Zach Lee: Expendable?


Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It’s almost June, and the talk of trades, and scouting other team’s prospects and major league players will be upon us very shortly. (Hang on, Joc Pederson). Also, the MLB player draft is coming up soon, so this gives major league general managers an opportunity to add to the farm system. I bring both of these points up because Zach Lee still exists. He is pitching in AAA and is really struggling there, pitching to a 4.73 ERA and a  4.63 FIP, I have the utmost faith in him to break out of it, but I think it’s fair to wonder how valuable he is in the organization.

So you can go look at different Dodgers Prospect lists, and see where Zach Lee ranks in all of them. He’s consistently a top 5 prospect in the organization, and most have him pegged as a “mid-rotation starter” which translates to a guy who could slot in the #4 spot (Right behind Ryu) and give you lots, and lots, and lots of innings for a long long time. Even despite his troubles at AAA, I like him a lot, he doesn’t turn 23 until September, and is pitching at the 2nd most advanced level in America, and isn’t completely bombing. Struggling? Sure. But he hasn’t been horrendous.

John Sickles wrote this about him, and I think it defines Lee:

"Throws strikes with four average big league pitches, resulting in pleasant K/BB ratios (131/35 in Double-A last year). Eats innings, profiles as prototypical mid-rotation starter. I don’t think he will be an ace but he should be good."

So why do I bring up the question that he could be expendable? Well the Dodgers (like every single Logan White draft), have been tied to pitching. High School Prep Pitching, College Pitching, whatever you want to call it, they’re tied to it. Derek Hill (Elk Grove native) has been linked to them, however he’s had a lot of helium lately so he could be out of their reach, if the recent mock drafts are to be believed, the Dodgers could easily take a pitcher, whether it be Luis Ortiz, Sean Reid-Foley, Nick Howard, etc. It sure feels like the Dodgers are going to add to their stable of pitching prospects.

I’m not saying anything, but i’m saying something.

By the end of this draft, counting Julio Urias, Chris Anderson, and the 2014 1st round draft pick, Zach Lee could be the 4th best pitching prospect in the system. This is by no means his fault. The organization has just found one of the most exciting pitching prospects the Dodgers have had since Clayton Kershaw, drafted a high ceiling pitcher from Jacksonville, and have an opportunity to draft a projectable pitching prospect this upcoming draft. Zach Lee has done everything he has needed to do in the minors, but the money going into the minor league system has meant a decline in Lee’s prospect star.

The fact that the rotation is stacked with Clayton Kershaw- Zack Greinke– Hyun-Jin Ryu taking up 60% of the slots for at least next year makes it difficult to give a prospect a chance. And yes, Zack Greinke has an opt-out after 2015, however if you think that a team with this much money is going to replace Zack Greinke with any one of Zach Lee/Ross Stripling/Matt Magill/Chris Anderson/Tom Windle, then you’re delusional. Given how good Greinke has been, I think the organization wants him long term.

This coupled with the organization’s tendencies to never, ever, ever give the young pitchers a chance to win starting spots over reclamation projects and washed up veterans (Ted Lilly, Edinson Volquez, Paul Maholm, and to an extent, Josh Beckett say hi), its fair to wonder what Lee’s future with the organization is.

It’s way too difficult to speculate on who exactly is going to be traded for who this early on, but when the trade deadline comes, and we’re talking about Joc Pederson and Zach Lee for David Price, or Zach Lee for Ned Colletti’s annual midseason former closer acquisition, keep this in mind, Zach Lee may be the 4th highest regarded pitching prospect in the organization, and his names will more than likely be tossed around in trade speculation all summer