Baysox lefty Lee has turned career around

Bowie Baysox left-hander Chris Lee has been one of the top pitchers in the Baltimore Orioles organization so far in 2016. He owns a 5-0 record and a 2.30 earned run average.
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A year ago, left-handed pitcher Chris Lee was floundering.

He'd spent his first four professional seasons trying to escape Class A-level baseball in the Houston Astros organization.


His 2014 season at Quad Cities of the Midwest League (8-6, 3.66 in 28 appearances, 16 starts) represented a baby step forward. But the former fourth-round draft pick didn't appear to have much of a future. He wasn't even listed among the top 30 prospects in the Houston organization by Baseball America entering the 2015 season.

Now, thanks to a deal that sent him to the Baltimore Orioles on May 19 of last year, everything has changed.


The Orioles organization's pitching coaches made some adjustments to his mechanics, which enabled him to pitch with more consistency. Almost overnight, he became a pitcher worth watching.

He went 3-6 in 14 starts at Class A Frederick immediately after the trade, but posted an impressive 3.07 ERA. He jumped up to Double-A Bowie by season's end and went 4-2 with a 3.08 ERA in seven starts there.

His performance convinced the Orioles to add him on their 40-man roster for 2016, meaning that he'd spend the bulk of spring training in camp with the big-leaguers.

When Baseball America's prospect rankings were released for 2016, Lee was rated the No. 6 prospect in the Orioles organization.

He's done nothing to indicate that assessment was inaccurate or overly optimistic. So far, he's 5-0 with a 2.30 ERA for the Baysox, limiting hitters to a .186 average.

"There was a lot of buzz about him in the offseason," said Bowie manager Gary Kendall. "He had a good spring training over in the big-league camp. They like what they see and they want him to develop and they thought Double-A was the best place for that. He's throwing the ball really well. Hopefully, he keeps developing. I like the way he's been pitching. The results have been good."

The mechanical adjustments the Orioles coaches made to his delivery have made all the difference, Lee said.

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"At first, they just left me alone and watched me and how my mechanics were," he said. "As the games went on, they noticed some inconsistencies in my delivery. So, we talked a little bit and they helped me find some stuff (wrong). We just made everything in sync."


While in the Astros organization, Lee averaged about 4 ½ walks per nine innings. Since coming over to the Orioles, he's walked just 46 batters in 138 innings – exactly three every nine innings. This year, he has walked just seven batters in 31 1/3 innings.

With better command, he's more often able to avoid hitters' counts, which enabled batters to lay back and wait for his mid-90s fastball. Because he's not pitching from behind so often, he is able to use his slider and changeup more often to disrupt hitters' timing.

"If you're not consistent throwing the baseball, they're going to sit on one pitch," Lee said. "You want to throw every pitch for a strike, so you have to be the same mechanically."

Despite his size (6-foot-3) and live arm, Lee has never posted dazzling strikeout numbers – something that hasn't changed since the deal that brought him to the Orioles. He has fanned just seven batters in 31 1/3 innings this year.

But Kendall pays more attention to the results.

"He's not getting strikeouts, but he's pitching to contact and getting good results," Kendall said. "His slider's a work in progress, his changeup's been good. He's been working deep into games and throwing the ball really well."