Hak-Ju Lee is not a household name among Rays fans, but it won't be too long before he gains recognition in professional baseball. The 21-year-old Korean was acquired in the Matt Garza trade and is on the Top 50 Prospect list at No. 48.
Lee was one of three players that represented the Rays at the MLB Futures Game this July. He was promoted in August to class AA after spending most of his 2011 season playing for the Charlotte Stonecrabs (class A+).
Lee's 2011 combined Minor League stats included a .292 average, 30 RBI and 33 stolen bases. Lee is still adjusting to AA baseball, as he batted a low .190 through 100 at-bats in Montgomery.
Lee is a left-handed batting shortstop (throws right) that is still improving in all parts of his game. His best attributes include great speed, good contact hitting and the ability to have quality at-bats.
Although Lee will probably never be a hitter with power, there are other weaknesses in his game that can improve.
His defense at shortstop is probably the biggest thing that needs to be worked on. Like most young Minor League shortstops, Lee played some rather sloppy defense. His error total was too much considering his high expectations as a defensive player. His gradual improvement in the field is noticeable, though, and many scouts see Lee as being a good defensive shortstop in the future.
Baserunning is another area of improvement for the speedy infielder. Although Lee has great wheels, his decisions on the basepaths are not so intelligent yet. He was caught stealing 16 times out of 49 attempts this year in the minors. Just like on defense, these faults are not a rarity at all for 20-year-old prospects.
Experts believe that he will get much better in the following years, and baserunning will be one of Lee's fortes during his big league career.
Overall, Hak-Ju Lee is work in progress with a bunch of potential.