Brooks Lee joins Twins' lineup with prospect stock rising

MINNEAPOLIS — Royce Lewis’ latest trip to the injured list with a right adductor strain creates a 1.039 OPS-sized hole in the middle of the lineup, but the Minnesota Twins are fortunate to have the luxury of being able to turn to another top-10 draft pick and elite-level prospect to replace him in 23-year-old Brooks Lee.

Lee, the No. 8 pick in the 2022 draft out of Cal-Poly and a consensus top-30 global prospect, is joining the Twins’ lineup amid the best stretch of his professional career. He hit .329/.394/.635 in 20 games for Triple-A St. Paul after missing the first two months of the season with a herniated disk in his back, putting himself in line for a call-up regardless of Lewis’ health.

“When you look down and see what he’s been doing since he came back healthy, you really couldn’t ask for much more,” Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. “Not that anyone is seamless when you get to the big leagues. This is a big jump. But this is a kid who is ready for this moment and will be a big part of our future.”

Lee made his Twins debut in Wednesday’s loss to the Detroit Tigers, less than two years after being drafted. And fittingly for a prospect who batted .292/.364/.480 with just 129 strikeouts in 186 minor-league games, each of Lee’s first two hits were well-placed singles up the middle. Twins fans will quickly get used to seeing that from Lee.

He’s the Twins’ youngest left-handed or switch hitter to have multiple hits in their MLB debut since Joe Mauer in 2004 and Justin Morneau in 2003.

Lee’s line-drive swing and bat-to-ball skills have always been his biggest strength, enabling him to hit .351 with more walks than strikeouts in three seasons playing college ball for his father, longtime coach Larry Lee. But there were pre-draft questions about the switch hitting infielder’s overall power potential, and specifically his right-handed swing.

After hitting just .237/.266/.337 versus left-handed pitchers last season in the minors, Lee spent the offseason and spring training focused on making adjustments to his right-handed approach with an emphasis on smoothing out his swing mechanics to more closely resemble the left-handed version. It’s worked far better than anyone could have imagined.

Between a low-minors rehab stint and Triple-A time, Lee hit .343/.378/.743 with three home runs and five doubles from the right side, surpassing last year’s homer and extra-base hit totals versus lefties. And he did his usual thing against righties, hitting .352/.424/.523 with four homers and an even 11-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

“It’s been great,” Lee said of his right-handed swing. “It’s finally coming along. I have confidence in it. As of right now, I’m actually more confident in my right side than the left. That’s just the way things are. I’ve spent a lot of time working on that swing and it’s finally coming to fruition.”

Lee’s rapid power development is especially encouraging because it came without sacrificing contact. He totaled 12 extra-base hits and 13 strikeouts in St. Paul, whiffing in just 13.8 percent of his plate appearances compared to the league-wide Triple-A strikeout rate of 23.3 percent. For context, Jose Miranda has the Twins’ lowest strikeout rate at 14.3 percent.

Lee became a top-10 pick and a top-100 prospect based on his well-rounded set of above-average skills and the oft-praised baseball IQ of a coach’s son. Adding substantial power to that already promising profile would raise his ceiling considerably, which is why Twins officials envision Lee, Lewis and Carlos Correa playing alongside each other in the infield for years to come.

“Brooks is a very, very good young player,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s been playing so well at the Triple-A level. He’s had excellent at-bats. He’s a very good, reliable defender all over the field. And he’s put himself on the map very quickly, from the time he’s been drafted until now. We feel like he’s ready for this challenge.”

For now, Lee figures to play mostly third base as a direct replacement for Lewis. However, he’s been primarily a shortstop in college and the minors and is a capable fielder there with sure hands and good instincts that make up for middling speed. He’s also been working at second base, which may end up being Lee’s long-term position if Lewis remains at third base.

“He’s going to play a lot of third,” Falvey said. “That’s just a natural point for him to step into. Our roster is built in a way, intentionally, that we have guys who can fit in some different spots. Willi (Castro) can bounce around a little bit if Brooks needs to go play a day at shortstop, to give Carlos a day off, that can happen, too. It just gives us a lot of flexibility.”

How impressive was Lee at Triple A? Despite spending roughly two-thirds of the season on the IL, his league-wide prospect ranking rose from No. 31 preseason to No. 18 on The Athletic’s list, from No. 35 to No. 28 on Baseball America’s list and from No. 18 to No. 13 on’s list.

Earlier this week, Lee was announced as the Twins’ representative for the annual Futures Game prospect showcase as part of the upcoming All-Star festivities, but the call-up makes him ineligible to participate. It’s an honor and a chance to impress on a national stage, but big-league games instead of the Futures Game is a tradeoff Lee and the Twins will gladly make.

“The future is now,” Falvey said. “He’s here.”

(Photo: David Berding / Getty Images)

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