One of the most frustrating aspects of minor league baseball can be when one of your favorite prospects gets hurt. Jameson Taillon (PIT) has already succumbed to injuries requiring Tommy John surgery this season and another top pitcher, Taijuan Walker (SEA) still isn’t back yet from shoulder soreness. It’s not as common for position players to miss so much time but Hak-Ju Lee, the Tampa Bay Rays’ consensus number three prospect, is finally returning to baseball after missing a calendar year.
— Durham Bulls (@DurhamBulls) April 22, 2014
Lee tore a ligament in his left knee in a game on April 20, 2013, playing for the Durham Bulls and that injury cut short a torrid start in Triple-A at the age of 22. The young Korean shortstop was tearing the cover off the ball for Durham in just 15 2013 games, hitting .422/.536/.600 in 57 plate appearances. His return was further delayed by a calf injury sustained during spring training in 2014 but Lee appears ready to return.
Signed as an 18-year-old by the Chicago Cubs, Lee was traded to Tampa Bay in the Matt Garza deal in January of 2011. He tends to slash at balls to maximize his ability to get on base via his plus speed but has started to show the ability to hit the ball with more authority or, at least he did before his injury last year. Consistently one of the younger players in every league he’s been in, Lee steals bases well and flashes plus defense and a strong arm.
Lee’s return in Durham will make the fans happy and, while he probably won’t be hitting the bull too often, he’s an exciting player who can make an already strong Durham team even stronger. The Bulls already have the best record in the International League and getting a two-time Futures Game player back in the lineup every day at one of the game’s core positions will only make them an even tougher opponent.