Rays Find Legitimate Speed in Round 12 With Braxton Lee

By Robbie Knopf

Once you’re up to the 12th round of the MLB Draft, the players around have one of three general issues: they will be very difficult to sign, have no specific tool that stands out, or they have a fatal flaw with their game. Every player has his issues, but the question is going to be how easy those issues are to fix. In Braxton Lee, the Rays found a player with one excellent characteristic–his speed–and they will hope to hone in the rest of his game and see what happens.

Lee, an outfielder out of Ole Miss, is listed at 5’10”, 185 by MLB.com. However, that actually may be a stretch as the Mississippi website has him at just 5’8″, 165. Lee is not a big guy, and he doesn’t have surprising Dustin Pedroia-esque power either as he managed just seven extra-base hits, all doubles, for Ole Miss in 236 at-bats. That aside, he really is coming off a nice season for the Rebels. He hit .297 with a .387 on-base percentage, drawing 29 walks against 28 strikeouts. Then there was his speed–he stole 30 bases in 35 attempts, and also proved himself an excellent bunter. His 30 steals led the SEC, and the fact that he played so well in such a well-regarded conference says something. Lee isn’t quite a burner, but he has well above-average speed and uses it well in games. Then defensively, Lee has a chance to stay in centerfield thanks to good range, and he has an above-average arm by centerfield standards. Lee’s lack of power is a major issue, but he does a lot of different things well, and that gives him a chance to exceed expectations.

As a player without much power, the rest of Braxton Lee’s game will be put to the test. He will have to continuously improve his patience and plate discipline to get on base, and he better be able to consistently lay down perfect bunt singles. He has to find a way to hit the ball with enough authority that he can hang in there against upper-level pitching. However, speed-first players are out there and can be quite successful, and we will have to see if Lee can follow suit. For the 12th round, the Rays found a good value, and we will have to see what he turns into.