A Glimpse into the Future: Zach Lee
Swirling rumors regarding possible trade combinations have been circulating the internet the last two days since the winter meetings began on Monday. The Dodgers seem to be named in almost every scenario, and it’s hard not to get worked up when this trade talk comes up especially when it includes a top prospect or two. Zach Lee, the Dodgers number one prospect outside of Yasiel Puig, was included in a prospective trade which would send Lee and Dee Gordon to the New York Mets in exchange for R.A. Dickey. I loathe this idea not because I dislike Dickey or that I am totally on board the Dee train (at this point Gordon needs sufficient time in the minors before he is ready to play at the Major League level), or that I’m categorizing Zach Lee as a future Hall of Fame pitcher, but this trade would not be good for the Dodgers. Their minor league system is already depleted, and trading away their best pitching prospect would not be ideal since they should be restocking their prospect pool instead.
Zach Lee was spared this past season during a transitional trading frenzied period in which the new ownership was trying to make a big splash and attempting to make a run for the playoffs. To trade Lee away now for a 38-year old knuckleballer, albeit a very good 38-year old knuckleballer, would be one way to go for broke and make a championship run in 2013, but it would also weaken the Dodgers future in which multiple pennants could be captured in what I do believe the GBM’s overall goal is….creating a Dodger Dynasty.
Zach Lee, the 21-year old right-hander from Texas, was drafted by the Dodgers in the 1st round (28th overall pick) of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft. Lee garnered a $5.25 million signing bonus from the Dodgers. Lee won 11 games with a 2.15 ERA and 90 strikeouts during his senior year at McKinney High School in 2010. He was also a great quarterback, and he passed for 2,565 yards and 31 touchdowns as a senior. Before he signed with the Dodgers and made the decision to play professional baseball, he had committed to play both baseball and football for LSU.
Lee has played for two seasons in the Dodgers minor league system so far. In 2011, he played for the Single-A Great Lakes Loons, and he finished with a 9-6 record and 3.47 ERA in 24 games started. He struck out 91 batters while walking 32 in 109 innings pitched. In 2012, he split the season with the Advanced-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and the AA-Chattanooga Lookouts. Lee started 12 games for the Quakes where he had a 2-3 record with a 4.55 ERA. He struck out 52 and walked 10 in 55 1/3 innings pitched. After his promotion to AA, Lee started 13 games for the Lookouts. He had a record of 4-3 with a 4.25 ERA. He struck out 55 Southern Leaguers and walked 22 in 65 2/3 innings.
Zach Lee at Dodger Stadium. Photo: Ric Tapia/Icon SMI
Just how good is Zach Lee? He is a power pitcher with great control whose fastball averages around 90-91 mph. He can cut and sink his fastball, and this will only become more developed with time. He has a curve and a changeup that he’s working on. The former football star is 6’4″ and 190 pounds. He’s very athletic, and this helps his delivery look easy and balanced. His superb control and strikeout propensity is attributed to his athletic nature and his delivery.
While Zach Lee was once viewed as the future ace of the Dodgers, some now see him as a solid mid-rotation type of pitcher. He could reach the Major League level within the next couple of years, but he will probably start 2013 in AA-Chattanooga before being promoted to AAA-Albuquerque or the big club.
In summation, Zach Lee is a very good young pitcher with incredible athletic talent. He has been consistently ranked as the #1 pitching prospect and overall prospect in the Dodgers farm system. If traded for someone like R.A. Dickey, we could be jeopardizing the heart of the future Dodger rotation. Dickey is looking for a 2-3 year deal, while Zach Lee could be part of the 2014 Dodger rotation and for many years to come after that.
The Dodgers took a risk in drafting Lee who had already showed up to football camp for LSU. Somehow Logan White convinced the double sport star to commit himself 100% to baseball. The Dodgers gave Lee a franchise record $5.25 million signing bonus to be paid out in five years. This more than doubled the Clayton Kershaw‘s $2.3 million signing bonus back in 2006. Baseball America ranked Zach Lee as #62 on their Top 100 Prospects list back in February. They also ranked Lee #49 on their Midseason Top 50 Prospects List in July.
Is Zach Lee destined to be a Dodger? I sure hope so.