Adjusting to new surroundings, Tigers’ new top prospect begins path to Detroit in West Michigan

Hao-Yu Lee

West Michigan Whitecaps' second baseman Hao-Yu Lee jogs off the field during a game against the Lake County Captains on August 4, 2023 (Photo Credit: West Michigan Whitecaps)


COMSTOCK PARK -- He might be the newest face in the West Michigan Whitecaps’ lineup, but everyone around the team, and the Detroit Tigers’ system, is excited to see what Hao-Yu Lee has to offer.

Lee came to the Tigers in the Aug. 1 trade that sent pitcher Michael Lorenzen to the Philadelphia Phillies in a one-for-one deal. The trade to Detroit was fitting, as the first Major League game that Lee attended featured the Tigers taking on the Los Angeles Dodgers at Comerica Park in 2014.

The talented middle infielder from Taiwan admitted he was surprised to be on the move.

“It was the first time I was traded in my career,” Lee, speaking through a translator, told the media on Aug. 3. “I have a very storied career, but I understand this is a process.”

As just the third Taiwanese player in the history of the Tigers’ system, Lee says his move to America right out of college made the cultural change smoother than expected. He also said that he is not the most vocal player, letting his work on the field do the talking.

“I’m going to continue to be myself, continue to work on myself, do great on defense, great during practice as well.”

Hao-Yu Lee

West Michigan Whitecaps' second baseman Hao-Yu Lee gets set for a pitch during a game against the Lake County Captains on August 4, 2023 (Photo Credit: West Michigan Whitecaps)

Prior to the trade, the 20-year-old was the sixth-ranked top prospect in the Phils system, and was the franchise’s Organization All-Star last season. With Single-A Clearwater, Lee was a Low Class-A All-Star, hitting .283 with 50 RBIs in 68 games. He did miss time in May due to injury, but returned to have similar numbers in the South Atlantic League with High-A Jacksonville, again hitting .283, with a .773 OPS in 64 games.

A, Lee was immediately named the No. 8 Tigers’ prospect, joining the ranks of current Whitecap teammates Troy Melton and Jackson Jobe. He has made an immediate impact, both in the batter’s box and in the field. With solid footwork and a decent arm, Lee is projected to head to the majors as a second baseman, giving the Tigers more organizational depth up the middle.

Lee says his play with his glove is something he has worked on over the past couple of years.

“I know my defense wasn’t my strong suit,” Lee confirmed. “That has been the focus this year.”

Despite his position on defense, Lee has some pop in his bat. Over the first season and a half with the Phillies’ farm system, he hit 14 home runs, and hit his first home run with his new team on Aug. 10 against the Great Lakes Loons.

So far with the ‘Caps, he is batting .214 in eight games with three RBIs. He did have to leave the fifth game of the series against the Loons on Saturday night with an apparent leg injury, but is considered day-to-day.

Lee and the Whitecaps return home this week, hosting the South Bend Cubs in a six-game set, beginning on Tuesday.

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