MIDLAND, Mich. - When fans of the Great Lakes Loons selected the Loons 5th anniversary team in 2012, a group that now includes seven major league players, they voted Zach Lee in as the right-handed starting pitcher. Lee was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round of the 2010 draft out of McKinney High School in Texas.
As a senior in high school, Lee was a highly touted football and baseball prospect. Before he was drafted by the Dodgers, he committed to play football and baseball at Louisiana State University, a national powerhouse in both sports. The Tigers have won three national titles and 14 conference championships in football, as well as six national championships and 15 conference titles in baseball. LSU has won all of their national baseball titles since 1991. Lee was ranked as the No. 9 quarterback in the country by both ESPN and Rivals. He chose LSU over seven other FBS offers, including one from Alabama and another from Nebraska.
The Dodgers took Lee at the 28th pick in 2010 after he had a dominant career at McKinney HS. As a senior, he had a 2.15 ERA and 90 strikeouts, along with 11 wins. During his senior year on the gridiron, he threw for 2,565 yards and 31 touchdowns, earning a spot on his All-District team and a Texas All-State honorable mention.
Lee started his professional baseball career with the Loons in 2011. He made 24 starts for Great Lakes that season, finishing with a 9-6 record and a 3.47 ERA, along with a 1.22 WHIP. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound righty also had a 91-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 109 innings and held opponents to a .242 batting average. The highlight of that first season for Lee was likely his performance in April, when he allowed just three runs in 24 2/3 innings, a 1.09 ERA over the first month of the season.
After his stint with Great Lakes, Lee was promoted to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, LA's High-A affiliate in the California League, for the start of the 2012 season. He went 2-3, with a 4.55 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP, in 12 starts for the Quakes. Lee also had an impressive 52-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 55 1/3 innings for Rancho Cucamonga before being sent up to Double-A Chattanooga in late June.
With Chattanooga in 2012, the McKinney, Texas native was 4-3 in 13 starts, with a 4.25 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was just as impressive in the second half of 2012, with the Lookouts, as it was with the Quakes in the first half. Lee struck out 51 and walked 22 over 65 2/3 innings. For the entire 2012 season, that is a combined 103-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 121 innings.
Prior to the 2013 season, Baseball America named Lee the No. 5 prospect in the Dodgers farm system. Two of the four players in front of Lee were Hyun-Jin Ryu and Yasiel Puig, who are both already in the big leagues with the Dodgers. The other two prospects were Corey Seager, who spent the majority of 2013 with the Loons, and Joc Pederson, Lee's teammate in Chattanooga.
Lee, who turns 22 on September 13, is now rated the No. 3 prospect in the Dodgers organization, according to MLBPipeline.com, behind Pederson and Seager. He has spent all of 2013 with the Lookouts and has been named the Southern League Pitcher of the Week twice this season. Lee made 28 appearances, including 25 starts, with Chattanooga this summer. The Texas native has a 10-10 record in 2013, with a 3.22 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. He held opponents to a .247 batting average and had a more ridiculous strikeout-to-walk ratio than in previous years, with 131 strikeouts and only 35 walks over 142 2/3 innings.
After one and a half seasons in Chattanooga, Lee will likely be given an opportunity to make the big league roster next spring. If he does not make the Dodgers roster, then he can probably expect to start the season in Albuquerque and wait for a call from Chavez Ravine for his opportunity to head up to the major leagues.