Hawks' Lewis Has Potential, but Needs Work

Deryck Lewis is like a lot of baseball players that have come before him and will inevitably follow him: he's from California, where no other state in the U.S. has ever had more players drafted.

The 21-year-old Class A Boise Hawks outfielder grew up in the Los Angeles area near Hollywood. As such, it's only natural that Lewis has encountered his fair share of celebrities, although he doesn't let it go to his head.

"You see Nick Lachey shopping at Banana Republic all the time," says Lewis. "You're never really that close to them since you're not on their ‘A' lists, but I've seen Denzel [Washington] and a couple of singers. I met Denzel once when I was younger and again when I was older."

Equally as natural to someone from L.A. is the acquired (or in this case, perhaps required) taste of Dodger baseball. The Dodgers housed some of Lewis's favorite players during his younger years: Mike Piazza, Raul Mondesi, Gary Sheffield, and former Cub Eric Karros, just to name a few.

When the Dodgers began to drop back in the late 90's and often became a punching bag for opposing teams in the post-Tommy Lasorda era, Lewis found himself rooting for the rival Angels in the American League.

The Halos acquired one of Lewis's favorite players, Vladimir Guerrero, in 2004, and won the World Series in 2002 behind Garret Anderson, Troy Glaus, Jarrod Washburn, and yes, the once-lovable Rally Monkey.

"I was never an Angels fan before," admits Lewis. "But they won the World Series and Vlad had always been one of my favorite hitters to watch. Once they got Vlad, I was a happy man."

Lewis celebrated his 21st birthday on Friday. He came to the Cubs in the 25th-round of the 2005 draft from Los Angeles Valley College, a community college in nearby Valley Glen, Calif.

This season, just over 50 percent of Lewis's 39 hits have gone for extra bases. He has compiled 14 doubles, four home runs and two triples.

"I have gap-to-gap pop and have developed a little more of a power stroke," Lewis says when describing his bat. "I don't go for home runs. Whatever home runs I hit usually come as line drives that got out."

Through 44 of the Hawks' 66 contests, Lewis is batting .257 overall, and .323 (10-for-31) in 12 games in August. He started the season on a tear, racking up four two-hit games in his first six contests, but cooled off in July. He has been out since Aug. 18 with a sprained ankle.

"Overall, my average is down a bit," Lewis said before the injury. "But I'm starting to see the ball well again and I feel comfortable."

Hawks manager Steve McFarland saw the right-handed hitting Lewis last year in his first pro season in the Arizona Rookie League. McFarland says Lewis has flashed signs of promise this season, but has been inconsistent.

"Very hot and cold," said the straight-shooting McFarland, in his seventh consecutive season as a Cubs minor league manager. "He's got some things he needs to work on. He's very raw. He's strong and the ball comes off his bat pretty good. But at the same time, he's a little weak defensively and doesn't run the bases very well. He needs to work on his entire game."

Lewis has started most of his games in left field with the rest of his playing time coming in the DH role. He has four errors in the outfield, which equals the number of assists he's had.

While there is work to be done on both sides of the ball, Lewis is trying to stay focused on the positive things – especially on defense.

"My throwing arm is pretty good. It was something I worked on in the off-season," he boasts. "I wanted to get my arm strength up and I feel that I have. My accuracy was already pretty good. It's not that I never had any ‘pop' in my throws, but a little more never hurt."

Extra arm strength? Added pop to his throws? Good accuracy? It sounds as though Lewis may have entertained the thought of becoming a pitcher. Like most everyone, he tried it at some point or another in his younger days.

"I pitched some in high school and when I was younger," Lewis said. "I've been trying to get my throws up to around 90 or 91 mph. For now, I'm just focused on the outfield."

And if McFarland sounds harsh with his critiquing of Lewis, it's nothing personal; just a necessary evil that comes with the job.

"I get frustrated with him because he has stability and just needs to apply himself a little more to get through these weaknesses. Otherwise, he's not going to be able to play every day," McFarland said.

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