The San Francisco Giants season opener is less than three weeks away, and the 2016 campaign is shaping up to be a good one. Let’s jump right into five predictions for the Giants’ 2016 season.
Hak-Ju Lee Makes His Major League Debut
Let’s start off with a rather tame prediction. Shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee will make his major league debut with the Giants at some point during the 2016 season. And after seven long seasons as a minor leaguer, it will be a long-overdue and well-deserved honor for Korean infielder.
Back in 2008, the Chicago Cubs brought in the highly-coveted 17-year-old Lee as an international free agent, and gave him a fairly hefty $1.15 million signing bonus. He didn’t play during the 2008 season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, but he began what looked like it would be a quick ascent to the highest level in 2009. Between 2009 and 2010 in the Cubs’ system, Lee hit .299 with 36 doubles, and stole 57 bases. In the offseason following the 2010 season, he was packaged in a blockbuster deal that included pitcher Matt Garza and top prospect Chris Archer, and was on the move to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Over the next two seasons, Lee was named a top-100 prospect both years and hit .277 with 25 triples and 70 stolen bases, but it was during 2013 that it appeared he wasn’t meant to be a minor leaguer much longer. In 15 games in Triple-A at the start of the year, Lee batted an eye-popping .422, but was soon hit with disaster. On a freak play at shortstop, a throw from the second baseman pulled Lee off the bag and into the basepath, where Lee was leveled, coincidentally, by former Giant Travis Ishikawa. He tore multiple ligaments in his left knee, and his season was immediately over.
Lee failed to regain his top-prospect form after the injury, hitting just .212 and slugging just .290 while stealing only 32 bags between 2014 and 2015.
The shortstop with once-blazing speed may never get back to a point where he’s a 15-triple or 35-stolen base guy again. But his wheels do appear to be somewhat back under him, and spending time in the Giants’ organization will be good for him. He won’t quite look like top-100 prospect Lee again, but he will find a happy medium between that and what he’s shown over the past two years. For his miniature resurgence, Lee will be rewarded with his first big-league call-up, and maybe he’ll even hit one into Triple’s Alley to prove that he can still motor.