Twins

The Twins Shouldn't Rush Brooks Lee

Photo Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Trying to tell Minnesota Twins fans to calm down during a team-wide slump is about as fruitful as throwing water on a grease fire. It can often be just as explosive. Frustrations mount when there are five or six players in the starting lineup on any given day who are battling a seemingly endless dry spell. The process gets drowned out by the deafening shriek of a losing streak.

It’s a spot that nobody wants to be in, from the players, to the front office, to bloggers and most notably, the passionate fanbase. The Twins faithful want to see improvement, by any means necessary. An often-used theory is that the next top prospect could be the one who fixes it all. While that is a possibility, it’s never the certainty that many people seem to think it is. But the math in their heads revolves around the fact that the current crop isn’t working, therefore, anything would be better. And if it’s not better, at least it’s different, and it couldn’t possibly be worse.

So in the midst of the lineup’s recent struggles to score runs, the newest idea that’s being shouted into the cursed halls of the Twins Twittersphere is that the club’s top prospect, Brooks Lee, should come up and ignite the club’s ice-cold bats. Our own CJ Baumgartner did a deep dive earlier this week, saying now is the time to put up the bat signal and get the promising switch-hitter up to Target Field. He made a great case, arguing that Lee is ready based on his advanced bat out of college and he spent significant time in big-league camp this spring.

But what are fans really asking for at that point? And why does this all feel so familiar, yet when asked to list the times when this path has actually worked well for the club and player alike, they mostly draw a blank?

Make no mistake, Lee is a tantalizing prospect who looks like he has the talent and character to be something truly special when he makes his way to the big leagues. But suggesting he has the ability to change the entire team’s misfortune with an instant promotion is probably misguided at best, and desperate at worst.

But desperate times call for desperate measures, and it’s hard not to feel the desperation after the club repeatedly fails to cash in with runners on base. So why do people think Lee can be a difference-maker?

Last year’s first-round pick has made an excellent first impression in his short professional career. In 31 games spread across three levels in 2022, the star shortstop out of Cal Poly had an encouraging .303/.389/.451 slash line with four home runs. There’s a lot to like when it comes to his high baseball IQ and his knack for the game’s intangibles. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the No. 26 prospect in the game, lauding his big bat and strong infield defense.

“The switch-hitter has as good contact skills as anyone in the minors,” they said in his scouting report. “He is capable of driving the ball from both sides of the plate and clearly has no problem doing so with a wood bat. He’s added strength over time, and there should be plenty of in-game power as a result.”

That’s high-praise for Minnesota’s top prospect. He’s clearly building momentum toward a promotion in the not-too-distant future. And while he’s drawn solid marks as a shortstop, there’s a belief that a future at the hot corner.

“There was concern that Lee would have to move off of shortstop as a pro because of that increased physicality, but the Twins think he has a chance to stick there because of plus instincts, excellent hands and an arm that approaches plus,” they said. “If he does move to third, he could be a Gold Glover there and his advanced bat could get to Minnesota in a hurry.”

So of course fans are rubbing their hands and licking their chops like a cartoon dog that’s drooling over a pie cooling on a windowsill. Lee looks like a generational talent, and that is tempting to a growing generation of trophy-less fans.

The want is surely there among fans, and the need for a third baseman is felt now more than ever with Jose Miranda’s recent demotion. Still, I’d still throw caution to the idea of plugging Lee into the MLB lineup just to shake the branches. A shakeup almost always causes some of the branches to fall, and fans might not like what ends up hitting the ground.

The best-case scenario is that Lee comes up, is an instant boon to the lineup and hits the ground running with his MLB career. But there are many more stories of hopeful lineup saviors that can’t keep up, and it stunts their development considerably. We’ve seen top prospects scuffle when rushed to the major leagues before, and the organization can’t afford to do that with their top guy. They are better off spending the next month with Kyle Farmer getting the bulk of third base duties until Royce Lewis‘ rehab assignment is complete.

Lee will be up relatively soon, whether that’s later this season or early next year. When that happens, it should be because he is ready, healthy and developed to a point where he can become a fixture in the clubhouse. He can’t be a fire blanket to put over the raging inferno of a grease fire that is the Twins lineup during an extended slump.

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