Khalil Lee’s signature tool is his speed, so perhaps it’s fitting that the Mets’ outfield prospect is quickly getting to know his new team on the fly.
Just over a month removed from being acquired in a three-team trade from the Royals, Lee is in the midst of his first big-league camp as a Met after being a coveted target of acting GM Zack Scott.
“Coming in now with the Mets, just looking forward to continuing to showcase my talents and help the team as much as I can, wherever I’m needed,” Lee said Saturday before travelling to West Palm Beach to play the Nationals. “Continue to play hard and do the things I can control.”
The 22-year-old Lee, who is now the Mets’ No. 7 prospect per MLB.com, had been on Scott’s radar since his time in the Red Sox’ front office. Scott joined the Mets’ front office this offseason, but when the Red Sox were engaged with the Royals on a trade for Andrew Benintendi, they looped in Scott and the Mets as a third team to help get the deal done. The Mets sent pitching prospect Josh Winckowski and a player to be named later to the Red Sox to land Lee, who helped bolster the outfield depth in their farm system.
“With my connections to Boston, quite frankly, they know I like Khalil Lee as a prospect, from when I was there,” Scott said shortly after the deal was completed. “He was someone we had talked about. And I know they liked Khalil Lee as well. They reached out and asked if there would be interest here. We were excited. I know our pro scouts here really like the player. He’s got a lot to like, a lot of tools and athleticism. We like a lot of things about his performance as well.”
Lee — Virginia’s Gatorade High School Player of the Year in 2016, like former Mets captain David Wright in 2001 — spent last year at the Royals’ alternate site, in the absence of a minor league season. But in his last real season, at Double-A in 2019, he hit .264 with a .735 OPS, 53 stolen bases and 154 strikeouts in 470 at-bats.
The Royals’ third-round pick in 2016 is a natural center fielder, but said he is comfortable at all three outfield spots. He has spent big-league camp working with outfield coach Tony Tarasco while learning from the likes of Kevin Pillar, Michael Conforto, Albert Almora Jr. and Dom Smith.
“Those two guys [Pillar and Smith] I’ve definitely been learning from, just how to be a big leaguer, how to carry myself around a big-league locker room,” said Lee, who was hitless in 13 spring at-bats entering Saturday. “It’s been good getting to know those guys.”