Rays Eager To See Hak-Ju Lee

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — Hak-Ju Lee's introduction to the Rays didn't go well, as he was expected to be sidelined for the first couple weeks of the Florida State League season due to the chicken pox.

But once he gets on the field , the Rays figure to feel pretty good about what they see.

Lee was a key piece of the haul in the trade that sent Matt Garza to the Cubs, giving the Rays at the least an additional shortstop of the future and, potentially, an alternative if Tim Beckham doesn't overcome his slow pro start and live up to projections.

"A lot of people read into it that it meant we didn't think Tim Beckham was a shortstop, and that's absolutely not the case,'' Rays general manager Andrew Friedman said. "But if you're going to be rich somewhere, you absolutely want it to be at shortstop." 

Lee, 20, has the potential to be a game-changer, combining a slick glove, tremendous speed and a knack to play "small-ball" despite not picking up baseball until 11 in his native South Korea.

Two of his former teammates, who were also part of the deal, rave about what they've seen:

Said outfielder Brandon Guyer: "He's just fast; he flies. Good arm, good hitter. He can do everything. He's a good one, man. Definitely keep your eye out for him; he can play."

And righthander Chris Archer: "He plays his game. He bunts, he hits the ball on the ground and he can fly. His hands are nice, his range is unbelievable."

The Rays are going to be excited to see Lee in game action for themselves.

"He's got some very interesting attributes," Friedman said. "Really good contact-ability, really good line-drive approach, works a count well, and is a plus-plus runner and above-average defensive shortstop. With that profile, he has a chance to really impact a major league team one day."


• Righthander Mike Ekstrom, who entered spring training with a chance to win a job in the big-league bullpen, was designated for assignment as the Rays added veteran infielder Felipe Lopez to the roster following Evan Longoria's injury. Ekstrom cleared waivers and re-joined Durham.

• Archer and lefthander Matt Moore, two of the Rays top young pitching prospects, were both assigned to Double-A Montgomery, giving the Biscuits one of the most talented 1-2 combos in the minors.