The Tools (20-80 grading scale)
MLB.com: 45 Hit, 50 Power, 55 Run, 60 Arm, 55 Field
Baseball America: 40 Hit, 55 Power, 60 Run, 70 Arm, 55 Field
The Mets surprised everyone last night (February 10, 2020) when they were able to acquire OF Khalil Lee from the Royals organization in a three way traded that also involved the Red Sox. More so, the surprise came with how they acquired him. Khalil Lee slipped into the Mets farm system at # 7. In case you have been living under a rock I will describe the trade that sent Lee over to the Mets.
- Mets receive:
OF Khalil Lee from the Royals (ranked 8 on Royals farm system).
- Royals receive:
OF Andrew Benintendi and cash from the Red Sox.
- Boston receive:
OF Franchy Cordero and two players to be named later from the Royals.
RHP Josh Winchowski (ranked 26 in Mets farm) and one player to be named later from the Mets.
Who is Khalil Lee?
Lee is listed at 5’10 and 192 lbs. on Baseball America. He was drafted by the Royals in the 3rd round with the 103 overall pick in the 2016 draft as an OF. The two-way player finished his senior year at Flint Hill School Virginia and earned Virginia’s Gatorade Player of the Year award as a senior after hitting .471 with 6 home runs and pitching 7-0 with a 0.33 ERA. Despite making great strides as a LHP where he is able to touch 94 mph on his fastball with good feel to add some spin, the Royals decided to pick him up because of his bat and how his athleticism and arm would play out in the OF.
In 2016, Lee put up exceptional numbers in the Rookie league. He slashed a .269/.396/.484 in 182 AB where he hit 6 home runs and stole 8 bases. He also generated 33 walks (14.9 BB%) while striking out 57 times (25.7 K%). Most impressive was his .214 ISO for someone who was a two-way player in High School.
In 2017, while playing in A league, Lee took a drop in batting average, but was able to provide power and speed. He also took a major step back as his K% jumped up to a 32.1% (171 K) but was able to maintain a BB% at 12.2% (65 BB). Scouts did not have concerns about the high K rate because they believed he has an advanced knowledge of the zone. His overall slash line was .237/.344/.430 in 532 PA while hitting 17 HR and swiping 20 bags.
In 2018, Lee started the season in A+ league where in 244 AB, he slashed .270/.402/.406. Although he was not providing power as seen before, he was able to decrease that K% down to 24.9%. The Royals promoted him to AA that same year where he slashed .245/.330/.353 in 102 AB. He finish the year hitting only 6 HR and 16 SB.
2019 was the season that Khalil Lee hit the ground running. I mean that literally as he swiped a whopping 53 bags in 546 PA at AA. He finished the year with a .264/.363/.372 with 8 HR.
There are rumors fluttering around that the Mets picked up Lee to trade him over to the Cubs in a Bryant package. I do not believe that is true, but I do think that the Mets may be up to something that might involve JD Davis being traded to free up LF for Nimmo. The reality is that before adding Lee, the Mets only had 3 OF prospects on their top 30 list and they are all a few years out. Also, I think that the Mets are intrigued by Lee’s power/speed/OBP upside to trade him.
I think that Lee will eventually end up at RF due to his amazing arm. To me it seems like the Mets wanted to create a safely net just in case they are not able to extended Conforto, who is a free agent after the 2021 season. I view Lee as another depth piece move by the Mets with a high upside and depending on who the PTBNL is, it is a total steal! I am very excited to see what Lee can do. I believe that if Sandy and Scott wanted to find a way into this deal to grab Lee, it is because they see the potential. Besides, if Lee does not work out, I do not think the Mets gave up anything to worry about.
Lee has also has the ability to use all the field as evident in his statcast spray chart below.
Look for Lee to start the season in AA baseball for a few games and move over to AAA at some point to finish the season. I do not anticipate him making an MLB debut next season with the Mets. While he can play all three positions, I think they will focus on him mostly playing CF and some RF. I’ve heard people say that he is projects only to be a future 4th outfielder, but to me his OBP/SB skill set is such a rate combo and he does have the ability to provide some power. Looking at his stats and upside, I am giving him a young Detroit Tigers Curtis Granderson comparison. I think Lee will have the tools to potentially join Granderson in the 20-20-20-20 club (HR-SB-2B-3B).
If your still not sold on Lee, here’s a clip of him going oppo boppo.
(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)