The MLB Draft starts on Sunday, July 17. This is the second in a series of articles on whom the Cubs might take with the seventh pick in the draft.
The first profile was on third baseman Cam Collier. That article also has an overview of this year’s draft, but I’ll repeat that there is probably at least a 95 percent chance the Cubs will take a position player. Why? Because most observers do not think that there is a pitcher in this draft worthy of a Top 10 pick. Maybe the Cubs disagree, but I’m going to concentrate on position players in this series.
Last time we looked at the youngest player in the draft in Collier. So today, we’re looking at a college player who is much more of a finished product in 21-year-old Cal Poly shortstop Brooks Lee.
The switch-hitting Lee has been on the radar of amateur scouts for a long time. Baseball America ranked him as the 38th-best player in the 2019 draft, but he wasn’t taken until the 35th-round because Lee was strongly committed to playing for the Cal Poly Mustangs, where his dad is the longtime head baseball coach.
Larry Lee, Brooks’ dad, is known for his ability to teach hitting and it shows in his son. It also shows in Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger. Haniger is probably the top hitter who went through Cal Poly under Lee and was a first-round draft pick of the Brewers in 2012 after his career with the Mustangs. Brooks will certainly be the second Cal Poly hitter to go in the first round after playing for Larry Lee.
Here’s a good article from MLB dot com with Brooks and Larry talking about their relationship with each other. It also mentions the adversity that Brooks had to overcome when an injury (and then COVID) cost him his freshman season.
Lee, who checks in at 6’2” and 210 pounds, is the type of player that the Cubs have targeted in recent years. What stands out above all Lee’s incredible ability to make contact and his command of the strike zone. Lee played 58 games for Cal Poly last year and struck out just 28 times and walked 46 times. He also had 25 doubles, one triple and 15 home runs. All of that translated to a .357/.462/.664 line. Lee also did well in the wooden-bat Cape Cod League in 2021, hitting .405/.432/.667 with six home runs in 21 games.
This all should sound a bit familiar to fans of a team that has Nico Hoerner and Nick Madrigal on it, but I don’t think Lee is very similar to those two players except in their ability to put the ball into play. (And they’re all from California.) It’s clear from those walk totals, even though a fair number of those walks were intentional, that Lee is a much more patient hitter than those two ever were. Lee is also just bigger and has more power potential down the line. Lee is also a switch-hitter who can use the whole field, but with an emphasis on going gap-to-gap from both sides of the plate.
Lee is one of the most polished and major-league ready prospects in the draft. He’s a low-risk pick who should probably move through the system very quickly.
With all this good stuff, there comes some downside. For one, Lee’s speed is just average right now and he’ll likely slow down as he ages and if he bulks up to add more power. Most scouts seem to think he’ll have to move off of shortstop sooner rather than later, but he does have a strong enough arm to play third effectively. He’s also got the soft hands and reflexes for that position.
The other downside of Lee is that because he’s so mature already, he doesn’t have a lot of projection left in him. He might add some more power, but his ceiling is probably more of a 20-to-25 home run a year hitter rather than a 35 home run player. Combined with a lack of foot speed and having to move to third base, that adds up to something closer to a potentially really good everyday player than a superstar. But on the plus side, he seems to have a pretty high floor as well. It really seems hard to see how Lee wouldn’t end up as a solid big leaguer, barring some major injury. Although you never know with draft picks, Lee is about as safe as they come.
Lee is pretty much guaranteed to go in the first eight picks and he could go as high as third to the Rangers. Like Cam Collier, I think there’s less than a 50 percent chance he gets to the Cubs at number seven. However, I think there is more like a 60 or 70 percent chance that either Collier or Lee will still be on the board after six picks. So there is a good chance that the Cubs will have the chance to take one or the other, and it would not surprise me at all if that’s what happened on draft night.
Here is a collection of highlights from Brooks Lee’s 2022 season at Cal Poly.
And here’s him doing an interview on the MLB Network at the Draft Combine last month. There are also a few more highlights in this video.