Korey Lee's six hits lead Triple-A Sugar Land to slugfest win

May 8th, 2023

To remember a day like he had at the plate on Sunday, said he needs to think back "probably to Little League or high school, or something like that." When they happen at this level, they're hard to forget.

"Just from a hitting standpoint, (today) was probably the best," said Lee, the Astros' No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline. "I felt pretty comfortable."

He’s probably not the only member of Triple-A Sugar Land to feel that way after the club’s 24-8 rout of Albuquerque. The ball was really flying in the high elevation as Lee collected six of the Space Cowboys' 30 -- yes, 30 -- hits to lead the Space Cowboys to one of the most lopsided victories of the 2023 Minor League season to date. Lee collected hits in each of his first five at-bats -- including two as the Space Cowboys batted around in the third inning -- and after striking out in his sixth, laced an RBI double to the center field wall in the ninth to achieve the first six-hit day in Sugar Land history.

He is the second Minor Leaguer with a six-hit game this season, along with Buffalo's LJ Talley on April 30.

"You don't need to force anything in situations like that," Lee said. "I was thinking the same thing all day today: just trying to be athletic, trying to be myself. Good things happen when you trust your plan, and trust what you've been doing in the background of things."

The combination of the hitter-friendly environment at Isotopes Park and Albuquerque's taxed pitching staff resulted in a feeding frenzy for several top Astros prospects. No. 6 prospect Pedro León homered twice and drove in five, while and each enjoyed two-homer games as well. No. 7 prospect also went deep as part of a three-hit day, his fourth straight game with a homer.

All told, the Space Cowboys homered eight times Sunday and hit 16 homers in their six-game series in Albuquerque this week, winning four of six. Sugar Land’s 24 runs matched Reno’s output on April 27 (coincidentally, against the Space Cowboys) for the highest single-game total in the Minors this year. Sugar Land also scored the most runs in any Triple-A game in 2022, when they put up 23 at Las Vegas on Aug. 23. 

"You need games like that to kinda kick some fire under a team like us," Lee said. "There is a lot of potential in our lineup to do some damage, so I'm happy that we had a weekend and obviously, a week like this, where we scored a lot of runs."

For the 24-year-old Lee, its the highlight of an excellent start in his third season at Triple-A, where he's now hitting .309 with a .792 OPS through 26 games. Lee got a 12-game cup of coffee with the Astros in 2022, but there has never been a clear path to regular playing time in Houston for the team's 2019 first-round Draft pick. There still doesn't seem to be, even with the Astros off to a pedestrian 17-17 start and ranking only middle-of-the-pack offensively in the American League, sans injured star . Highly regarded-but-glove-first remains so entrenched behind the plate, playing time is even more than typically infrequent for Houston's 24-year-old backup catcher .

None of which bodes super well for Lee, but maybe an unexpected opportunity is right around the corner. Offensive-minded catchers are arguably more valuable than ever, given the scarcity at the position at the big league level. Few teams will be able to deal from a position of depth like the Astros this summer, when they will almost certainly be among the sport's bigger buyers at the Trade Deadline. The way he's hitting, Lee is putting himself in position to be highly coveted in a deal if an extended opportunity doesn't materialize in Houston.

"Obviously, you don't want to be comfortable at this level, you want to be comfortable in the big leagues," Lee said. "The standpoint I'm taking on this year is (acting like) it's the big leagues, but it's Triple-A baseball. You gotta think that way if you really want to be there ... whenever that call happens, it's going to be like I'm doing down here. You can't treat the game differently. You need to lock in mentally. If you lock in mentally down here, it also correlates to playing up there."