MESA, Ariz. -- Nick Heath has run wild since the Arizona Fall League season began, and his speed settled the Surprise Saguaros' game against the Mesa Solar Sox on Friday night.With the score tied 1-1 in the top of the eighth, Heath coaxed a one-out walk from right-hander Angel Duno
MESA, Ariz. -- Nick Heath has run wild since the Arizona Fall League season began, and his speed settled the Surprise Saguaros' game against the Mesa Solar Sox on Friday night.
With the score tied 1-1 in the top of the eighth, Heath coaxed a one-out walk from right-hander Angel Duno (Athletics), then stole second and third base before coming home with the decisive run on a Lane Thomas (Cardinals) sacrifice fly. The Saguaros added an insurance run in the ninth for a 3-1 victory to improve to 5-4, one game behind the Peoria Javelinas in the West Division. The Solar Sox are also 5-4 and in a three-way tie for first in the East.
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Heath's signature tool is his plus-plus speed and he has used it well in the Fall League. The Royals outfielder's two steals against Mesa gave him a league-high nine in six games, and he also ranks second in runs (eight) and on-base percentage (.583) and third in batting (.444) and walks (six).
"Over the course of my time playing, I kind of understand my role, understand what I'm capable of doing and try to capitalize on it," Heath said. "For the most part, I just try to pay attention to the [pitcher] when I'm in the dugout, find something he might have, he might be a leaner or drop his back shoulder a little bit. For the most part, when I see them move, I move. So far it's been working out and I'm doing my best to help my guys win."
A 16th-round pick as a redshirt junior out of Northwestern State in 2016, Heath says he gets his speed from his mother. Kimberly Milleson ran track at Kansas State and participated in 100-meter hurdles at the 1988 U.S. Olympic trials. He said that he couldn't outrun her until he was in high school and said she still likes to race him every once in a while.
Coming off a .274/.376/.358 season with 39 steals in 90 games between high Class A and Double-A, Heath said he's trying to work on staying on top of the ball more to hit more line drives, plus making more consistent contact. In the first 10 days of the season, he may have raised his profile as much as anyone in the Fall League. He's not nearly as famous as Surprise teammate Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Blue Jays), but he's chasing baseball's best prospect for the batting lead.
"I like to talk a lot of trash to him in the dugout," Heath said. "I let him know I'm kind of neck and neck with him. He makes it fun, the guys make it fun . . . It's been the time of my life and hopefully we keep the ball rolling."
Guerrero went 1-for-3 with a walk and has hit safely in each of his seven AFL games. He tops the league in hitting (.517), hits (15), doubles (five), extra-base hits (five), total bases (20) and contact rate (one strikeout in 34 plate appearances).
Shortstop Trent Giambrone (Cubs) accounted for Mesa's lone run with a first-inning homer off left-hander Shawn Morimondo (Blue Jays). In three starts, Giambrone has gone 7-for-13 (.538) and sports a 1.369 OPS, both of which would lead the Fall League if he had enough plate appearances to qualify.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.