The Seattle Mariners went for outfield power with the No. 11 overall selection in the 2016 MLB Draft, taking Mercer slugger Kyle Lewis with their first-round pick on Thursday night.
Lewis captured Southern Conference Player of the Year honors after hitting 20 home runs as a junior, leading Mercer to a second straight conference title.
The 6'4, 210-pound right-hander was a two-sport athlete at Shiloh High School in Snellville, Ga., lettering in both baseball and basketball. But he went undrafted in 2013 and landed at Mercer. Lewis hit .395/.535/.731 in 2015.
This season, Lewis reached base in 48 straight games at one point, and set a school record with 66 walks.
"I think we’ve done a good job selecting the right guys and developing guys. I think that goes with Kyle," Mercer coach Craig Gibson told Teddy Cahill of Baseball America in May. "He’s been a great player, but I think we’ve done a good job of putting him in the right place and we’ve had other good players."
Lewis was named a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Trophy, given annually to the top player in college baseball as decided by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
Mercer was rated in May as the fourth-best 2016 draft prospect by Baseball America, and John Sickels at our own Minor League Ball was impressed by Lewis' 2015 summer work in the wooden-bat Cape Cod League.
"Lewis' best physical tool is raw power. His swing is a little noisy but the ball jumps off his bat and he's improved his ability to manage the strike zone every year," Sickels opined. "His tear through the Cape provides re-assurance that the bat is real, the gaudy numbers not just a distortion due to metal and competition."
Lewis is the highest pick ever out of Mercer. The previous holder of that distinction was shortstop Pat Creech, who was drafted 32nd overall, in the second round, by the Montreal Expos in 1973. Creech reached as high as Triple-A, a level he played at in parts of four seasons, but he never made the majors.
The MLB-allotted slot value for the 11th overall pick is $3,286,700.