The Royals already have some outfield depth with five guys who are projected to be on the opening day roster. Alex Gordon will probably be back for another year, Brett Phillips, Jorge Bonifacio, Bubba Starling, and Jorge Soler round out the rest of the outfield. Soler is really a full time DH so that leaves four guys for three spots. So why consider Nick Heath for a 40-man spot?
With the rosters going to 26 players, teams will have to decide if they want to use that extra roster spot for their bullpen, a bat, or another type of specialist such as a pinch runner or defensive replacement. Heath will not likely make it through the Rule 5 because someone will take chance and stash his speed on their roster. The Cubs tried it last year taking Gore. The Braves took Hamilton and tried it. The Royals tried it but Ned Yost never put Gore into games making the experiment a waste of time. Someone will take Heath’s game changing speed to use for their benefit.
Heath plays solid defense and does possess some on base skills. He walked 56 times in 465 plate appearances. Heath stole 60 bases on 73 attempts for a percentage just higher than 80. He doesn’t have much power and strikes out too much for his skill set, but the speed is where his ticket to the majors lies.
Heath is currently working on his craft for Licey in the Dominican Winter League where he is loving it. He is hitting .281/.344/.421 with 3 stolen bases in 3 attempts. He has four doubles and two triples.
Matheny might be more apt to use the pinch runner in games than Yost. That is still to be determined. There is no arguing what speed does for teams late in games. The big question for the Royals is does Heath’s speed matter for them this year and can they use it?
The short answer is everyone can use speed including the Royals. Rostering Heath now doesn’t mean he has to be on the 26-man all year if at all. What rostering Heath does is allow him to develop at Omaha and it gives the Royals a weapon on the bases when their competition window opens in 2021. That will be just one less thing they need to worry about.
So to answer the question, yes, the Royals need to add Heath to their 40-man roster.
Image from the Naturals website.