MLB Draft: Oakland's Jake Lee among locals selected

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Right-hander Jake Lee of Oakland University was drafted in the ninth round by the Los Angeles Angels.

There were 14 players from Michigan colleges selected in the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft — and, yes, we'll be generous and include "third baseman" Shea Patterson from Michigan on that list.

The first, though, didn't come from a Power Five school, but rather Oakland University.

Right-hander Jake Lee was a ninth-round pick by the Los Angeles Angels, given the Golden Grizzlies top-10-round picks in consecutive seasons, after slugger Zach Sterry was drafted in the eighth round by the Boston Red Sox in 2017.

"It's definitely a big thing, Zach going in the eighth round kind of paved the way," Lee said Tuesday night. "Being from a small school, just proving you belong with the guys from the big schools, I think I did that."

Lee, who turns 23 later this month, isn't a name you've heard about for very long, or ever, really.

So we'll fill you in. He went to Milford High School, then spent a year at Hillsdale College before transferring to Oakland, where he's spent his past three seasons.

He wasn't drafted after his junior year, despite averaging a strikeout an inning.

The Angels took notice this year, after his strikeouts jumped even more. This past season for the Golden Grizzlies, Lee averaged nearly 1.5 strikeouts an inning, with 112 in 75⅓ innings. He was fourth in the country in K's per nine innings. The 112 K's set a program record. He was 7-4 with a 4.54 ERA.

Lee attributed the strikeout boost to an increase in velocity — he added about four miles-per-hour on his fastball, which now runs from 91 to 94, and has gotten up to 97. And he attributed that steep increase in velocity to a strong workout regimen, plus being healthy. The past couple years, he's fought through nagging injuries, including hip and legs. Little secret: Power comes from the legs, not the arm.

"Last year," said Lee, "I was 87 to 90 on a good day."

Lee also throws a change-up, his best off-speed pitch; an above-average slider; and a curveball that he admits is more of a "get-me-over" pitch.

Lee spent Day 2 of the MLB Draft with some family and friends, getting word early in the day from his adviser that he was likely to get picked. More were to come over later, for a night-time party.

It was an exciting day to be sure, even though unlike other picks taken in the top 10 rounds — including Detroit Western right-hander William English, who went in the fifth round, also the Angels — there's no big financial boon coming his way.

As a redshirt senior, he has little to no negotiating power. The Angels could offer an Olive Garden gift card, and he'd probably have to take it.

"My adviser's trying," said Lee, laughing, "but you have no leverage."

Still, a professional baseball career awaits.

And that ain't all bad, at all.


Local players taken in MLB Draft

■ Fifth round (151st pick): William English, RHP, Detroit Western, Angels

■ Ninth (271): Jake Lee, RHP, Oakland, Angels

■ 14th (426): Will Tribucher, LHP, Michigan, Rockies

■ 14th (428): Riley McCauley, RHP, Michigan State, Cubs

■ 15th (453): Mike Brettell, RHP, Central Michigan, Cardinals

■ 18th (539): Grant Wolfram, LHP, Davenport, Rangers

■ 20th (593): Max Schuemann, 2B, Eastern Michigan, A's

■ 20th (599): Nicolas Laio, RHP, Western Michigan, Rangers

■ 25th (749): Josh Smith, LHP, Grand Valley State, Rangers

25th (751): Dazon Cole, RHP, Central Michigan, Angels

■ 29th (884): Daniel Robinson, OF, Central Michigan, Dodgers

■ 30th (885): Jared Tobey, LHP, Wayne State, Tigers

■ 30th (913): Connor Smith, SS, Western Michigan, Indians

■ 31st (943): Jonathan Engelmann, RF, Michigan, Indians

■ 33rd (978): Bryce Bush, 3B, Warren De La Salle HS, White Sox

■ 34th (1,033): Spencer Schwellenbach, RHP, Saginaw Heritage HS, Indians

■ 39th (1,169): Shea Patterson, 3B, Michigan, Rangers