The KC Royals have yet another speedy outfield prospect with immense potential in Khalil Lee. Will he ever make the most of it?
Khalil Lee was selected in the third round of the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft by the KC Royals. He was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Virginia as a senior in high school and was viewed as a two-way athlete. The organization took him in hopes of developing him into a phenom of an outfielder and thus far, the results have been mixed.
Once Lee proved to be too advanced for Single-A ball in 2018, he was promoted to AA. In 29 games with Northwest Arkansas, he posted a .245/.330/.353 line with a pair of home runs and 10 RBIs. He then spent all of his 2019 with the same team, raising his OPS to .735, but striking out 154 times in 129 games.
MLB Pipeline ranked Lee as the KC Royals’ No. 4 prospect a year ago, and he now sits at No. 8. How he develops at the plate will make — or break — his MLB career. While Lee has terrific power potential and is a patient hitter, that patience can come back to bite him. That’s evidenced by his high strikeout total. Here are some scenarios for how his career may unfold:
Lee’s patience parlays its way into more walks and fewer strikeouts. This solves the majority of his issues at the plate. His power potential turns into actual production and he makes his major league debut at some point in 2020 (if we ever have a season). He becomes a full-time player down the road and hits between 15-20 home runs, steals 30-plus bases and plays good defense as a centerfielder.
Despite having a high ceiling as a player, Lee never lives up to the hype. His defense remains good, but he moves to right field to make the most of his talents. At the plate, he remains a high-strikeout player and doesn’t have the Jorge Soler-like power to make up for it (but really, who does?). The Royals take the good with the bad and make Lee their everyday right fielder until his bat relegates him to a fourth outfielder role, or worse, for the future.
Most likely scenario:
Lee becomes at the major league level what he already is at the minor league level: a talented, yet flawed player. Will he ever hit 20-plus home runs? Probably not. Will the strikeouts come down a ton? Also not likely. With that said, players that can hit at a decent level and use their speed to their advantage both on the basepaths and in the outfield still bring solid value to teams.
The tools are there for Lee to be a good player. It all comes down to if he can put things together at the same time.