Switch-hitting Lee seeks to improve righty swing ahead of MLB debut

February 21st, 2024

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Following ’s first full professional season, during which he catapulted all the way up to Triple-A and put himself in position to make his MLB debut in 2024, he went right back to San Luis Obispo, Calif., where he fell back into the easy routine of working alongside his dad at Cal Poly.

It was almost like he’d never left -- that’s where he does his best work -- though things are different in some ways now as he works with his father, Larry Lee, who is in his 22nd season at the helm of the Mustangs’ program.

Now, Brooks has free rein to work with his dad’s infielders and do as he feels best with them. He’s brought over some of the Twins’ drills and exercises to supplement his dad’s programming.

“He'll say a few things that I overlooked, and so that's why it's great being around him,” Larry Lee said. “You know, watching him and listening to him, he's a real coach on the field, and I get to learn from him, which is priceless.”

And, most importantly for Brooks’ professional future, that’s where he and his dad get to confer and tinker together as he focused on a singular goal this offseason: to get his right-handed swing to look like his left-handed swing. His dad is the coach who knows those two swings better than anyone.

Perhaps it’s this adjustment that represents Brooks Lee’s surge to the Majors.

“I've always felt good enough,” Lee said. “It does feel close. But I'm not here to force it. I'm here to get better. That's not my decision to make. Whatever happens, happens. I'm excited to play baseball at a high level either way.”

Ranked No. 18 among MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospects, Lee spent the offseason shoring up elements of his defense -- especially his throwing -- at second base, shortstop and third base to prepare himself for a big league opportunity that could come at any of those spots. He’ll get plenty of time at all three positions in Grapefruit League games this spring.

But more importantly, they had to address a concerning issue: the switch-hitting Lee had an .872 OPS as a left-handed hitter but only a .715 OPS as a right-handed hitter in Double-A, then saw that disparity broaden to an .832 OPS from the left side and a .358 OPS from the right side once he moved up to Triple-A St. Paul.

The net sum of Lee’s work is only going to look like a handful of minor tweaks, but Larry Lee says his son’s right-handed swing got to a good place within the last month. Now, Brooks has to show he can use it in games.

“Not that we thought it wasn't going to come, but it's really neat to see him narrow in on such a specific goal and then use that to build off of,” president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. “I'm glad he's focused on what he thinks is really an area he can improve in his game.”

If you ask Brooks Lee what went wrong, he immediately breaks it down to the minute details.

His swings have always been different, and he doesn’t want that. His left-handed swing is smooth, simple and contact-oriented, while his right-handed swing often tends to be more power-oriented, all-or-nothing and less adjustable. Ideally, he would want them to be the exact same -- and exactly like his left-handed swing.

His “batting practice swing,” as he calls it, works fine from the right side, but it’s in games that he runs into issues. He has a bat waggle in his righty swing that he doesn’t want. His stride gets bigger and his elbow gets higher than he wants when he tries to elevate the ball.

Larry Lee has always emphasized the importance of a contact-oriented swing that can adjust to different game situations -- and Brooks hadn’t found that right-handed.

“It's like, your swing needs to be tailored to do all that at any point,” Lee said. “And that's what I want to get to. That's how you hit for high average. Power is great. I can hit for power, but my most important thing is getting hits and hitting for average.”

This offseason, they did meticulous trial-and-error work and drilled down to the basics of why that might be -- making minute adjustments in his stance, watching videos together and breaking it all down.

Larry Lee honed in on what he’d done with similarly-sized hitters in the past. They also found that Brooks’ head moves more when he’s striding right-handed, which makes it more difficult for him to see the pitch out of the hand. He can naturally focus on the release point from the left side but sometimes loses the ball momentarily from the right side.

“This is his passion,” Larry Lee said. “It's really 24 hours a day, thinking about how to get better, how to prepare his body, and how to be ready for game time.”

After all that trial and error, it comes down to Lee perhaps standing up a bit more upright when right-handed, which does help him see the ball better. He points out that he sees 5.5 times as many left-handed at-bats in games as right-handed at-bats, and rote experience should also help.

The Twins have a clear infield picture -- Royce Lewis, Carlos Correa, Edouard Julien and Alex Kirilloff around the diamond -- but if there’s a consistent opportunity that opens due to injury, there’s a good chance it’s Lee who will get the call.

The right-handed swing isn’t a check-box the Twins feel they need to see; they admire the advanced baseball IQ and drive to improve. He’s in the picture, and opportunity will come in due time.

“It's just a journey, and as long as he stays curious and keeps learning, keeps getting better, that's all we're going to ask him to do,” Falvey said.

It doesn’t seem like that will ever be an issue for Brooks Lee.