With the 32nd pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, the Houston Astros select catcher Korey Lee, out of the University of California Golden Bears.
A lot has been said about who the Astros were going to select this past week. A lot of speculation bounced between a college bat or a high school pitcher, most notably JJ Goss out of Cypress Ranch High School. The Astros addressed a massive need in their system that is a sneaky good weapon to boot in Korey Lee.
Let’s get the lazy analysis out of the way here. MLB.com had Lee ranked as the #119 overall player in the draft. Baseball America had him #133. Some may say this is a reach. This is also baseball. Where a player can get drafted in the 40th round and become a Hall of Famer. So let’s just temper the criticism there.
Korey Lee stands at 6-1, 205 pounds, hitting from the right side of the plate. Scouts rave about his arm, indicating that at times, it can reach in the 70 range on a 0-80 rate scale. He has thrown runners out with ease sitting between 87-91 MPH when throwing to second. His ability to receive has gotten better over the last three years he has been playing. He has also seen time playing at third base, first base, and designated hitter for the Golden Bears over the course of his time in Southern California.
The young 20-year-old’s bat rates out as an average to above-average bat, most notably, being previously ranked at the lower end of “below-average” in his freshman and sophomore seasons. In his freshman year, he sported a .277 average and .676 OPS in 65 games. This number drastically fell to a .238 average in his sophomore season.
The ability to hit behind prolific hitters, such as teammate Andrew Vaughn (selected #3 overall tonight), has given Lee the ability to feed off pitchers. His 2019 season saw his average rise a complete 100 points to a .338 average hitting behind Vaughn. His OPS has spiked to 1.045 and he hit a career-high 15 home runs over the course of 198 games this year.
Many scouts are now raving about his ability to hit, and with a dearth of prolific hitters on this Astros team, there’s no doubt Lee could make his mark sitting at the bottom of the line-up potentially hitting at spots six through nine.
Considering the only catching prospect the Astros have in their system, there also stands to be no doubt that Lee can skyrocket through the system, and find himself hitting at Double-A Corpus this time next year, like fellow first-round draft pick Seth Beer.
Some comparisons have Lee as a Mike Napoli type. Hitting for power and throwing out runners with ease. I would tend to agree, maybe somewhere between a Napoli, Salvador Perez or Yasmani Grandal comp if he can hit for average at the major league level.
This is what Jeff Luhnow has said about his selection.
Either way, the Astros just got one of the best under-the-radar catching prospects in this year’s draft and addressed a dire need in their farm system.
A right combination it is. With the players we have on this team, and the obvious need for youth at the catcher position, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lee was in the majors come 2020-2021.
DRAF PICK GRADE: A to A-
OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: A-