Height: 6’4″ Weight: 190
Zach Lee was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1st round of the 2010 Draft out of McKinney High School in Texas. We had him slotted into the Comp round but the Dodgers stepped up and took on the virtually unsignable Lee. Here was the draft preview outlook:
38. Zach Lee RHP McKinney HS Texas - Lee falls out of the first round based on a perceived lack of signability. He’s a Football and Baseball star in Texas and is probably destined for LSU as their QB. As a SP he has a low 90s fastball but projects in the mid 90s with a slider and changeup combo that is still raw, but his mechanics are polished for a QB. He has a ton of upside, but its going to take a large payday to even have a shot at keeping him from LSU.
Well it did take a large payday and Lee signed at the deadline for $5.25mm. The largest draft bonus in the Dodgers history. Signing so late, Lee, only went to Instructs and didn’t pitch in any official games in 2010. But the Dodgers felt strong enough about him that they skipped Short Season ball all together and started him off in the Midwest League as a 19 year old. A tall order for the 2 sporter. But we felt the same way and without throwing a single professional pitch, Lee, ranked #62 in our preseason Top 100 Prospects List:
62.Zach Lee SP LAD – Lee was considered a tough sign and I projected him to go the Dodgers because of their financial troubles. If he didn’t sign no big deal. This was a steal by the Dodgers. His fastball is plus in the low to mid 90s and he has additional projection with it. His changeup flashes plus as well and his athleticism is well above average. If he can polish his curveball over the next couple of years he could be a solid #2 starter.
Let’s take a look at Lee’s 2011 season, his mechanics and his pitch arsenal and see what makes him a top prospect in the Dodgers system.
Lee went 9-6 with a 3.47 ERA in his first season as a professional. As a 19 year old in full season ball it had to be more than the Dodgers expected. He struck out 91 in 109 innings pitched and walked just 32. Good for a K rate of 19.4% and a walk rate of 6.8%. The walk rate is elite showing the polish that spoke about preseason. He uses his mechanics well and doesn’t lose the strike zone often.
His fastball sits in the low 90s but he runs it up to 95 and we still think that with his prefect pitchers frame that there is some weight to add and some velocity uptick in the near future. It’s not the velocity that makes it a plus pitch, it’s more his ability to work the zones and keep the pitch down allowing him to garner a solid 48% groundball rate.
His changeup is on it’s way to being an above average to plus offering as well and pitch has solid dive to it which battles left-handers and induces groundballs of its own.
It’s his breaking pitch, which at times borders on slurvy, that will be the deciding factor of his ultimate upside. When he stays on top of the pitch it is a strikeout offering, but when gets on the side of the pitch and makes it slurvy, it becomes just a change of pace.
Here is what Aaron had to say at draft time in 2010:
Lee has a fantastic delivery. Everything is paced well and he gets a lot of drive toward home plate. If anything, Lee drops a little low at the beginning of his drive, giving up the advantages of his 6’4″ frame and pushing his pitches a little low.
I still agree with that summation of Lee’s mechanics. His athletic ability and polish at a young age allow him to repeat his simple delivery. I don’t see him as anything more than average injury risk. There are no red flags that would point to wear and tear on his shoulder or elbow.
Lee is just one season into his career but the future looks bright for him. If he’s able to make his curveball a more consistent pitch he is going to have 3 average to plus offerings. That alone puts him as a pretty solid bet to find his way into the middle of the Dodgers rotation.
If his fastball upticks and his command continues in the same direction he will have a plus fastball and plus command. That will allow him to be a solid #2 starter that can work 200+ innings a season. His K rates will probably only be slightly above average, but enough to make him very effective because of his command.
He’s still a couple of year away, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in his age 21 season which would be 2013.
Check back soon as we profile many more Top MLB Prospects and also get our baseball geek on and take a look at some of the later draft picks from the 2011 draft that we think could be big names on the prospect radars in the near future. While you’re here, take a look at our on going series 2011 MLB Draft | Shortstops Review Part 3 and be a step ahead of the game. Thanks for checking Baseball Instinct. We’re working hard to bring you the best of the minor leagues and make the site the best experience it can be. So don’t hesitate to tell us what you would like to read about. Email us now at firstname.lastname@example.org.