The present collided with the future Thursday night at the corner of Edgar Martinez Drive and Dave Niehaus Way. As Seattle readied to face Cleveland in the finale of a four-game series at Safeco Field, members of the Mariners baseball operations department gathered in the Ellis Pavilion – just steps away from the field – for day one of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft. Countless hours of scouting and preparation culminated with the Mariners 1st round pick and will continue over the next two days through the 40th and final round on Saturday.
The Mariners selected 6-foot-4 outfielder Kyle Lewis from Mercer University with the 11th overall pick in the Draft. Lewis was surrounded by family and friends when he learned he would be joining the Seattle Mariners.
“When we got that call, it was a big weight lifted off our shoulders,” Lewis said. “I’m just really grateful to the Mariners for giving me that opportunity.”
In his recently completed junior season at Mercer, Lewis hit .395 with 11 doubles, 20 home runs and 72 RBI in 61 games. Lewis was named Baseball America’s College Player of the Year, is a two-time Southern Conference Player of the Year and was selected as a First Team All-America by Baseball America following his junior season.
“We thought he was going to be picked before us,” said Mariners Director of Amateur Scouting Tom McNamara. “We’re very excited that he made it to us. He’s a 6-foot-4, middle-of-the-order potential bat that had a big year at Mercer University this year. He’s a good athlete who we believe has a lot of potential.”
While Lewis has put up prodigious power numbers this season – slugging .731 on 11 doubles, 2 triples and 20 home runs – he also ranks among the nation’s best in average, on-base percentage and runs scored. Lewis ranks 15th nationally with a .395 batting average this season, while ranking 4th in on-base percentage (.535) and tied-for-4th in runs scored (70).
After a stellar junior campaign, Lewis is a semifinalist for USA Baseball’s Golden Spikes Award and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association’s Dick Howser Trophy, awards that honor the nation’s top player.
Seattle’s selection of Lewis at No. 11 was well-regarded around the Major Leagues.
“What a steal for the Mariners,” said MLB.com Draft and prospect expert Jim Callis. “If I owned the No. 1 pick in this draft, I would have taken Lewis there. I think it’s the best combination of ceiling and floor in this draft. Even if he doesn’t stay in center field, that power profiles so well on the corner. I think the concerns about quality of competition he faced at Mercer are overblown, because what more could this guy do? He stood out in the Cape Cod League — a showcase for top college prospects — and he dominated the Southern Conference the last two years. I’m all in.”
Lewis offered a self-scout of his playing style: “I feel like I’m a complete player. I think I offer a package of power and speed and hit for a high average and hit for power, as well as being a plus defender. I think I provide the team with impact in a number of ways.”
A native of Snellville, Ga., where he lettered in baseball and basketball at Shiloh High School, Lewis is the first player from Mercer University to be drafted in the round 1st of either the MLB, NFL or NBA Drafts.