When a lad and leaving my job as a supermarket clerk to join the family business, one of my customers gave me a little plastic statue of Snoopy doing his happy dance with an inscription from that great philosopher of our time, Linus, that read:
“There is no heavier a burden than a great potential.”
Tell it to Zach Lee.
Lee was considered a great coup when the Dodgers drafted the right-hander with the No. 1 pick in 2010. He spurned a quarterback scholarship at LSU and signed a record $5.25-million deal with the Dodgers, then owned by Frank McCourt.
And if Lee never exactly dominated early in the minors, he still showed definite promise and the word was usually he’d become a middle of the order starter.
Only for now, the shine seems off his star. He struggled in his first season at triple-A last year (7-13, 5.38 ERA, 1.53 WHIP) and never received a call-up when the Dodgers were struggling for a fifth starter during the season nor in September when rosters where expanded.
Now he’s fallen off Baseball America’s list of Dodgers Top 10 Prospects. He was No. 2 after the 2010 season, No. 1 after 2011, No. 5 after 2012 and No. 4 after 2013. After 2014, nada.
Instead Baseball America’s new list released Thursday reads like this:
1) Corey Seager, ss
2) Joc Pederson, of
3) Julio Urias, lhp
4) Grant Holmes, rhp
5) Alex Verdugo, of
6) Jose De Leon, rhp
7) Chris Anderson, rhp
8) Scott Schebler, of
9) Chris Reed, lhp
10) Julian Leon, c
It’s a pretty familiar list, sans Lee. He turned 23 in September, so it’s not like all opportunity has passed him by. Still, this could prove a pivotal season for Lee, who typically has done better his second season at each minor-league level. But if he doesn’t raise his status and get back on the prospect radar, you have to wonder if he won’t yet decide to give football a try.
Otherwise, Baseball America is pretty impressed with the current status of the Dodgers system. It said outside of the Cubs, no other team has three top prospects like the Dodgers:
“Corey Seager, a shortstop for now who likely moves to third base, is one of the most talented hitters in the minors. Center fielder Joc Pederson is a 2015 Rookie of the Year frontrunner, while teenage lefthander Julio Urias has the makings of a future ace, combining plus stuff with feel for pitching beyond his years.”
These lists often seem heavily influenced by draft position – Seager, Holmes, Anderson and Reed were all former No. 1s and Verdugo a No. 2 last season — but as Lee could tell you, only for so long.
Follow Steve Dilbeck on Twitter @stevedilbeck.