Orioles pitching prospect Chris Lee has picked up in 2016 where he left off in 2015. He pitched well for the Orioles at Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie after they acquired him in a trade with Houston last May.
Acquired for two international bonus slots worth $655,000, the 23-year-old left-hander jumped right into the list of the Orioles’ top 10 prospects at No. 6 by Baseball America. He has done nothing this year to hurt that standing.
Lee is 5-0 with a 2.41 ERA in six games for Bowie. Over 37 1/3 innings, Lee has allowed 28 hits with eight walks and 13 strikeouts along with a .204 average against.
But as well as he has pitched, Lee has struck out just three, three, zero and one batter over his past four starts. That is seven strikeouts over 25 innings. That is a very low total for a pitcher whose fastball has touched 95 and 96 and sometimes even more.
Orioles director of player development Brian Graham is delighted that Lee is commanding the ball so well this year and said is not concerned about his low strikeouts totals right now.
“I wouldn’t be concerned about strikeouts because I know Chris Lee and he understands what development is in place,” Graham said. “This guy is in the strikezone. He’s down (with his pitches) and shows the ability to change speeds. There is still the development of the breaking ball (his slider) to come. He is right where he needs to be and is doing a great job.
“Chris has continued with where he left off last year. He throws strikes, pitches a lot at the bottom of the strikezone and gets a lot of groundballs. He has continued to improve all aspects of his game, to include holding runners, fielding his position and recognizing swings. He has done a much better job of being consistent. He just needs to pound the zone, throw strikes and command the baseball.”
Graham can envision a day when Lee’s slider develops enough to become a putaway/strikeout type of pitch. Until he gets there, the strikeouts are not coming. But his walk rate, which was 4.7 per nine innings in seven Bowie starts last year, is 1.9 now.
“Lee’s changeup is his second-best pitch behind his fastball and his breaking ball is going to develop as we progress,” Graham said. “That is why he is in Double-A and there is still a development program in place.
“The fact that he is getting a ton of groundballs is good. Usually guys strike out hitters with breaking balls. Chris Lee is not at that point yet. He is still a development project. He had 15 groundball outs in a recent start. His fastball sinks and his change is a good pitch.”
With just 13 starts under his at belt at the Double-A level with Bowie since last August, for now the Orioles are happy to keep Lee pitching in the Eastern League. Any talk of moving to Triple-A is premature at this time.
“Right now he is in a good place. He’s with (Baysox pitching coach) Alan Mills and they have a great relationship. Mills is doing a tremendous job with this kid. The breaking ball is the next thing on the list of development. Chris Lee has a chance to be a good big league pitcher,” Graham said.
While Lee is moving into the latter stages in his development on the farm, Ofelky Peralta is in the very early stages. But, like Lee, the 19-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic is having a very solid season. He is pitching for Single-A Delmarva in his first year with a full season affiliate.
Peralta is 1-1 with a 1.98 ERA and has allowed two runs or less in each of his six starts. Over 27 1/3 innings he has given up 20 hits with 16 walks and 30 strikeouts. His ERA is 1.20 over his past three starts where he has fanned 19 in 15 innings. Peralta got his first professional win on Thursday against Greensboro.
Peralta’s fastball sits in the 93-96 mph range and he also throws a slider and changeup. He was signed for $325,000, the same day the Orioles saw him throw at a showcase in San Pedro de Macoris in September of 2013.
His progress this year has been solid.
“He’s been outstanding and has thrown the ball very well,” Graham said. “It’s never been a question of what kind of arm he has, it’s been a question of command and control. Peralta is very young and extremely inexperienced. But he has a tremendous body and good downhill plane.
“Blaine Beatty (Delmarva pitching coach) has done a really good job with him and I know Ramon Martinez (O’s special assignment instructor) had a real good impact on him at instructional league. He has a close relationship with Ramon. He and Blaine have really helped Peralta.”
Peralta has developed a more repeatable, consistent delivery that has led to command improvements. He had one five-walk game, but his other starts have been three or fewer walks as he continues to make strides with his control.
Some other starting pitchers doing well on the farm right now:
Nick Additon is 1-3 with a 3.35 ERA for Triple-A Norfolk.
Parker Bridwell is 1-0 with a 3.48 ERA for Bowie.
David Hess is 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA for Bowie.
Matthew Grimes is 4-2 with a 1.67 ERA for Single-A Frederick.
John Means is 3-0 with a 1.95 ERA for Frederick.
Brian Gonzalez is 3-1 with a 2.33 ERA for Delmarva.
We now have a podcast!: We’ve gotten into the podcast business to add another layer to our Orioles’ coverage this year. Each week Brian Eller and I will tape some comments for your listening pleasure. Please check it out and leave some comments on it. We want to hear from our readers and listeners. The first edition of Yard Work can be found here in the Orioles Buzz section.