Chris Lee checks in at number 14 on the Baltimore Orioles preseason top 30 prospect list. Yesterday I profiled Michael Baumann who was the number 15 prospect. Lefty pitcher Chris Lee started his career with the Houston Astros, after being drafted in the fourth round of the 2011 draft. He was in the Astros organization from 2011 until May of 2015.
He spent his first three seasons in short-season rookie ball. After posting ERAs of 5.18 in his first season then 11.42 in only 5 games the next season, he had a solid third season in the Appalachian League. In 11 appearances, including 10 starts, Lee threw 49.1 innings with an ERA of 3.10 with 54 strikeouts.
The following season he was promoted to Low A. With the Quad City River Bandits, Lee made 28 appearances making 16 starts. He pitched in 113 innings going 8-6 with an ERA of 3.66.
He stayed with the River Bandits for the start of the 2015 season. After pitching in seven games, Lee was traded to the Orioles in exchange for two international signing bonus spots.
His first stop in the Orioles organization was with the Frederick Keys. He made 14 starts in Frederick, pitching 76.1 and posting an ERA of 3.07.
His Strong start with the Orioles earned him a promotion to the Bowie Baysox in August. He made seven starts, posting a 4-2 record with an ERA of 3.08 in 38 innings.
He stayed with the Baysox for the start of the 2016 season, before an oblique injury prematurely ended his season. He got off to a strong start before the injury. He appeared in eight games and made seven starts, earning a 5-0 record and he had a 2.98 ERA.
Despite his shorted 2016 season, Lee was promoted to the Norfolk Tides for the 2017 season. After struggling for most of his first 19 starts, he transitioned into the bullpen to try to right the ship before ending the season with one final start.
As a starter, Lee had an ERA of 6.07 in 92 innings and 20 starts. In seven games as a reliever and 24.1 innings, Lee dropped his ERA to 1.48. Lee struggled the most on the road. His road ERA was 7.59 while his home ERA was 2.06.
Lee pitches at 91-94 mph with his fastball, but can reach back for a few extra ticks, all while throwing the pitch down in the zone with late sinking action that’s helped him post strong ground-ball rates throughout his career. While his hard slider backed up in Triple-A and often played below average, Lee’s changeup improved, giving him a potential weapon against right-handed hitters.
Lee has cleaned up his mechanics since joining the Orioles and now repeats his delivery with more consistency, but he’s still a below-average strike-thrower and doesn’t miss many bats. Improving his control and further developing his secondaries should improve Lee’s chances of remaining a starter, though many believe he’s ticketed for either a long-relief or a specialized role.
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 55 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 40 | Overall: 45
MLB ETA: 2018