Much has been made about Zach Lee since the Dodgers selected him 28th overall in the 2010 MLB Draft — a pick most thought was a punt because of Lee’s signability concerns.
Lee ended up signing a $5.25 million bonus — the largest for any Dodger draftee ever. Now here here we are, 3 1/2 years later and he’s ready to make some noise in Dodgers’ spring training. The only problem is, his debut has been delayed by a lat injury he suffered after at the Dodgers’ Winter Development Program in January.
He survived the first round of cuts, despite not being on the 40-man roster. He makes his first spring training start today against his hometown Texas Rangers (Lee is from McKinney, Texas, roughly 50 miles from where the Rangers play).
SportsNet LA’s John Hartung sat down with Lee to chat — something that Lee hasn’t done a whole lot of since turning pro. It’s a really good interview and gives an insight to a player not many fans know a ton about. I ran into him last season at Camelback Ranch and in the few minutes I talked to him, he seemed like a focused kid who works hard, and this interview does nothing to make think otherwise.
Lee clearly wants to win a spot in the Dodgers’ crowded rotation. With Ross Stripling set to miss the 2014 season with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow, Lee is the best and closest Dodger pitching prospect to the majors. But his aspirations of cracking the starting five in Los Angeles — at least to start the season — doesn’t look great. The Dodgers having six legitimate starting pitchers and two more pitchers in Triple-A who have MLB experience already (Stephen Fife ad Matt Magill), but Lee could still be the first young pitcher recalled if the Dodgers happen to need a starter for an extended period of time. It doesn’t make sense for him to come up in any other situation.
Here’s what I wrote about Lee in my Top 50 prospects series:
“Lee has a fastball that sits in the 89-92 MPH range and touches 95 MPH at times. He can cut and sink it to get outs as well. His best secondary pitch is a low-80s slider, which features inconsistent two-plane break. It flashes plus at times, but he can get under it at times. He also has a changeup that has above-average potential. It’s also a low-80s pitch and he gets good downward movement against left-handers. Lee also has a curveball he uses less than the other two secondary offerings that is an average pitch. His delivery is smooth and repeatable. Combine his repertoire, poise, athleticism and pitchability, and there’s a No. 3 or 4 starter there.”
As long as folks don’t think Lee is an ace, ala Clayton Kershaw, the numbers he puts up in his career will probably make him $10-12 million per season — a long way of saying he should be a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Lee isn’t expected to throw a lot in his spring debut, so get a look at him while you can. He’s likely destined for Albuquerque, even if Chris Jackson disagrees. Lee will make his debut this season, but let’s hope it comes late in the season, rather than early.