'That kid is a stud': Lee has Twins gushing

Top prospect is youngest player in camp, but he isn't playing that way

March 3rd, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Sometimes,  still provides brief glimpses of the fact that he has only been a professional for just more than seven months now, with all of 31 Minor League games under his belt. Like when he gushes that it’s “pretty freaking cool” to be in big league camp with a “lot of cooler players” around him, or when the 22-year-old notes that he’s the youngest player in camp -- and thinks he looks the part, too.

Then, he gets on the baseball field. With the bat in his hands, it’s hard to believe he’s the same kid soaking it all in for the first time.

“Man, that kid is a stud,” shortstop Carlos Correa said. “I really, really, really like this kid. I’m very, very high on him. Don’t be surprised if we see him up this year.”

This year? That’s a bold statement, considering Lee was only selected with the No. 8 overall pick of the 2022 Draft last July.

But then, you consider that Lee was described as arguably the most polished hitter in his Draft class last summer, or that he hit .303/.388/.451 across three Minor League levels last season with nearly as many walks (16) as strikeouts (20) and finished the year by going 8-for-18 in the Double-A playoffs in his first taste of the high Minors -- and, well, it’s not so hard for Correa to dream.

"He's on everyone's radar already,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He can come here and make a good impression, leave some people impressed. He's starting to do that.”

Because the Twins waited until the fifth day of Grapefruit League action to get Correa into a game at shortstop, Lee -- Minnesota's No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline -- has had plenty of opportunities to play alongside big league starters in Baldelli’s early lineups. He went 4-for-12 with hits in each of his first three games before going 0-for-3 as the starting shortstop in the Twins’ 4-2 victory over the Rays on Thursday at Tropicana Field. He looks the part at shortstop.

For as much as Lee is hoping to learn from his first taste of big league camp, the Twins’ hitting coaches are eager to continue learning about him, too. They know that Lee, a switch-hitter, has a very simple swing that allows him to cover the strike zone and find the barrel very naturally, an overall picture described as “just hitter-ish, man,” by Shawn Schlechter, Lee’s hitting coach with High-A Cedar Rapids.

Undoubtedly helped by the influence of his father, longtime Cal Poly head baseball coach Larry Lee, Brooks Lee pressured pitchers and stuck with his approach -- and the Twins just watched the show.

“For the most part, it was us getting to know him and what makes him tick and how he works,” Schlechter said. “We really didn't push too much in terms of development when he got to Cedar Rapids. We just let him do his thing.”

And when the Twins surprised Lee with the late-season promotion to Double-A Wichita, there was no reason to change that.

“It was like, ‘Go out there, do your thing, be excited about being in Double-A right now and just do what you do,’” said then-Wichita hitting coach Derek Shomon, now with the Twins’ big league staff. “He's an unbelievable player.”

There’s perhaps some minor tweaking to be done -- and Lee is more than receptive to supplementing the foundation that has already helped him succeed. Lee says he’s trying to improve his pitch recognition and work on his defensive footwork -- but the shortstop element is much less important with Correa embedded there.

“There's nothing off-limits in my swing,” Lee said. “Obviously, my dad and I have a pretty good foundation. It seems to be working, but they’re more than willing to try and help me out. I’m going to get all the answers I need from them.”

Regardless, the bat and maturity already stand out. And though Lee doesn’t know yet where he’ll start 2023 in the Minors, who’s to say he can’t continue this quick rise?

“He just thrives in this environment,” Schlechter said. “It comes natural to him. It helps that he's seen some of the guys in this clubhouse, in the big league clubhouse, and has gotten to interact with them. He feels at home. He acknowledges that and tells us that, and he plays like that on the field.”

“Everybody I talk to about him, it’s high praise, man,” Correa said. “I don’t get impressed very easily. That was definitely a great pick by the Twins.”