Cubs Patient, Excited With Hak-Ju Lee's Progress
CHICAGO—Hak-Ju Lee is hitting .333 in major league ballparks.
But he still has a few years to go before he plays in a major league game.
Lee enjoyed a five-day stretch in which he played in two major league parks. On July 7, the 19-year-old shortstop from Korea went 1-for-4 to help low Class A Peoria beat Kane County 5-2 in the third annual Road to Wrigley game at Wrigley Field.
"Playing at Wrigley Field is exciting," he said. "I want to come back here."
On July 11, he played in another major league park, Angel Stadium, and he came off the bench to go 1-for-2 for the World team in a 9-1 loss to the United States in the Futures Game.
Lee was signed as a 17-year-old in 2008 but missed that season with Tommy John surgery. In 2009, he hit .330/.399/.420 in 264 at-bats with 25 stolen bases with short-season Boise. This year, he was hitting .265/.334/.332 in 303 at-bats with 21 steals for the Chiefs.
"He's 19 years old and when he left Korea a couple of years ago, he couldn't tell you 'Hi' (in English)," farm director Oneri Fleita said. "Now you look at how he can compose himself pretty well. He learned the English language, and boy he's had a nice first half of the season on the field. You top that off by going to the Futures Game. He's really put himself on a real fast track."
Despite 23 errors, his range has Cubs officials excited. Lee still has work to do on his hitting (he struck out 50 times in 72 games) but the Cubs will be patient with his progress.
"His defense is his strength and you want to keep it that way," Fleita said. "You want to see him aggressive, come get all the balls and make the routine plays look routine. Everything else will fall into place. When you play everyday you learn a little bit about yourself. You go into slumps but you figure ways to get out of them. When you can run like he can run, there is no reason to have any prolonged slumps."
• The Road To Wrigley game drew just 8,994 fans. Two years ago, the same two teams drew 32,103, which was the largest crowd in Midwest League history. That 2008 edition had the extra drawing card of former Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg returning to Wrigley as manager of the Chiefs.
• The Cubs' 2009 first-round pick, outfielder Brett Jackson, went 0-for-1 with a walk for the United States in the Futures Game.