While playing in the Dominican Winter League, former Northwestern State outfielder Nick Heath received the second-best news a minor league baseball player can hear.
Heath learned Wednesday the Kansas City Royals have added him to their 40-man roster, protecting him from next month’s Rule 5 draft.
Kansas City made Heath its 16th-round selection in the 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. A left-handed hitting and throwing outfielder from Junction City, Kansas, Heath established Northwestern State’s single-season stolen base record of 35 in 2016, earning third-team All-Southland Conference honors. His 75 career stolen bases place him third in school history.
Four-year college draftees in 2016, like Heath, had to be placed on a team’s 40-man roster by 7 p.m. Central on Wednesday or be left exposed to the Rule 5 Draft, which will be held Dec. 12 in San Diego at the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings. Players selected in the Rule 5 Draft must be kept on a Major League Baseball team’s 26-man roster throughout the next entire season or be offered back to their original team for $50,000. The original team losing a player will receive $100,000 from the drafting team.
Heath split his third full season in the minor leagues between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha in the Royals organization. He led all affiliated minor baseball with 60 stolen bases while hitting a career-high eight home runs and knocking in a career-best 36 runs.
He currently is playing for Tigres de Licey in the Dominican Winter League, batting .267 with a league-leading nine steals in 10 attempts. His 13 runs scored rank 12th in the league.