Top Prospect #11: RHP Seung Lee

Perhaps no Phillies prospect faces a more important season in 200 than Seung Lee. The Phillies invested a lot of money into signing Lee as a Korean free agent and they have been patient with his development. So far though, Lee hasn't quite lived up to the standards that the Phillies had hoped for and his 2003 season was pretty disappointing.

For years, the Phillies didn't bother with much scouting in the Pacific Rim. Then, like a kid who had found a new toy, the Phillies jumped in and out bid teams like the Red Sox and Yankees to sign Seung Lee in 2001. It was seen as somewhat of a bold step for the Phillies and they pinned a lot of hopes on Kim's right arm.

The Phillies attempted to push Lee and have sent him on somewhat of a wild ride through the minor league system. In his first two seasons in America, Lee had pitched for five different minor league teams in five different leagues. He seemed to be handling the moves pretty well, but that may have caught up with him this past season.

Late in 2002, Lee made one start at AA Reading and pitched an impressive six innings. That followed up an impressive three outing career at Clearwater, where Lee allowed just 6 hits in 19 innings, striking out 16 batters. The Phillies thought that he would be ready for AA in 2003 and looked for him to make huge strides once again. The Phillies seemed to forget that Lee had just two years before been in the Gulf Coast League. Still, Lee had pitched well enough at Lakewood and Clearwater in 2002 and then turned in a strong debut outing at Reading, so the Phillies figured all was well. Some in the organization thought Lee could coast with a half-season at Reading and then move to AAA before fighting for a major league job in 2004. Last season derailed those plans.

While Lee's record (11-6) at Reading was impressive, most of the other numbers weren't. Lee pitched 26 games – 25 of them starts – at AA and finished with a 4.96 ERA for Reading. While his strikeout and hits per inning numbers were very similar to what he had done the year before at Lakewood, Lee seemed to lose focus with runners on base. Still, the Phillies moved him along to Scranton Wilkes-Barre for a late season audition, which went very badly. It was just 1 start and 1 relief appearance, but Lee was completely dominated by AAA hitters.

The fact is that Lee hasn't gained the velocity that the Phillies thought they would see from their 6' 4", 225 pound right-hander. His fastball has decent movement and his slider and change-up are average at best. The Phillies have worked with Lee's mechanics to try to get him to be a little looser when he throws, but haven't had much success. Right now, without better improvement in 2004, Lee will likely project as a middle reliever at best and will likely fall down the Phillies depth chart. This spring will determine whether the Phillies send Lee back to AA Reading for a little more work – and confidence – or if they push him along to AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre. The best bet would be a ticket to Reading and more work on Lee's mechanics. Lee will turn 25 in June, so there is some time left, but he could stall as he gets closer to the majors.

Seung Lee's Career Stats

 

Year/Team

W

L

ERA

SV

G

GS

IP

H/9 IP

BB/9 IP

KO/9 IP

2001 Gulf Coast (Rookie)

1

0

3.00

0

3

3

9.0

12.0

0.0

4.0

2001 Batavia (Rookie)

0

3

7.65

0

4

4

20.0

14.0

1.8

6.3

2002 Lakewood (Low A)

7

10

3.24

1

23

22

147.1

8.1

2.8

6.8

2002 Clearwater (High A)

2

0

0.00

0

3

3

19.0

2.8

0.9

7.6

2002 Reading (AA)

0

1

0.00

0

1

1

6.0

7.5

0.0

9.0

2003 Reading (AA)

11

6

4.96

0

26

25

147.0

8.9

2.9

6.7

2003 Scranton (AAA)

0

2

23.63

0

2

1

5.1

30.6

0.0

8.5

Career Minor League Stats

21

22

4.28

1

62

59

353.2

8.7

2.5

6.8


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