The KC Royals have a history of speed and covet base stealing. Now, the future might just provide a player to finally take the single-season steals record.
It’s no secret to Royals fans, or fans of baseball in general, that the Royals typically look for two specific things as the basis for their game plan, speed and defense. While there have been plenty of heavy hitters through team history, there is a long history of speedy players making defensive plays and stealing bases like nobody else.
This article was initially going to cover a few of the top single-season base stealers in Royals team history. But, when looking back through the team stats, it was obvious that going that route could make for a slightly monotone piece.
Not because nobody want’s to know about that subject, or because stolen bases are boring; they typically aren’t. It was actually due to the fact that Royals Hall of Famer Willie Wilson appeared 4 times in the top 5. While Wilson is always great to read about, this piece started to take a different route.
Wilson set the Royals single-season stolen base record in 1979 when he swiped 83 bases, something that is pretty much unheard of in today’s game. He came close to his record again in 1980 when he swiped 79, and again in 1983 and 1987 when he stole 59 in both years.
Other than Wilson, the closest person to breaking the record was Tom Goodwin in 1996 with 66 stolen bases. This brought forth the question of whether or not there are any players in the organization currently that could one day break Wilson’s record of 83 stolen bases.
The first thought for many fans may be Whit Merrifield. Merrifield managed to lead the league in steals in both 2017 and 2018 when he stole 34 and 45 bases respectively, but he saw a sharp decline on the base path in 2019, stealing only 20 bases. Merrifield looks to be focusing on other aspects of his game, but he is one that could do just about anything if he wanted to.
Another candidate who has already shown what he can do at the major league level is Adalberto Mondesi. Mondesi managed to record 43 stolen bases in 2019. Making this even more impressive is that he missed a good portion of the season due to injury and only appeared in 102 games.
Possibly more likely that any to break the record, though, are two players who are still waiting to show what they have to offer in the majors, Kahlil Lee and Nick Heath.
Khalil Lee fits the bill of a typical Royal, fast and can make great defensive plays. Adding to that, he recorded 53 stolen bases during the 2019 season with AA Arkansas. While he still has some room to grow and has to translate this speed to the majors, at only 21, he is showing promise.
Like Lee, Nick Heath is another typical Royal, but his set of wheels may be different than the rest. At 26, he looks ready to see what he can do in the majors. In 2019, between both AA and AAA, Heath managed to swipe 60 bases in only 105 games. Like Lee, he has to be able to translate this to the majors, but Heath seems to be on a different level than many players in today’s game when it comes to stealing bases.
The Royals have plenty of speed and while there is a chance that Wilson’s steals record will remain in place for years to come, there are a few Royals who just may have what it takes to steal the record away.