Since the very beginning of Royals Farm Report, nearly two years ago now, Khalil Lee has found himself at or near the top of every single one of our prospect rankings.
There was this, in July of 2014:
Which came right after we ranked Lee the Royals #2 overall prospect on the very first Royals prospect ranking that we did here at Royals Farm Report. By the middle of 2018, Khalil Lee had forced our hands, and he wound up as the #1 overall prospect on our mid-season Royals top 100 list.
Khalil Lee was incredible in the Carolina League (A+) to begin 2018. He hit .270/.402/.406/.808 with a 0.64 BB/K and 136 wRC+ in 301 PA before being promoted to AA Northwest Arkansas in the middle of 2018…BEFORE HIS 20TH BIRTHDAY.
Lee didn’t find quite the same success in AA as he did in High-A, which probably shouldn’t be unsurprising for a 20-year old. Lee’s K% actually decreased upon his arrival to NWA, but his power was zapped, a trend that would continue into the Arizona Fall League.
The Royals showed some rare confidence in Lee, who, again, still isn’t 21 years old, by sending him to prospect finishing school to close out 2018. Lee hit just .157 in the AZFL with a 29.67% K% and appeared to be somewhere between discouraged and disinterested at the plate. I by no means expected Lee to go down and destroy the AZFL as a 20-year old, but his performance wasn’t by any means encouraging either.
With questions about where Lee would play long-term defensively (I think the consensus at this point is that he’s a corner outfielder), Lee fell to #4 on our pre-season list to begin 2019. After a bit of a disappointing start to his season at AA this year, and a couple of scorching hot starts from other prospects, we had Lee at #7 on our mid-season list.
Some of this was not Lee’s fault. Brady Singer, Daniel Lynch, Kris Bubic, Jackson Kowar, and Kyle Isbel were absolutely on fire to begin their seasons. Khalil Lee’s raw power has never been in question. The kid can hit some absolute missiles when he gets a hold of the ball. The problem has been that Lee hasn’t accessed that power in games at the AA level on a consistent basis.
Until recently. Khalil Lee has bee on an absolute tear to start the month of June.
That .250 ISO in the month of June is a welcoming site. Lee has also been running wild on opposing batteries, and now the power has come back in a big way. This is the Khalil Lee that we had ranked as the Royals #1 overall prospect last season. This is the Khalil Lee that has a chance to be a fixture in the Royals lineup for a long time.
I was talking with the guys over on the KC3 Takes podcast recently about Khalil Lee and we talked a bit about Lee’s approach to the game of baseball. There were some questions this off-season about Lee’s preparation and approach to the game itself, which takes some figuring out as a kid in professional baseball. Lee still is not yet 21 years old. He still can’t legally drink in America. Questions about his maturity are still a bit premature, in my opinion.
Khalil Lee is a wildly gifted baseball player. He possesses four tools that every organization would kill to have in a player. The jump from A-ball to AA is wildly regarded as the toughest jump in all of Minor League Baseball, but Lee seems to be holding his own now in his first full go at the level. Should Lee put it all together, he could easily be regarded as the top prospect in this system. I’m loving what I’m seeing from this kid early on in the month of June, and I can’t wait to see if he can continue this power surge through August.
The Royals farm system has looked a bit weak offensively at times this year. Khalil Lee’s resurgence (and the health of Kyle Isbel), could be the difference between an overall positive or negative outlook at the end of 2019. At this pace, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Lee replace Bubba Starling in Omaha whenever Bubba gets the call to KC. From there, Lee is just a matter of months away from finding himself roaming the outfield in Kansas City, something I’d expect to see in 2020.
Photo Credits: MiLB.com