Monday, July 30, 2012
For Immediate Release
Contact: Joe Davis
Lee Rewriting Record Books to Pace Biscuits
28-year-old struck out 12 Friday, 3rd-most in Biscuits history
by Brandon Lee
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – It would be an understatement to say Hak-Ju Lee is a fun player to watch. This South Korean’s raw athletic ability is enough to enjoy, but add that with his outstanding baseball talent and fans will be in awe for all 27 outs in a game.
As a kid, Lee grew up playing soccer. But one day, a baseball coach asked Lee if he wanted to play baseball, and he agreed to and has loved it ever since.
That love for the game turned in to a reality when four years ago, the Chicago Cubs signed him for $1.15 million as a 17-year-old senior in high school. Now, his reality is playing itself out as he’s viewed as one of the top prospects in the entire Rays organization.
Before taking to the field for any game action, Lee underwent Tommy John surgery in 2008. Then in 2009, the South Korean began playing with the Low A Boise Hawks hitting an impressive .330. Lee’s action on the base paths is something he’s most recognized for, and in his first season stole 25 bases in 32 attempts.
Also during that year, the now-starter for the Chicago Cubs, Starlin Castro, was making his vouch for advancement in the organization. After Castro spent the 2009 and 2010 year at high-A Daytona and AA Tennessee, he made the transition to the show and finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year race.
At that point, Lee’s chances of making it to Wrigley Field were becoming very slim. On January 7, 2011, the Cubs agreed to a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. Lee, Sam Fuld, Chris Archer, Robinson Chirinos and Brandon Guyer were sent to the Rays, while Matt Garza, Fernando Perez and Zachary Rosscup went to the Cubs.
Baseball America ranked Lee as the 92nd best prospect in baseball, and some analysts now see Lee as a potential superstar at shortstop for the Rays in the future.
Currently, Lee bats lead-off for the Montgomery Biscuits, which is where many project him to be most successful at. Even in the event of a grounder to third, Lee’s quick feet have the potential to give him infield singles, where in most cases those would be outs.
As a 6’2” 170-pound 21-year-old, Lee’s ability to knock home runs over the wall isn’t his strong suit, but if given the right pitches, hard-hit balls to the gaps could turn into doubles and triples. In fact, Lee has been clocked from home to first base in 4.2 seconds, and that number could get even lower as time goes on.
Even with his highlighted base running abilities, many believe Lee’s fielding is the best stuff he brings to the table. As a lightning-fast shortstop, his chances of making an error come more often than any average shortstop. In his first two seasons, he committed 27 and 34 errors. However, improvement in last year’s season in Montgomery brought that number down to just 18. Up to this point in 2012, Lee has committed 21 errors in 101 games, which may seem a bit much, but the number isn’t bad considering he’s a 21-year-old still developing in the minor leagues.
Lee’s future is still yet to be determined, but he hasn’t let it affect him despite other transactions among the Rays organization. June 11 dates back to the last time Lee did not reach base successfully, and has since put together an impressive 41-game on-base streak. That record surpasses Evan Longoria’s 38-game on-base streak, one in which he accomplished back in 2007.
With a little over a month remaining in the regular season, Lee continues to lead the division-leading Biscuits as they fight for playoff contention in the south division of the Southern League.
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