Not many fans knew anything about the speedy young player the KC Royals picked up in the Brett Phillips trade, but keep an eye on him.
Not much is known about what went on inside the gates of T-Bones Stadium, where the members of the KC Royals 60-man 2020 Player Pool who weren’t on the active roster spent the summer playing each other. The Royals said little about the proceedings and didn’t share stats with the public.
But it’s a good bet that a 23-year old newcomer led the alternate training site in stolen bases; if he didn’t, he was surely close. Stealing bases is what Lucius Fox seems to do best.
The Brett Phillips trade brought Fox to the Royals in late August. Completed just days before the trade deadline, the deal sent the popular but light-hitting Phillips to Tampa Bay (and ultimately to the World Series where he became the hero of Game 4) for Fox, but few Kansas City fans knew who Fox was. And because he didn’t make it to Kauffman Stadium before 2020’s short season ended, their first look will have to wait until next season.
That look will likely come at Double A Northwest Arkansas or Triple A Omaha, but count on it being worth the wait. Fox is fast, so fast that the 25 bases he stole in 2016 as a rookie in Class A ball are the fewest he’s swiped in four professional seasons. He stole 30 the next season between Class A and Advanced A, swiped 29 in 2018 at Advanced A and Double A, then added 39 between Double A and Triple A in 2019.
But bases can’t be stolen by runners who don’t get on base, and that’s where things might get sticky for Fox if he makes it to the big leagues. He’ll never win a batting championship or add a Silver Slugger award to his trophy case—his .244 career average includes a .207 mark as a rookie and .221 in 2019—and pitchers will only get harder to hit as he progresses toward the majors.
So how has Fox managed to average over 30 steals a season? He finds a way to get on base, as his serviceable .337 OBP attests. He walks over 10 percent of the time and takes full advantage of his speed when he hits the bases.
Speed never hurts defensively, either, but defense may present Fox with an obstacle. He’s a shortstop, but has no chance to displace Adalberto Mondesi; he’s also played some second base in the minors, but the KC Royals are committed (at least for now) to Nicky Lopez and his stellar defense. And Bobby Witt Jr.’s much-anticipated arrival in Kansas City is, notwithstanding the club’s public position, imminent, so the team will have to find somewhere for him to play. It may become hard for Fox to fit in.
Project him, then, as a backup infielder, unless the Royals can’t settle on an outfield and try him there. Fox certainly has the speed to cover center field; the downside is his hitting and lack of power—he’s hitting less than three homers a season, and there’s no reason to believe he’ll become a slugger.
So, the Royals need to get Fox busy in the cage. He’s a switch-hitter, a rare but valuable commodity these days and sharpening his skills at the plate will be good for him and the organization. The task shouldn’t be impossible—he’s consistently appeared on various top prospect lists and immediately landed on mlb.com’s Top 30 Kansas City list at No. 23.
Fox originally signed with the Giants. He spent much of his childhood in his native Nassau before coming to the U.S. to hone his game.
Can Lucius Fox become a regular with the KC Royals? That remains to be seen, but he’ll have to hit to get there.