Justin Lee focused his offseason work on attacking the strike zone to cut down on walks and challenge hitters with his premium pitch mix. The plan allowed the Notre Dame (Calif.) High School right-handed pitcher to thrive, tallying 102 strikeouts and allowing just 12 earned runs in 67 2/3 innings this spring.
Lee’s performance came at an ideal time. He is a highly-regarded pitching prospect who is a UCLA commit and a potential early-round pick in July’s MLB draft. Lee is the top prospect from his school since Hunter Greene, who went second overall as a two-way player in 2017 and is now the Cincinnati Reds’ ace.
“The pro interest is in the back of my head for me,” Lee said. “I’m trying not to focus on it. I’m just trying to enjoy my senior year and be a kid.”
Lee is a 6-foot-3, 195-pound right-handed pitcher who throws a fastball, splitter and slider from a three-quarters arm slot. The righty pitches out of the stretch and uses an athletic, repeatable low-effort delivery.
His best pitch is his low-90s fastball that touches 95 mph. It measures up well analytically and features natural movement. He also maintains his velocity deeper into starts.
Lee’s splitter is a weapon. Lee started throwing it last year, as he didn’t have a changeup in his arsenal. He developed a comfortable grip and now has confidence in throwing his splitter in any situation. He can throw it for strikes and out of the strike zone for swings and misses. His splitter drops off the table and regularly sits under 1,000 revolutions per minute, even reaching 800 rpm at times.
His slider is a developing offering right now. It is a tight-breaking pitch that flashes potential. He needs to develop more consistency with the pitch, but scouts believe it can turn into a reliable strikeout pitch.
Lee offers tons of potential on the mound, projecting as a potential starter in pro ball. He does a nice job of mixing his pitches and attacking the strike zone to challenge hitters with his three-pitch mix.
“Right now, my biggest strength is my ability to tunnel my pitches really well,” Lee said. “I don’t back down from any hitters and just attack the zone.”
Lee has made notable strides over the last year to develop into a quality prep pitcher with a bright future. This offseason, he wants to continue refining his pitches to take another step in his development.
“During the offseason, I would like to gain more velo and just sit at a higher velo,” Lee said. “I’m working on my fastball command too.”
Lee is an intriguing prep pitcher with a bright future. Major-league teams will have to contend with his UCLA commitment this summer. It is a program that typically does a notable job of getting its signees to school and has a strong track record of developing pitchers for the pro ranks.
Lee committed to UCLA due to his strong fandom for the university and his relationship with UCLA’s coaching staff. He also respects the program UCLA coach John Savage has built and Savage’s pedigree in developing pitchers during their time in the program.
“UCLA has been my dream school ever since I can remember,” Lee said. “With the coaching staff, they are really good over there. Coach Savage is one of the best pitching coaches in the country, so you can’t really turn down the opportunity to go to UCLA.”
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Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for eight years. He has interviewed 433 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com, The Arizona Republic and The Dallas Morning News, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.