Lee has Major dreams after a superb first half in JapanNever lose faith in the man you have officially backed.
Sometime earlier this year, I wrote that Lee Seung-yeop, who plays first base for the Yomiuri Giants and bats fourth, would need about 40 home runs and a .280 batting average to garner some interest from the Major Leagues.
After finishing the first half of his third season in Japan, Lee led the Japanese league in home runs with 29 and had a batting average of .323 (third overall). He had 64 runs batted in and 109 hits. So far, his numbers make an interesting case for the Major League scouts who once shunned him.
I have always said that Lee has the potential to be successful under any circumstances, whether in Japan or in the United States, if he gets enough time to adjust himself to a new system.
When Lee played for the Chiba Lotte Marines last year, he had to play under a platoon system, which robbed him of time at the plate and hurt his numbers: He finished with 14 home runs and a .240 batting average. In addition, it was his first time in Japan.
But this season it’s different.
Playing for the Yomiuri Giants should be no easy task. The Giants are a symbol of Japanese baseball and there is a lot of pressure involved, especially if you are at the heart of the batting order as a foreigner. Manager Tatsunori Hara has shown patience with Lee, keeping him in the line up even when he failed to produce.
What’s even more encouraging is that the left-handed Lee is batting .344 as of Wednesday against southpaws, playing full time, when last year he hardly ever played against lefties.
Personally, I think Lee’s time in Japan will become a great asset for him if he gets to the Majors. Japan’s pitchers throw with finesse, in and out of the strike zone. As Lee said in his own words, in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, the pitches he is seeing in Japan have a lot of movement, which has given him a chance to develop his “eye.”
At the age of 30, Lee is in his prime and he has plenty left. Kim Sung-geun, an assistant coach of Chiba Lotte, said Lee is about to begin to blossom into a great player with outstanding swing mechanics.
Lee has played well even though his team has not ― it is in the cellar of the Central League. Imagine what would happen once the rest of the lineup picks up their bats. Lee’s numbers could get even better.
Three years ago, Lee thought he didn’t get the respect he deserved from the Major Leagues. None of the teams he contacted was willing to shell out the money he expected and guarantee him a spot in the lineup.
Before the season even started, Lee made a name for himself by belting five home runs for Korea in the World Baseball Classic. And when this season is over, the Giants are expected to bid the whole farm to ink Lee to a deal. However, his aspirations to play in the Majors are known. There shouldn’t be any doubt he can play anywhere.
by Brian Lee
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