Including the reigning American League Rookie of the Year in a series entitled “Do or Die” might seem a bit superfluous. One doesn’t need to look far to see what Lewis has already done. You could begin at the second at bat of his major league career, when he took a 2-0 offering from Trevor Bauer deep to centerfield in an eventual 4-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds. In the other seventy-four plate appearances the Georgia native had during the 2019 season he slashed .268/.293/.592 with five more home runs and thirteen RBIs. The twenty-five year old centerfielder followed up his debut season by hitting safely in fifteen of the Mariners’ first seventeen games. At midseason, Lewis’ slash line read .368/.456/.585 as he battled the White Sox’ Luis Robert to claim the title of top rookie. After eventually playing in fifty-eight of Seattle’s sixty games, Lewis eventually claimed the crown over Robert. The Mercer product finished his award-winning campaign .262/.364/.437 at the plate with a WAR of 1.6 as calculated by FanGraphs. Those numbers led to Lewis becoming the first Mariner to be named Rookie of the Year since Ichiro in 2001 and even got him one MVP vote. After such a stellar campaign, it’s safe to put Lewis solidly in the “Do” category already. The real question facing card collectors now is how much further can he go?
Heading into the 2020 season Kyle Lewis wasn’t on the radar of too many collectors. He was featured on neither the Baseball Prospectus nor the Baseball America Top 100 lists in 2019 or 2020. Even though he was the eleventh overall pick in 2016 the value of his first Bowman Chrome autograph card was only $30.72 prior to the 2020 season. Once the season started though those prices quickly shot up. By the beginning of August the value of that same card had risen to $157.07. One month later it was up to $182.44. That 493% increase was the most of any card last year. There has been a lag in value since the end of the season but the average value of 2016 Bowman Draft #CDA-KL is still maintained at $148.26. Now that the Shiloh High School alum has established his value, the question is how much further can it rise? There is good reason to believe that Lewis’ value will continue to go up. Seattle’s farm system is one of the best in the league, featuring two top five prospects in Julio Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic. Those in Seattle have high hopes for the trio of Lewis, Rodriguez, and Kelenic to finally break the M’s 19 season playoff drought. Lewis would almost certainly play a starring role in the Mariners’ march to the promised land. If or when that happens, it is not inconceivable that Lewis’ first Bowman Chrome auto will exceed the peak it reached in September 2020. However, it is still important to remember that the twenty-five year old’s break out year came over the course of a sixty game season where he faded somewhat down the stretch. 2021 will be an important followup season for Lewis to prove he can maintain last year’s performance over the course of a normal season. Even if he regresses from his Rookie of the Year form though, it is extremely unlikely his card values will drop back down to the $30 range he started last year at. For that reason, Kyle Lewis would be a solid addition to any collection.