Arrow-right Camera
Go to e-Edition Sign up for newsletters Customer service
Subscribe now
Seattle Mariners
Sports >  Seattle Mariners

Kyle Lewis was the AL Rookie of the Year, but he’s motivated to do even more for the Mariners in 2021

UPDATED: Wed., Feb. 10, 2021

Seattle Mariners outfielder Kyle Lewis led all MLB rookies in runs scored, walks and total bases last season.  (Associated Press)
Seattle Mariners outfielder Kyle Lewis led all MLB rookies in runs scored, walks and total bases last season. (Associated Press)
By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

SEATTLE – When the 2020 baseball season ended for Kyle Lewis and the Mariners on Sept. 26 – and another disappointing year without a postseason berth for Seattle – a much-needed break from the daily grind was a priority for the rookie outfielder.

Lewis’ first full season of Major League Baseball was an experience unlike any other. It featured spring training halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, sports and basic normal life being shut down for 3½ months, an abbreviated version of spring training called “summer camp” to prepare for a compressed 60-game regular season that featured constant testing for COVID-19, stringent protocols and not a single fan in the stands for games.

  • Despite all of that, Lewis flourished. Starting nearly every game in center field and hitting in the middle of the batting order, Lewis produced a .262/.364/.437 slash line with three doubles, 11 home runs, 28 RBIs, five stolen bases, 34 walks and 71 strikeouts in 58 games. It was an award-worthy performance for a player in his first full season.

He led all rookies in MLB in runs scored (37), walks (34), total bases (90), times on base (88) and on-base percentage (.364), while also ranking among rookie leaders in games played (tied for first with 58), home runs (tied for first with 11), RBIs (second with 28), slugging percentage (second at .437), on-base plus slugging percentage (second at .801), at-bats (second at 206), hits (tied for second with 54), multihit games (tied for second with 15) and batting average (third at .262).

Accolades began to accumulate.

He earned baseball’s highest honor for a rookie by winning the 2020 Jackie Robinson American League Rookie of the Year award. Lewis garnered all 30 first-place votes, becoming the 12th player to win it unanimously.

His other awards included:

  • Mariners’ most valuable player by the Seattle chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
  • The American League’s most outstanding rookie in the Major League Baseball Players Association in its 2020 Players Choice awards.
  • AL Rookie of the Year by The Sporting News and Baseball Digest.

Lewis could add to that collection of hardware after recently being named as one five nominees for the 2020 Seattle Men’s Sports Star of the Year as part of the annual Sports Star of the Year Awards, now in its 86th year.

The four other nominees for the award are Jordan Morris of the Sounders, K.J. Wright of the Seahawks, Elijah Molden of the University of Washington Huskies football team and Kyle Manzardo of the Washington State Cougars baseball team.

Given his stellar season and surplus of awards, Lewis would seem to be the favorite of the group.

So about that break following the season: Was he able to decompress and reflect on all that he accomplished? Did his body recover from the dings and dents of playing almost every day? Did the time away allow him to assess what was needed moving forward?

Well, yes, he tried to do all of that – in the span of 2½ weeks.

“I did a little minivacation in L.A., but with social distancing you can’t really take major vacation,” he said during the Mariners’ recent virtual baseball bash. “So I just did a small little vacation and then rested my body for about a week and a half and then got back after it.”

At age 25 and with only 60 games played, Lewis didn’t need the extended recovery break that players in their 30s might require. But it’s more indicative of how his mind works, his belief in preparation and his commitment to getting better.

“He’s driven,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Knowing how he works, the awards and the accolades and everything he’s gotten, it’s only going to push him harder.”

On Nov. 9, when he was announced as the AL Rookie of the Year, Lewis already had been working out five times a week at a Dynamic Speed & Agility – a facility in Marietta, Georgia, that focuses on improving speed and strength.

“I work out there the whole offseason,” he said that night. “I started two weeks ago and this (is) Week 3 for me. I don’t take much time off. We’re smart about the way we do the program, but I think there’s a lot of things I want to improve on this offseason, and I’m not going to let that time go by.”

Part of Lewis’ 2020 success can be attributed to that mindset of time maximization. When baseball shut down due to COVID-19, he returned to the DSA workouts while doing baseball activity at his high school. He wasn’t just going to be ready when baseball restarted; he was going to be better than before it shut down.

“I just put my head down and worked harder than I ever worked – two, three workouts a day,” he said. “I worked on my speed, agility two to three times a week, explosive strength and body control three times a week. When I was able to come back for (summer camp), it was the most athletic I’ve been.”

Lewis said he knows last season could’ve been better. His numbers started to regress in the final 20 games with opposing pitchers focusing on ways to get him out.

In an expected 162-game season in 2021, he wants to raise the floor of his high production periods and maintain them for longer stretches, while reducing the depth and length of the lows.

“It’s controlling the game and finding consistency,” he said. “You don’t want to be up and down performance-wise. When I have those flashes of greatness, it’s controlling that consistency and showing up the same way every day. I’ve got my sights set forward.”

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the sports newsletter

Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.