Much has been made about the #1 and #3 prospects in the organization this spring, with both having fantastic first halves of the season. Matias is gaining notoriety through MiLB, leading all of the minors in home runs. Lee is having a breakout season after showing flashes of greatness last season. The question is now becoming: who is the better player? Let’s break it down.
Hit Tool/Getting On Base
Lee: After hitting .237 in Lexington last season, through one half in Wilmington his average is .260. Lee has also increased his walk rate from 12.2% to 16.7%. Along with taking a few more walks this season, Lee has also cut his K-rate by almost 8% from 2017. Lee had a lot of swing and miss in him last year, and he looks to have made adjustments to show he can be a better hit-for-average player.
Matias: Through the first half the season, Matias is only hitting .244 so far this year in Lexington. His strikeout rate is extremely high, at 36.9% so far. His walk rate is below 8% right now, but there is plenty of time for him to get that up as he continues to progress. It’s hard to make an assessment on what Matias’ hit-for-average tool could be moving forward, but his 40-grade hit tool tells us he has the potential for league average production in that category.
Hitting for Power
Lee: In 2017, Lee showed flashes of light tower power with 17 home runs. He had a .774 OPS and a .193 ISO last season as well. This year, he hasn’t had the same success hitting for power, but Wilmington is a much more difficult park for hitting for power. He’s only hit 4 HR so far this season, but still has a .401 SLG. His HR/FB has been cut in half, down from 20% to 10%, but considering the more difficult environment this isn’t a huge surprise. He’s starting to hit more line drives, with that percentage being 27.6%. There’s a lot to like about Lee’s potential power moving forward.
Matias: The power Seuly Matias possesses does not need too much of an introduction. He leads all of minor league baseball with 22 home runs. He has an absurd ISO of .388, which is one of the highest ever recorded in the minor leagues. His HR/FB is also ridiculous, at 45.8%. The power will play in The Show, now it’s just a matter of him continuing to hone in his craft, but the raw power is there and it’s been incredible to see.
Lee: With 20 stolen bases last season in Lexington, and 12 already this season, he is showing his ability to wreak havoc on the basepaths. If he can add in 20-25 stolen bases a season along with his ability to hit, his stock will continue to rise.
Matias: Taking extra bases is not necessarily in Matias’ game, he only has 5 stolen bases so far this seasons. His speed grades out to a 50, so he had potential to add to that total as he progresses. But, you don’t have the opportunity to steal many bases when you spend most of your time taking a slow trot around the bases.
Lee: Khalil Lee has the potential to be a solid everyday centerfielder. He already has as many outfield assists in centerfield as he did last year. He played a lot of right field as well last year, but he looks to be making the transition to a true centerfielder.
Matias: Matias looks to be projecting as a true power hitting right fielder. He will be a decent fielder but never an incredible glove.
Lee: With 6 assists on the season and a 60 grade arm, it’s no surprise why he is such a talent in the field. He looks to be turning a corner with his bat, but his glove and arm will be a reason why he keeps moving up through the ranks.
Matias: Matias does not project to be better than a league average defender, but his arm helps make up for that. He has a 70 grade arm, which has helped him get 5 outfield assists so far this season. This is part of the reason why he had gotten comps to Yoenis Cespedes.
So, who is better?
There can be a case made for both players. There is a lot of talk about Matias because of his home run ability, and with such a premium being put on hitting the ball out of the park without much regard for average or strikeouts, there is a lot of potential for him.
With that being said, Lee looks to be the better all around player. He does everything well, without being elite in one category, which is rare nowadays. I think Lee projects as the better pro because he can get for a better average, and he still provides value with his glove if his bat struggles for a while. Either way, both players can help the Royals in the next couple of years when they are ready to be in Kansas City.