Nick Heath had a solid fall season continuing to push his name into consideration as a prospect in the Royals system. You can read a prospect watch we did on him here. Heath hit .274/.376/.358 over the regular season. But in the Arizona Fall League, against the best prospects in baseball, he hit .338/.427/.442 with a league-leading 13 stolen bases and 21 runs scored. Heath also finished in the Top 10 for hits, OBP, and batting average. Nick was kind enough to answer some questions for our readers.
RFR: Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us Nick. You had an excellent season in the AFL. Can you tell us a few things you learned while down there?
Nick Heath: First and foremost, I learned that all these guys are pretty much going through the same things I’m going through. Trying to work through so many different aspects of the game at once. I learned a lot from the guys I played with just mental sides of the game I didn’t think were super important or anything like that but turned up to be very important. These guys brought a different level of energy all the time.
RFR: What are some things you felt really good about while you were in Arizona?
NH: An area I thought I did well in was finding the barrel a lot more than I did during the season. The aggressive side of my hitting definitely helped me out. Guys were pitching me a certain way and I think it worked out amazing when I recognized it and adjusted to it. They were playing me pull, but throwing the fastball and change ups away and that allowed me to just play pepper with the 6-hole. As for stealing bases, a lot of that part came from my black book. I’ve got a book on the variations of each guy I faced times, do they like to pick, how many looks they give me, if they switch those things up or not. As for defensively, I loved being in Arizona where the ball flew a little bit and I was able to just take off and go get balls. I think the most fun part for me is somebody smoking a ball to the gap and just knowing that I’ll get there when people think I won’t.
RFR: What are some areas that you felt were exposed or that you need to clean up a little?
NH: The area I think I needed more work on is not being so picky late in the count. Like, trying to be to fine at the plate with two strikes so I’m not chasing balls out of the zone and I end up looking at pitches. Or vice verse and being overly aggressive with two strikes when I feel good thinking I can get a barrel on anything. And definitely continue to work on being more consistent left on left.
RFR: What are some thing you really enjoyed about in the AFL?
NH: I liked the ability to speak to different guys, being able to be a little more free at the plate and then trusting that I can swing the bat. I’ve definitely been more comfortable at the plate as well as in my game in general. I just want to prove I can play with guys that are referred to as some of the best among us as minor leaguers. So many different things in this game I learned over the last 5-7 weeks out there and here I was thinking I had a good grasp of it all.
RFR: Is there anything you would change or something you didn’t particularly like in your AFL experience?
NH: I didn’t really dislike anything about playing out there. Honestly, had the time of my life man, and I really hope I get to face some of those guys later on in our careers and hopefully in the big leagues!
RFR: Is there anything specific you can tell us you worked on or some drills you would like to share?
NH: I did a lot of just tracking when I was hitting other than in the game; definitely some machine work and trying to hit more line drives. I worked on keeping the ball on a line and found out that even balls I was mishitting were still hit pretty hard.
RFR: As a coach myself, what advice do you have for me and all other coaches out there who work with players?
NH: Just let guys be themselves and not try to change what they did but at least make them better at it in some way. Or more consistent with what they are doing. Some guys want to change others just to make changes. You really just have to know who you’re working with.
RFR: Thanks again Nick for the time. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us and a chance to learn from you.