Zach Lee signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday night, ending months of speculation about his future. The Dodgers signed first-round draft pick Zach Lee just before Monday’s deadline, meaning the two-sport star will leave the LSU football program.
As part of his contract, Lee received a franchise-record signing bonus of $5.25 million, which was the highest signing bonus ever for a Dodgers draft pick.
Los Angeles chose Lee with the 28th overall pick in the amateur draft this summer in what most analysts thought was a very risky move. But it has apparently paid off for the Dodgers and their owner Frank McCourt, who now have one of the hottest pitching prospects in the last few years in their fold.
“This player was deemed as unsignable,” Dodgers scouting director Logan White stated in a conference call with the AP, “If they thought they could have signed him, a majority of teams would have picked him. We feel really fortunate that we were able to get it done.”
Lee was a star quarterback for McKinney High in Texas last season, and had said he wanted to play football at LSU. But, as of today’s announcement, he has decided to leave college — although he had already been participating in football practice — to focus on baseball.
The 6-foot-4, 195-pound right-hander had repeatedly said he was planning to play college football, which left the Dodgers open to much criticism after they used their top draft pick on a player who had already enrolled in school and showed little interest in baseball.
Lee’s decision vindicates the Dodgers organization and McCourt ,who sources say had been pushing hard to sign the 18-year-old prospect. If he matures rapidly, Lee could make the major leagues in as little as two years.
Those who follow baseball closely can understand the Dodgers’ gamble on Lee, as their team payroll has slipped from $110 million in 2008 to just $90 million in 2010, and their pitching roster is looking pretty thin, especially at the minor-league level. The only two starting pitchers of note on their roster right now are Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley. Furthermore, the Dodgers also surprisingly signed two other good prospects they managed to pick up earlier this summer with later round draft picks because they were expected to play football.
This year’s activity in the amateur draft by the Dodgers puts to rest the insinuations of many in the MLB that they were not willing to pay the price to get top talent through the draft.