In a sellers market, this trade seems slightly underwhelming at face value. However, if this was the market, Harris decided to go with a 1-for-1 deal to maximize the tier of prospect he could get in return.
Lee was Philadelphia’s fifth ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline. The Phillies signed the now 20-year-old infielder out of Taiwan in 2021. He’s progressed his way up to High-A where he hit .283 with five homeruns and 14 stolen bases in 247 at bats. He also posted a walk rate of 10.2 percent to match a strikeout rate of 18.2 percent, showing the exact plate discipline that Harris has outwardly stated he wants to add into the Tigers organization.
Diving into video confirms a lot of what the Tigers would have liked in Lee based on what the surface level numbers say.
Looking at previous trade acquisitions in the Scott Harris era, such as Justyn-Henry Malloy, they covet the ability to control the strike zone. That’s Lee’s biggest strength at the plate. To do that, a player must have a very good knowledge of the zone while they’re at the plate. The next step is not chasing pitches out of the zone. Lee checks both of those boxes. He’ll rarely chase pitches out of the zone and he’s very patient. He has no issues waiting for pitches to come to him.
Another attribute that leads into controlling the zone is his ability to adjust his hands. Lee does a very good job keeping his hands back to allow him to make contact when he reads fastball, but an offspeed pitch is what's thrown. Many times, this results in either a foul ball or he muscles the ball through the infield.
Lee fooled by a 2-strike breaking ball stays back and wills this grounder into the outfield for a single pic.twitter.com/SoXXCpuK3h— Trevor Hooth (@HoothTrevor) August 1, 2023
It seems like Lee takes an approach where he focuses on spraying the ball to the opposite field. That’s part of what allows him to adjust and pull the ball through the infield. But it’s not exactly a slap hitter approach at the plate, as an opposite field approach might suggest.
There’s decent pop at present, and he can access it to the opposite field extremely well. The first couple extra base hits I saw when diving into the video for Lee were to right field, including a homerun.
Newest Tiger Hao-Yu Lee hitting an opposite field homerun. He has a good feel for the zone and that stands out early on. Showing some oppo pop here. pic.twitter.com/vNVlkp1ZmN— Trevor Hooth (@HoothTrevor) August 1, 2023
A walkoff to the wall and another ball driven to the opposite field for Lee pic.twitter.com/KkItBmY9OF— Trevor Hooth (@HoothTrevor) August 1, 2023
His ability to drive the ball to the opposite field is extremely encouraging, especially considering he’s only 20-years-old. Having that skill already present is a very good building block for future development.
Right now Lee is a line drive hitter. The Tigers might want to adjust his swing to add more lift, but that will be seen once they start working with him. He has a pretty even balance of ground balls and fly balls, so perhaps that’s less important that learning to tap into his pull side power more often. As of now, Lee will spray line drives all over the field. That’s where most of his hits to the pull side come in.
Lee starts this game off by lining the first pitch to center the hustling in for a double pic.twitter.com/pFyrfdQ9N2— Trevor Hooth (@HoothTrevor) August 1, 2023
From what I’ve seen, he shows more pop to the opposite field than he does to his pull side. That’s abnormal, especially for younger prospects. It shows an ability to control his barrel, which is good, however it does leave something to be desired. Getting to that power more when he pulls the ball is one of the few critiques that came up while digging into his at bats.
That becomes even more true when there’s video evidence that he can crush the ball when he goes to his pull side. There’s more raw power here waiting to be unlocked.
Hao Yu Lee's first BlueClaws Home Run - he CRUSHES this one into the Chick-fil-A Fan Zone! pic.twitter.com/kyHsolPZZd— Jersey Shore BlueClaws (@BlueClaws) August 27, 2022
Power isn’t going to be his carrying tool at the plate, but the more power he can access the better off this trade will look. His skillset is going to be hitting the ball. He covers the zone really well with his bat and can get to just about anything thrown in the zone. Combined with a very good eye at the plate, that’s what the Tigers were trading for.
Chris Brown of Tigers Minor League Report says the profile draws similarities to recent Tigers draft pick Kevin McGonigle.
Haven’t watched much of Hao-Yu Lee, so take this with a grain of salt, but the scouting reports suggest a profile fairly similar to Kevin McGonigle, apart from Lee being a right-handed hitter. Seems like a pretty solid get for Lorenzen.— Chris Brown (@ChrisBrown0914) August 1, 2023
Baseball America tabs Lee with a power over hit profile, which is encouraging. Should Lee pull the ball a bit more, that is a possible outcome. However at present I would disagree and believe he’s mostly in the bucket of gap power. The Tigers will have some interesting decisions to make with Lee’s development.
Defensively he’s likely a second baseman long term. While the Phillies let him play on the other side of the dirt, most evaluators seem to believe that won’t be his home in the big leagues.
His overall potential is an every day regular in the big leagues. He’s still young and can tap into a lot more, but right now he profiles as a bottom third of the order bat on a good team. That seems like a solid get for a rental pitcher. Lee is only 20-years-old, so there could be more to come. His hard contact has been on the upswing since recovering from a wrist injury last year. If the Tigers development team unlocks more of that power potential, things will loo
The team may choose to assign him to West Michigan so he can continue at his current competition level. With his skills at the plate, there’s a chance Detroit gets aggressive and assigns him to Erie off the bat. While that’s a longshot idea, I truly believe Lee could handle the assignment.
Once again, the new Tigers brass makes a trade and once again the receive a player who can control the plate. Lee doesn’t chase, draws walks, and can get his bat to the ball. At the surface it seems like an underwhelming trade in a sellers market, but diving into the video it seems like a very solid move. Time will tell, but credit Harris and the rest of his team for going after their guys. Lee’s profile falls right into the bucket of a Scott Harris guy.