MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins have signed shortstop Royce Lewis, giving the first overall pick in the amateur draft this week a $6,725,000 bonus, the most for a high school player since the new compensation system began five years ago.
Lewis, 18, put his signature on the contract Saturday during a news conference at Target Field held between games of a doubleheader. He will start his professional career with Minnesota’s rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate in Fort Myers, Florida.
“This is every boy’s dream,” said Lewis, who was the Gatorade Player of the Year for California, where he starred at JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano in Orange County.
The Twins have raved this week about Lewis’ leadership and maturity, and his buoyant personality was on full display when he mentioned meeting manager Paul Molitor among the awe-filled moments of his visit to Minnesota.
“I’m like, ‘Whoa, over 3,000 hits, .306 career batting average.’ I’m like, ‘I’d like to do that someday,'” Lewis said.
Molitor, who stood inside the room, smiled at the praise.
Major League Baseball’s recommended slot value for his bonus was $7,770,700. With little separation among the top five or six prospects this year in the view of most analysts, the Twins targeted Lewis in part because they could sign him for less and better leverage the rest of the money in their bonus pool ($14,156,800) toward persuading lower picks to sign with them instead of going to college.
Last year, the Philadelphia Phillies signed Mickey Moniak, a high school outfielder from California, for $6.1 million.
Baseball’s labor contract assigns a slot value to all picks in the first 10 rounds, and if a team fails to sign a player, the amount of that slot is deducted from its pool. For the 11th through 40th rounds, the amounts of bonuses exceeding $100,000 per pick are added to a team’s total for calculating a penalty tax.
Scott Boras, the agent for Lewis, recalled attending one of his client’s games with Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine. No lobbying was necessary by Boras, because the Twins were already sold.
Said Boras: “When I saw Royce take a 3-2 slider that was a very difficult pitch for a high school player to take, take it, get on first, steal second, steal third, score on a popup that was beyond shortstop, I kind of knew in Thad’s gleam of his eye that he had seen everything that we had seen for years.”