… Zach Lee, 6-foot-4, 195-pound right handed high school pitcher from McKinney, Texas.
He’s a high-school quarterback committed to Louisiana State, so there are immediate signability issues. This draft choice sets up a new referendum on the McCourt ownership.
Here’s a scouting report with video from MLB.com. An excerpt:
Summary: With above-average to plus stuff across the board — fastball, slider, changeup — good command and tremendous athleticsm, Lee should be one of the high school arms being mentioned up close to the top of the Draft, or at least on a short list of top high school arms. If he’s not, it’s largely because of one thing: signability. As a quarterback recruit, he’s committed to play two sports at LSU next year, and many think he’s unsignable as a result. That said, there’s bound to be a team with deep pockets that will take a shot at luring him away from the gridiron and life as a collegiate athlete.
Here’s what Marc Hulet of Fangraphs has to say:
A top quarterback prospect from Texas, it will clearly take a lot ($$$) to sway Lee away from his commitment to Louisiana State University. A team drafting Lee in the first round will have to have a pretty good feel on his signability. Lee has a three pitch repertoire that includes a low-90s fastball, slider, and change-up. His arm slot tends to wander at times. Thanks to his focus on the football field, the right-hander is still raw but he does display solid control for his age.
Lee is a star quarterback who has committed to LSU to play both football and baseball, but if he put word out tomorrow that he was willing to sign and focus exclusively on the world’s greatest sport, he’d go off the board in the top 50 picks next month.
Lee will show three pitches, with the changeup already flashing plus, and his fastball velocity is likely to increase as he fills out and if he dedicates himself to baseball.
He has a really bright future if and when he chooses baseball, but if he’s not interested in a pro career now, doesn’t that say something about the kid’s commitment to football and/or school? Buying him out of LSU isn’t the solution, and I think he’ll be a top-20 guy in 2013.
From Baseball America:
Lee’s status as one of the best quarterback recruits in the nation and a top student will make him one of the most difficult signing decisions in this draft. The perception among area scouts is that Lee might require as much as $3 million—and even that might not be enough to steer him away from playing two sports at Louisiana State. He passed for 2,565 yards and 31 touchdowns last fall, and his arm is just as potent on the mound. He already has a 90-93 mph fastball with room for more projection in his 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame. He also throws a sharp slider and a changeup that needs work but shows promise. Unlike many two-sport stars, he has a lot of polish. Lee has a clean delivery that he repeats, enabling him to throw strikes with ease.
Here’s some video of Lee playing football at YouTube. And here he is on the mound last summer at the Area Code Games.
Jim Callis of Baseball America called the Dodgers “the last team” he expected to go after Lee.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that football is leverage, rather than the top priority for Lee. And it’s not as if the Dodgers have no draft budget – they could always have made a conservative pick that would sign relatively inexpensively. But hardcore fans will be watching carefully to see if the Dodgers punted this pick, or if they will complete the Hail Mary. Certainly, there is going to be tons of skepticism.
The draft continues Tuesday.
Update: From Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
“People can think what they want, he was the best talent available and I want to sign him, absolutely,” said Logan White, assistant general manager of scouting. “I didn’t take Zach to not sign him. You’ll see as the summer goes along we’ll make every effort to sign him, and I want to sign him. I know it won’t be easy, but hopefully we’ll get it done.” …
“If he focuses on baseball, I think he can move quickly, like Kershaw and Billingsley,” said White. “A lot will be made of the two sports, but as a pitcher, he has a real good arm and delivery, a plus breaking ball, he has a feel for a changeup, and when I saw him he was 90-92 [mph] with the fastball and up to 95. The ball comes out of his hand easily.
“The guy’s a competitor, he’s smart. Put it all together and we really couldn’t pass him up. He’s worth the risk of not signing. I like him that much.”
Unlike many recent Dodgers top picks, the club did not hold a special workout for Lee. According to White, Lee was surprised to get the call.
“He certainly was surprised,” White said. “They didn’t have a feel for what we were going to do. It’s part of the gamesmanship of the Draft.”
Update 2: From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:
“These are unusual circumstances,” White said. “I can only say that I am optimistic we will sign him. … [But] I can’t sit here and tell you that we’re going to sign him. It will really be Zach’s decision and his family’s decision. But we feel confident that once he and his family are able to get a good look at what this organization is all about, we’ll have a good chance to get him.”
White said Lee’s fastball has been clocked anywhere between 89-95 mph and routinely hits 93 and that he already has a plus changeup and curveball to go with it.
“One thing I will tell you is that he is quite an athlete,” White said. “One thing we liked was his athleticism, his size and his strength. He is tall and has a very good delivery, just easy, easy arm action. He is a strike thrower, and he knows how to change speeds. He has a great feel for pitching. He doesn’t just try to blow it by everybody, even though he has that ability. It’s a chess game for him because he is very competitive.”
White said Lee plans to follow through with his plans to participate in LSU’s summer football workouts, so an agreement with the Dodgers probably isn’t imminent. White wouldn’t rule out an agreement that would allow Lee to play football at LSU while playing baseball professionally in the Dodgers’ system, but it also didn’t sound like the kind of agreement White is eager to enter into.
“I wouldn’t rule anything out, but I just feel like if we can get him into our organization, he is going to be [in the majors] pretty fast,” White said.