Nick Heath Knows Speed Is His Game
Nick Heath may be one of the fastest players in the Royals’ organization, but he could not beat his mother in a footrace until he was in high school.
Heath led the Arizona Fall League with 13 stolen bases. When he was promoted to Double-A Northwest Arkansas in 2018 he swiped 10 bases in as many chances in 36 games. In his first pro season of 2016, he topped the Pioneer League with 36 swipes, 10 more than anyone else.
"I tell everybody I get it from my mom,” Heath said. "She’s the speedster of the family.”
Speed is in his DNA. Heath’s mother Kimberly ran track at Kansas State and took part in the 100-meter hurdles at the 1998 USA Olympic Trials.
"My mom would always take me out back and I would run hurdles and sprints in our back yard,” Heath said. "My mother was always like, ‘You’re not fast enough. You’ve got to be faster.’ She always beat me in a footrace until I was like 14 or 15. Then I started beating her with a passion.”
Heath went to Junction City (Kan.) High, about a two-hour drive west of Kauffman Stadium. The Royals drafted him in the 16th round in 2016 as a senior out of Northwestern State. In 218 minor league games, he has stolen 100 bases but hit just five home runs.
"I kind of know my game,” said Heath, 24. "My game is to get on base. My game is to run. My game is to score runs. I have (power). I like to think it's there, but right now that’s not my game.
"If I get ahold of a ball, I know I can drive it for the most part. I just want to put the ball in play. I just want to get in a position where I can score runs and help us win games.”
Heath climbed the Royals' prospect ranking in the AFL, where he also led the league with 21 runs in 21 games and ranked among the top 10 with a .338 average and .427 on-base percentage. He had a four-hit game on Oct. 27 and a pair of games where he stole three bases.
During the regular season he hit .274/.376/.358 with 39 steals and 48 walks in 90 games.
"Those guys drive the ball really well,” Heath said. "I do my best to get on base and put myself in scoring position and let those guys do their job. Them doing their job allows me to do my job, and vice versa.”
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• Longtime Royals scout Carl Blando, a Kansas City native, died at the age of 84. He was a scout from 1977-99 with the Royals. He returned in 2009-10 as a part-time scout in the Kansas City area and helped them sign high school righthander Jason Adam.
• The Royals signed 27-year-old righthander Michael Ynoa to a minor league contract. The Athletics signed him for $4.25 million in 2008. He recorded a 5.03 ERA in 45 relief appearances for the White Sox in 2016 and 2017.