The Los Angeles Dodgers brought right-handed pitcher Zach Lee to the major leagues on April 23rd, then optioned him back to Triple-A on April 26th without using him in a game. He'll head back to Oklahoma City and resume his place in the OKC Dodgers starting rotation, but a return trip to the majors and some big league innings later in the year are very likely.
Lee has been on prospect lists for years and is no longer a shiny new toy, but at age 24 he still has youth on his side. Let's take a look at what we might expect.
Thoughts entering spring training, from the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:
Zach Lee, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-4 WT: 190 DOB: September 13, 1991
2011: Grade B; 2012: Grade B+; 2013: Grade B; 2014: Grade B; 2015: Grade C+
People (including me) have been too positive on Zach Lee in the past but I think he may be unfairly dismissed at this point. Although he got hit hard in one major league start, his overall 2015 season was very successful in an unfriendly environment in the PCL. He improved his command to go with his already-present control, and at this point he can throw four average pitches for strikes. In the right environment he can be a useful fourth starter and I continue to believe that his stuff would play up if someone used him in the bullpen. Grade C+.
Lee was in contention for the fifth starter job in March but lost out to fellow prospect Ross Stripling. Sent down to the Pacific Coast League, he has been very sharp in his first three starts, posting a 1.56 ERA in 17.1 innings with a 14/1 K/BB. Lee was very effective in the PCL last year (11-6, 2.70 in 19 starts, 81/19 K/BB) and has little left to prove in the minors. At this point it is a matter of a spot opening up.
Lee's publicity stock is well down from its peak even though he's been quite effective in some tough pitching environments. He has a full arsenal with a fastball, curve, slider, and change; all four pitches rate as generally average but he mixes them well and hits his spots. He got crushed in his only big league start last year (4.1 innings, 11 hits and seven runs, but he did fan three) but deserves more chances.
One subtle point about Lee: he's a very good overall athlete. This shows up in his smooth, easy delivery
As well as in some nice infield actions.
At this point Lee fits a back-end starter profile, but as noted in the book comment I'd like to see what would happen if someone used him in the bullpen. It seems possible to me that his stuff would tick up in shorter stints. There's nothing objective to back that up, just a hunch, really.