to left. He ended the night 3-5 with the home run and three RBI.

How He Contributes In 2022:

First of all, please lord let him spell the end of the everyday Abraham Toro experiment. Especially at DH. Bringing Lewis in is an immediate upgrade at the DH spot over Toro.

This Mariners team has been incredibly patient this year. Their 10.1% BB rate is fourth in all of baseball. While Lewis’s career 11.4% walk rate will fit right in, Lewis is also an excellent batter with runners on base. In 163 career ABs with runners on base Lewis is hitting .270 with nine home runs. When Lewis arrives he will likely be slated to the bottom third of the order so expect plenty of people on base ahead of him.

The Mariners will also have a bit of a log jam in the outfield once Lewis arrives and Haniger is back from injury. This likely won’t have much effect on Lewis, though. The most likely scenario (in my opinion) is a four man rotation in the outfield of Winker, JRod, Kelenic and Lewis. Haniger will more than likely be traded. While the overwhelming majority of the fanbase seems to think Kelenic is going to Triple-A in the near future, his defense has been too good for him to go and Kelenic really needs the major league ABs to work through his hitting woes. Haniger will most likely be the odd man out and on the move while he still holds some trade value.

The team is trending on the very young side and if they have to choose between guys 26 and younger or 31 year old Haniger, the likely scenario is it won’t be Haniger.

What To Expect:

I think the conservative expectation for Lewis should be 100 games played. Over the course of his career Lewis averages 3.63 PA/G and a home run every 18.5 plate appearances. That puts him on pace for 20 home runs in a 100 game season (19.6 but I rounded up cuz it’s fun). With that in mind, projecting Lewis as a .258, 20 HR, 50 RBI guy the rest of the season seems entirely within reach. I actually think a fully healthy Kyle Lewis may even do a bit better than that but only time will tell.

If you’re a Mariners fan, there’s a ton to be excited about. Finally relegating Toro’s bat to the utility role being a huge one. He also brings another exciting outfielder to the team who loves the game of baseball and isn’t afraid to show it.

If you’re a fantasy baseball fan eyeing this, Lewis should be added to your sleeper list. He projects as a very starter worthy guy in 12 team or deeper leagues, with 10 team league upside depending on health. He’s only owned in 5.2% of leagues so should be readily available.

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