The final lefthanded bat on the KC Royals’ 40-man roster may not be the answer.
Not much separates Nick Heath and Khalil Lee. Both are outfielders, of course, and although neither hits for much power, both are fast, get on base better than they hit for average, and steal more than their share of bases.
Both have played for seasons in the minors. Although Heath’s minor league .348 OBP is 18 points lower than Lee’s, it’s still excellent; his .266 average exceeds Lee’s by 10 points, but neither is stellar. Heath stole 60 bases to Lee’s 53 in 2019. Lee’s 37 home runs, skewed considerably by the 17 he hit in 2017, exceed Heath’s by 20, although a 2019 swing adjustment may improve Heath’s power.
But it is those similarities that place Heath in the same boat as Lee when it comes to finding a middle of the order lefthanded bat for Kansas City—they know how to get on base, but probably don’t have the power the club likely prefers.
And Heath didn’t impress at the plate in his major league debut last season. Although it was a small sample size to be sure, he managed just two hits in 13 at bats.
The alternatives for the KC Royals
Of the lefthanded internal candidates for a middle of the order spot, Cordero has the edge. His power is arguably greater, he has big league experience, and Kansas City didn’t acquire him to sit. But he may not be what Moore is looking for.
That leaves the Royals with four options: give Cordero the job; give it to Heath or Lee; search outside the organization; or find ways to exploit the obvious talents Cordero, Lee and Heath possess.
After all, they’re all fast, especially Heath and Lee. Kansas City is a franchise historically built on pitching, speed and defense. Do the Royals really need more power than they have now?
Kansas City’s search for another lefthanded hitter is understandable. Although it might not be exactly what they want, and they might have to alter their 2021 plan a bit, the Royals might have a suitable lefty bat in their own backyard.