Saints Hard Throwing Lefty, Chris Lee, Has Contract Purchased by Brewers
ST. PAUL, MN - The 2019 off-season saw five different St. Paul Saints players have their contract purchased by Major League organizations. This off-season could rival last season after the Saints claimed their first championship in 15 years. It got off to a fast start as hard throwing left-handed pitcher Chris Lee had his contract purchased by the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
The 27-year-old Lee went 3-0 with a 4.10 ERA in 12 games (one start). In 26.1 innings pitched he walked 10 and struck out 32 while opponents hit just .214 against him. After allowing seven runs in his first three relief appearances, Lee was superb over his next nine appearances allowing just two runs over his next eight relief appearances (13.0 IP). His most superb outing came in the thick of the playoff race when he was perfect over the final 5.0 innings of a 15-inning victory over the Chicago Dogs on August 24 at CHS Field. The Saints, who had a 2.0 game lead on the Dogs for the Wild Card spot, won the game 2-1 in 15 innings, took three of four over the Dogs and eventually won the North Division. Four days later Lee started his first game with the Saints against the first place Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. He went 7.1 innings, the second longest outing of his career, allowing three runs while striking out eight in a 4-3 Saints victory. Lee rivaled that start in Game 1 of the North Division Championship Series in Fargo going 7.1 innings allowing three runs (two earned) on eight hits while walking two and striking out six.
The Saints signed Lee last season on July 28 after spending the season at Triple-A Norfolk in the Baltimore Orioles organization. While there he was 3-2 with a 5.91 ERA in 18 games. In 45.2 innings pitched he walked 22 and struck out 46 while opponents hit .306 against him. He struck out a hitter in 13 consecutive relief appearances from May 2-June 23. Lee tossed multiple innings 14 times, including 4.0 or more three times. In games Lee pitched at least 3.0 innings he had a 2.20 ERA, including throwing 4.0 shutout innings allowing one hit and striking out five on April 14 vs. Toledo. He also threw 4.0 shutout innings allowing two hits while striking out four on May 2 vs. Charlotte and 5.0 shutout innings allowing one hit on May 14 at Toledo.
Lee was originally selected in the 37th round by the Chicago White Sox in 2010 out of T.R. Robinson (FL) High School, but did not sign and went to Santa Fe (FL) Community College. The moved paid off as Lee was selected in the fourth round of the 2011 draft by the Houston Astros.
Lee spent his first three seasons in professional baseball with the Greenville Astros of the Rookie Appalachian League. In his first pro season in 2011 he went 1-5 with a 5.18 ERA in 13 starts. In 48.2 innings pitched he walked 34 and struck out 47 while opponents hit .279 against him. He finished the season strong allowing just one earned run over his final 12.0 innings pitched.
In 2012, Lee pitched in just five games going 1-2 with an 11.42 ERA in five games (three starts).
He righted the ship in 2013 going 2-2 with a 3.10 ERA in 11 games (10 starts). In 49.1 innings pitched he walked 17 and struck out 54 while opponents hit a microscopic .207 against him. He struck out seven hitters twice and eight hitters twice. His best performance was actually his lone relief appearance going 5.0 shutout innings allowing two hits while fanning seven on July 4 vs. Bristol. His team reached the playoffs, but lost in the Appalachian League Championship Series two-games-to-none to the Pulaski Mariners.
Lee was finally promoted and spent all of 2014 at Single-A Quad Cities where he was solid going 8-6 with a 3.66 ERA in 28 games (16 starts). In 113.0 innings pitched he walked 51 and struck out 75 while opponents hit .275 against him. As a starter, he went 5-3 with a 3.20 ERA. Lee had eight appearances of at least 4.0 innings and one or no runs. He got stronger as the season went along going 6-1 with a 2.91 ERA following the All-Star break.
In 2015 Lee began the season at Quad Cities, going 3-2 with a 4.11 ERA, before being traded to the Houston Astros organization on May 19 for international bonus slot money. The Astros placed him at High-A Frederick where he was 3-6 with a 3.07 ERA in 14 starts. In 76.1 innings pitched he walked 29 and struck out 48 while opponents hit .266 against him. Lee had seven starts of at least 6.0 innings allowing two or less runs and had only three starts in which he allowed more than three earned runs. His strongest outing was his last, going 7.0 shutout innings on four hits while striking out six on August 1 vs. Myrtle Beach. That got him promoted to Double-A Bowie on August 3 where he went 4-2 with a 3.08 ERA in seven starts. In 37.0 innings pitched he walked 20 and struck out 26 while opponents hit just .232 against him. He never allowed more than three runs in any of his seven starts, including three starts of at least 5.2 innings and one or no runs. His team made the playoffs and won the Eastern League Championship Series three-games-to-two over the Reading Fightin Phils.
Lee was off to a fast start in 2016 at Bowie before a left shoulder injury shut down his season. He was 5-0 with a 2.98 ERA in eight games (seven starts). In 51.1 innings he walked 13 and struck out 19 while opponents hit .222 against him. He went at least 6.0 innings in every appearance and allowed two or fewer runs in six of eight appearances. Following the season he was rated as the #7 prospect in the Orioles organization by Baseball America.
In 2017, Lee spent the entire season at Norfolk and went 5-6 with a 5.11 ERA in 27 games (20 starts). In 116.1 innings pitched he walked 54 and struck out 83 while opponents hit .302 against him. In his seven relief appearances he went 1-1 with a 1.48 ERA striking out 18 in 24.1 innings pitched. In his six losses, he posted a 12.49 ERA (31 ER, 22.1 IP); in his other 21 outings, he registered a 3.35 ERA (35 ER, 94.0 IP). Following the season Lee was rated as the #9 prospect in the Orioles organization.
In 2018 Lee once again battled through an injury starting on the disabled list before pitching five games (three starts) at Norfolk where he went 0-2 with a 10.64. He was shut down for six weeks on June 1 with a shoulder injury. He pitched three games in a rehab stint with the GCL Orioles beginning on July 20 before being sent to Double-A Bowie. While with the Baysox he went 1-1 with a 3.50 ERA in 10 relief appearances. In 18.0 innings he walked seven and struck out 14 while opponents hit .338 against him. He didn't allow a run over five straight relief appearances spanning 9.0 innings from August 17-31.
Lee becomes the third player from the 2019 season to have his contract purchased by an organization, joining pitcher Nick Belzer who had his contract purchased by the Milwaukee Brewers on June 20 and outfielder Max Murphy who had his contract purchased on July 12. Lee becomes the 136th contract purchased from the Saints, and 126th different player, including eight who had their contract sold twice and Caleb Thielbar who became the first player to have his contract purchased three times. Of the 136 contracts sold, eight were sold to international teams and a total of 19 have made it to the ultimate level of baseball following their time with the Saints (Julio DePaula, who played for the Saints in 2011, made it to the Major Leagues in 2014, never pitched in a game, but does not show up on the list below because his contract wasn't purchased directly from the Saints).
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