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Q&A: Royals' Heath on offseason, golf, DR

@wboor
April 9, 2020

The Royals selected Nick Heath in the 16th round of the 2016 Draft. The 26-year-old outfielder, who checks in at No. 26 on the Royals' Top 30 Prospects list, reached Triple-A Omaha for the first time in 2019 and led all Minor Leaguers with 60 stolen bases (he was caught

The Royals selected Nick Heath in the 16th round of the 2016 Draft. The 26-year-old outfielder, who checks in at No. 26 on the Royals' Top 30 Prospects list, reached Triple-A Omaha for the first time in 2019 and led all Minor Leaguers with 60 stolen bases (he was caught 13 times).

MLB Pipeline recently caught up with Heath to discuss the offseason, his (lack of) golf game and his mother, Kimberly Milleson, who is a former track star and U.S. Olympic trials participant.

Follow Nick on Twitter @inheathwetrust

MLB Pipeline: How’s everything going? How are you managing to stay busy?

Heath: It’s probably going as good as it could go right now. Some of us are still out here in Arizona, found a place to go hit, get a little work in. Some of our guys are linking up and just communicating on where a good time is to meet up and get our work in. We’re still trying to keep the ball rolling, but for the most part after I finish my baseball activities in the mornings I jog and run and get my own workouts in. I play a lot of Call of Duty and do a bit of hiking as well.

MLB Pipeline: How hard is it to know how hard to work out? It’s sort of offseason mode, but it’s in-season time of year.

Heath: I’m probably around the 50% or 75% range. I can kind of keep it light so that I’m not working myself into the ground for when we do start back up, but I can get a sweat going and can get a pump in so it’s not too easy. Just trying to manage that happy medium between keeping yourself fresh and keeping yourself on the field.

MLB Pipeline: I saw on Twitter that you’re about two weeks into your golf career. How’s that going?

Heath: Ha. My golf career is never going to take off. It’s just something I can do. I can go out to the driveway, get a little bit of fresh air. I have little ping pong balls that I was hitting in the backyard, they weren’t going very far but I was having targets to hit. Just keeping myself active, keeping my body moving a little bit and getting out of my room every couple hours.

MLB Pipeline: Back to baseball, the Royals added you to the 40-man this offseason. Does that give you a bit more job security or how did that impact you? What did it mean to you?

Heath: When I first found out I was obviously super excited knowing what that means for a player like me. When you’re talking about job security, it definitely feels better to know that you’re a little more stable in your career at this point and have a little more longevity. From the player’s standpoint, it’s nice to know that your organization cares for you and that they see you as part of their future plans. It makes me feel really good and it also put a little chip on my shoulder – I made it this far, I’m this close. Why not put in a little more work and take it a little more serious? I already take it serious but take it to the next level and show them that not only am I good enough to be on the 40-man roster, but I want to be on the big league roster as well. It made me happy, it made me take a step back and realize how far I’ve come, but it also made me realize there’s still more to go, still more that I want to do and prove.

MLB Pipeline: You went to the Dominican Republic this offseason to play winter ball. What was that experience like?

Heath: It was the time of my life, probably the best time I’ve had playing baseball. The passion for the game that everyone has down there -- whether it was players, coaches, fans or just the local community -- even if the game wasn’t packed after the game it’s like you’re the Yankees. Every person knows who the Yankees are, down there everyone knows every team in the Dominican Republic. Going to the grocery store, people would be like, “You’re an outfielder, you play for that team. I watched the game last night.” Me, coming from Minor League ball where someone couldn’t tell me from Joe Schmo, so when you get down there and you’ve got people from a predominantly Spanish-speaking country and they’re doing their best to speak English to me in public -- you go to get tacos in places and they’re like “take these free tacos, great game last night” and I’m like “what?” The experience was awesome. The weekend games are packed, always sold out, people are yelling and screaming, and the crowd is so into it.

MLB Pipeline: You’re known for your speed, which obviously comes from your mom. If you were both in your prime, who is faster?

Heath: My mom. Not now, but my mom in her prime, she could probably beat me. If she didn’t, it’d be very, very close.

MLB Pipeline: I respect the honesty there. Thought you’d say you were faster.

Heath: I don’t know what to tell you, my mom, when she was doing her thing, was quite the thing to see. As a kid, when I was watching my mom and she was coaching the high school team in her late 30s and early 40s, I was watching her run hurdles and she was making it look effortless. I was like, “My mom is that smooth? Wow. I’ve got to step it up if that’s what I’ve got to compete with.”

MLB Pipeline: When you get on base and have a chance to show off that speed, what’s your mentality? What’s your thought process?

Heath: Previously my thought process when I got on base, I knew I was fast, but didn’t necessarily know how to run the bases or steal bases, I just knew I was fast and it didn’t matter what type of jump I got. Obviously as you get into the higher levels and the arms get better and there’s a little more strategy for guys who can run, that’s when I started getting into finding pitcher tendencies -- maybe he leans before he goes to the plate, maybe he looks once or twice -- always trying to find a little cheat for myself that would give me that little half step. Now, my big thing is knowing when to run and knowing how to run. It’s a little more mental now … I want to be at third base as soon as I possibly can for the guy hitting behind me.

MLB Pipeline: What do you want to improve upon and accomplish in 2020?

Heath: I want to improve on being on base more and striking out less. Last year, as a leadoff hitter, I definitely struck out way too much. … My big goal for the 2020 season, if we have it, is to make my debut. It’s what I’ve been working for my whole life, I’m sure a lot of guys would say the same thing, but it’s my dream, it’s what I’ve been working toward and I haven’t had it yet. I want to be able to say I’ve been in the big leagues and once I get there, I want to be able to look back and say this is what kept me there for a while. My big goal for 2020 is to make it to the big leagues and look someone in the face further down the road and tell them I never went back to the Minors.

William Boor is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.