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College POY Lewis Falls To Mariners At No. 11

SEATTLE—Back in early March, scouting director Tom McNamara stopped by the office of general manager Jerry Dipoto at the team’s Peoria, Ariz., training complex.

McNamara had just returned from scouting Kyle Lewis play at Mercer and meeting with his family.

“I probably went overboard, like I usually do,” McNamara said, “but we get excited about players with high ceilings.”

Dipoto told the rest of the story with a chuckle.

“(McNamara) said: ‘This kid might be the best player in the country,’ and he started rolling through him and then he said, ‘But he’s not going to be there,’ and dejectedly put his head down and started to walk out,” Dipoto said. “I reminded him that the draft is a funny thing.”

That funny thing happened when Lewis, the Baseball America College Player of the Year and No. 4-rated draft prospect, was unexpectedly available and an easy choice for the Mariners with No. 11 pick.

“If somebody told me this morning that Kyle Lewis was going to be our guy, I would have jumped on it,” McNamara said.

The Mariners had Lewis, who turns 21 on July 13, third on their board. It’s why they didn’t think he would be around at No. 11.

Lewis put together a monster junior season at Mercer, hitting .395/.535/.731 with 11 doubles, two triples and 20 homers. He drove in 72 runs, scored 70 and drew 66 walks against 48 strikeouts. He set a school record with 66 walks, which ranked second in Division I. He reached base in 48 consecutive games and had 27 multi-hit games to earn Southern Conference player-of-the-year honors for a second straight season.

“It was a big relief for me,” Lewis said via conference call from a celebration in Atlanta with family and friends. “Everybody in the room was just waiting around, and there was a lot of nervous energy. I’m just really grateful to the Mariners for giving me the opportunity.”

Asked to give his own personal scouting report, Lewis offered this:

“For me, I feel like I’m a complete player, and I offer a package of power and speed, (and I) can hit for a high average and for power while being a plus defender. I think I provide a team with an impact in a number of ways.”

Lewis hit .364 over his three-year career at Mercer.

Lewis played sparingly as a freshman, but he had a breakout sophomore season, winning the SoCon player of the year after hitting .367 with 17 homers and 56 RBIs. That earned him an invite to the Cape Cod League in 2015. In the top collegiate wood bat league, he hit .300 with seven doubles, a triple, seven homers and 24 RBIs in 39 games.

“It was huge opportunity for me to go out there and play against elite competition and have success,” he said. “It gave me a lot of confidence, knowing I could go out there and handle the wood bat and hit for a high average and continue to hit for power.”

Seattle sent more than 10 different scouts to watch Lewis this season. “I think we saw north of 100 at-bats this spring,” Dipoto said.

The Mariners will give Lewis the opportunity to play center field.


• The Mariners selected third baseman Joe Rizzo out of Oakton High in Vienna, Va., with their second-round pick. He evokes comparisons with big league regular Kyle Seager as a stocky third baseman with a compact-but-powerful lefthanded swing and a mature hitting approach. “We felt like he was among the most advanced hitters in the high school ranks,” Dipoto said.

• Righthander Edwin Diaz, the organization’s minor league starting pitcher of the year for the past two seasons, made all of 10 appearances—he struck out 16 in 11 innings—in his conversion to a relief role before being called up. Diaz hit 101 mph in his first major league outing.

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