The Astros are promoting catching prospect Korey Lee to make his major league debut, as was first reported by Mark Berman of Fox 26 (on Twitter). Backup catcher Jason Castro is headed to the 10-day injured list with left knee discomfort. To clear space for Lee on the 40-man roster, lefty reliever Blake Taylor is being transferred from the 15-day to the 60-day IL.
Lee is a former supplemental first-rounder, having been taken 32nd overall in the 2019 draft. A Cal-Berkeley product, he hadn’t been seen by many public prospect evaluators as a first-round talent at the time. Houston’s decision to nab him early looks strong in retrospect, as Lee has played his way to the majors a little less than three years later.
The righty-hitting backstop has also raised his stock in the eyes of most evaluators. Each of Baseball America and FanGraphs placed him among the game’s top 100 overall prospects heading into the season. Kiley McDaniel of ESPN and Keith Law of the Athletic each placed him just outside their top 100 and ranked him among the three best farmhands in the Houston system.
Across the board, those outlets suggested Lee could develop into a capable #1 catcher at his peak. His carrying tool is an arm that garners grades between plus and plus-plus (a 60 or 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale), and he’s generally regarded as a solid or better overall defender. Lee’s bat is more of a question, as he’s struggled against upper level pitching after mashing in the low minors.
The 2022 season has been particularly challenging, as Lee carries only a .226/.285/.419 line with ten home runs through 270 plate appearances at Triple-A Sugar Land. He’s flashed some power, with a .194 ISO (slugging percentage minus batting average) that’s north of the league average, but he’s only walked in 6.7% of his plate appearances against an elevated 27% strikeout rate.
Given those struggles against upper minors pitching, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Lee eventually optioned back to Sugar Land. The Astros have long placed a premium on defense behind the plate, though, as evidenced by their commitment to the light-hitting Martín Maldonado in recent years. Maldonado will remain the primary option, while Lee will take Castro’s spot as his backup while the latter is out. Houston would’ve had to add Lee to the 40-man roster at the end of this season anyhow to keep him from being taken in next winter’s Rule 5 draft.
Taylor, meanwhile, has been out since June 4 with discomfort in his throwing elbow. There’s no clear timetable for his return, and he’ll now be ineligible to pitch in the majors until the first week of August. Injuries to Taylor and Parker Mushinski have left manager Dusty Baker to handle an all right-handed bullpen at times, and it stands to reason the front office will look into acquiring a southpaw over the next few weeks.
.226 in the PCL is still better than Maldonado.
Hey, Maldonado is a 6.5 WAR player… for his entire twelve-year career.
WAR is not the end all be all
The Astros think Maldy is the single best catcher in baseball.
Their pitching coach (at the time) even said he was their MVP last year when he had a negative WAR for the season. A season they made it to the World Series
They have won enough games the past 6 years to be given the benefit of the doubt.
Maldy isn’t the best catcher, but he is a valuable catcher. He’s a great pitcher framer and defender. Don’t underestimate how important that can be.
He’s below average in both. The Astros like him for his game calling and how he works with young Latin pitchers but his defense isn’t that good anymore.
The no-hitter says otherwise, but you’re entitled to your opinion.
226 avg in PCL is like 080 avg in mlb
The Astros view the catching position as part of the pitching staff.
If he catches the ball and the pitchers perform, the team couldn’t care less if he hit .000
That’s how it used to be years ago. Guys like Tony Pena, Bill Plummer, Jim Sundberg, etc. who were never great (or even good) hitters were considered gold due to their skills behind the plate. Now everything’s offense, with emphasis on homers.
Not on Houston
He reminded me of the old Allen Sherman ditty: “When you have to take vaccine, take it Ora Lee. ‘Cause you know the other way is more painfully. “
Great move for Lee and the Astros
Maldonado will probably catch even more, but being around him and the MLB staff andcteam can only help Korey and the Astros.
2022: watch and learn
2023: part time starter with Maldonado
2024: primary starter
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Astros look for a better catcher next offseason. I like Maldy and wouldn’t even consider a midseason change, but I think they can do better.
backup catcher is still a team member. why aren’t other players called, backup?
We Stay Hungry We Devour
I hope he develops more contact skills and power in the future, Wish him the best of luck in the show
Lee will be an above average hitting catcher with a strong arm. He’s a good fit to pinch hit and catch every 4th or 5th day while he develops. Brown and just maybe Whitley can be 5th/6th inning power arms in the bullpen come September. I’m bullish on all 3. IDK if I’d trade any of the 3. Or even Leon. Maybe he replaces Altuve.