By Contributing Writer: Nick Stevens
There is a lot to like about Chris Lee. He can hit 95 mph on the radar-gun. He is a left-handed pitcher. His glasses...obviously. Most importantly, his high projectability has scouts believing Lee will be a respectable major league pitcher. Unfortunately, the 24-year-old has yet to put it all together for the Norfolk Tides.
|2016 With Bowie|
Photo: Patrick Cavey
After watching the recent implosion by the Baltimore Orioles and subsequent massive debate over who should be in the starting rotation, one name came to my mind: Chris Lee. In 9 starts for the Tides, Lee is 2-2 with a 5.49 ERA and 1.93 WHIP. He has 31 strikeouts and 23 walks in 39.1 innings of work while opposing batters are hitting .338.
I admit it, I jumped the gun on Chris Lee. After his first five starts this year, Lee emerged with a 1-1 record, a 6.75 ERA, a 2.30 WHIP, and a .395 opponents’ batting average. The next three starts went vastly different. Lee went 1-0 with a 2.63 ERA. In 17.1 innings, he struck out 16 while walking 9, and gave up just 13 hits. This stretch led me to believe that Lee could very well get his first major league start within the next week or two, until Tuesday’s 10:30am start against the Toledo Mud Hens.
Lee made it through just two innings against Toledo. In those 2 innings, Lee faced 15 batters and started 10 of the at-bats with a ball, including the first 7. When it was all said and done, Lee finished up with one strikeout, one walk, seven hits allowed, and six runs allowed (four earned).
On Baby Birdland’s Top Prospect list, Chris Lee sits tied with D.J. Stewart for tenth. MLB Pipeline currently has Lee ranked sixth. Scouts love the late movement on his fastball, the ability to pound the lower-half of the strike zone, and are hopeful that he can develop the changeup into an effective third pitch. Lee has also shown that he takes a while to adjust to higher competition, but once Lee is able to adjust, he is effective.
If you want to see Lee pitch, I would suggest making the trip to pitcher-friendly Harbor Park where Lee is 1-0 with a 1.06 ERA. On the road, Lee owns an 8.87 ERA and opposing batters are hitting nearly .400. Despite the lack of control and continued struggles so far in 2017, I strongly believe all the tools are there. With Gabriel Ynoa, Alec Asher, Jayson Aquino, and Tyler Wilson all aboard the Norfolk-Baltimore Express, the Orioles can be a little more patient with Lee.
His next start could be Monday, a road game, and another early day game. Let’s see if Chris can rebound and earn his third quality start of the year.