Q&A with Royals outfield prospect Heath

Lefty hitter flashes speed at Double-A Northwest Arkansas

November 12th, 2018

KANSAS CITY -- Royals general manager Dayton Moore and his staff always have been on the lookout for speed and athleticism.
And that's what attracted them to 24-year-old Nick Heath, a left-handed-hitting burner, who was selected in the 16th round of the 2016 MLB Draft out of Northwestern State (La.). Heath can play all outfield positions, but he excels as a center fielder.
Heath has a .350 on-base percentage through three professional seasons and he has swiped 100 bags. After he dominated at Class A Advanced Wilmington (.397 on-base percentage, 29 steals) in 54 games last season, he was promoted to Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
MLB.com caught up with Heath in a recent phone interview:
MLB.com: Clearly you inherited your speed gene from your mother, Kimberly, who ran the 100-meter hurdles at the 1988 Olympic Trials (14.04 seconds) for Team USA. At what point in your life did you finally feel brave enough to race her?
Heath: "I was about 14 years old, my freshman year in high school. I used to go on these little two-mile jogs around the neighborhood. One day, she told me she wanted to join me. So, we get done with the two-mile jog and I'm just kind of cooling off about a block from our house. So I ask my mom, 'How far do you think we are from the house.' And she said, 'I don't know, maybe about 40-50 yards.' And I said, 'You want to race now?' And she said, 'I don't want to embarrass you.' And I said, 'You're not going to embarrass me.' So she said, 'Let's go.' She counted it off and we started running. After about five steps, she was a blur. [Laughing] I mean, I really had to make up the ground, but I beat her. And she said, 'That's the last time I'm ever going to race you.'"
MLB.com: Did you get grounded?
Heath: "[Laughs]. Nah. But she likes to say now that I just got lucky, that she wasn't prepared. But when she was racing back in the day, she was unbelievable. I hear so many people back home talk about how she ran in high school and college, and was just incredible. I learned so much from her. You can call me a mama's boy, but I owe her so much. She's the best."
MLB.com: You got some great experience and had some success in the Arizona Fall League (.339 average, 11 steals in 17 games). Were you working on anything specifically?
Heath: "I'm trying to be a little more aggressive at the plate, less timid. I'm trying not to be as selective as I have been in the past. I think right now, my biggest thing is attacking the fastball early in the count when I know guys aren't going to try to slip me anything. Just learning what pitchers do, how defenses play me. It's all helping."
MLB.com: You also got your first taste of Double-A this season. Tell us about that:
Heath: "When I first got there, I was kind of tearing it up. I wanted to show those guys what I was capable of, that I belonged there, that I can play with them. It opened my eyes to what I'm capable of doing. It gave me more confidence, a little more swagger at the plate. I'm anxious for 2019."
MLB.com: You have some Kansas ties, spent time in Junction City, right?
Heath: "I did, but I grew up in Georgia, just outside of Atlanta. I was born in Decatur, Georgia. I think we moved to Kansas when I was about eight or nine. My mom moved to Kansas and we lived with my grandparents for a little while."
MLB.com: Were you a Royals fan once you got to Kansas?
Heath: "No, I was definitely a Braves fan. I remember watching the games with my dad [Harvey] as a kid. My big thing was watching Andruw Jones. I loved watching him. My dad would always say, 'Watch him. Watch how he plays.' Andruw Jones was absolutely amazing. Growing up, I watched a lot of him and a lot of Chipper [Jones]. When I got a little older, I watched a lot of [Jeff] Francoeur. It was awesome watching all those guys."
MLB.com: Did you go to any games at Kauffman Stadium?
Heath: "No, I actually didn't go to my first Royals game until after they drafted me. But you know, I was just a huge Atlanta fan. I loved the Falcons, I loved the Braves, I loved the Hawks, even though they haven't been good for a while."
MLB.com: Any players in today's game you model yourself after?

Heath: "Well, that's a funny story. Someone asked me that a couple of weeks ago, and the first name that came to mind was . And then the next name was . But like the day after that conversation, our manager talked to us in the clubhouse and said there was going to be a Major Leaguer playing with us today [in the AFL], so just treat him like the rest of us and don't overwhelm him with questions. I didn't think much of it at the time. So, we all go out to the outfield before the game and I kind of have my head down, and I see a guy out there and I introduce myself, and he says his name is Kevin. I said, 'Kevin what?' And he was like, 'Pillar.' And I thought, 'You got to be kidding me. You got to be joking.' He was there just getting loose before he went on that tour in Japan. Of course, all I did was try to pick his brain and ask him a million questions. He was really nice.
"Hitting hasn't really been my strong point so I've always taken a lot of pride with my defense. So it was unbelievable that I got to practice with him, shag with him. I just kept asking questions and then I said, 'Am I annoying you?' And he said I wasn't."
MLB.com: You mentioned your hitting. What will be the key moving forward?
Heath: "I think what they want me to do the most is just use my speed. Get on base, cause havoc, create a lot of distress. Whether it's walking or bunting, or hitting through the shift, whatever. Just get on base and use that speed."