The Houston Astros drafted Maryland shortstop A.J. Lee in the 34th round on Wednesday. Lee is the second player drafted in the 2019 MLB Draft, after the Mets took Hunter Parsons in the 19th round.
A three-year starting infielder for the Terps, Lee’s final season at Maryland marked a comeback after a lackluster junior campaign. The Millersville, Maryland, native joined the Terps after receiving numerous accolades for his performance at St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C., including being named the Washington D.C. Gatorade Player of the Year both his junior and senior seasons
Though Lee played shortstop in high school, both positions on the left side of the Terps’ infield were filled by older, more experienced players during Lee’s freshman season. Lee only got 29 at-bats that year, as the infielder bided his time waiting for a spot to open.
After Lee’s freshman season, a spot opened up at third base and he made the transition to the hot corner, as former Terps Kevin Smith still occupied shortstop. As a sophomore Lee slashed .307/.389/.474 and found unexpected power, finishing with eight home runs, the third most on the team. In addition to his strength in the box, Lee provided the Terps with speed on the base paths and stole 15 bases in his 59 games played.
When the Toronto Blue Jays drafted Smith in 2017, it enabled Lee to finish his tenure at Maryland back in his high school position. Though Lee hit a slump after his breakout sophomore campaign and struggled at the plate during his junior season, the shortstop stayed consistent with his ability to get on base, working a .375 OBP and stealing 12 bases. As a junior Lee batted only .232 with one home run, but notched 47 hits in his 54 starts.
Lee proved his junior year slump was a fluke with what became an outstanding senior campaign. Though the shortstop struggled at the start of the 2019 season, batting only .148 in eight games before an ankle injury benched Lee for seven games, the senior bounced back and finished the season with a team-high .317 batting average and .443 OBP.
Lee capped his final regular season as a Terp with Maryland’s first walk-off win of the year, when the senior sent a two-run bomb to left field for the Terps’ 8-6 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes on May 16. His walk-off homer set the tone for the rest of the series, Maryland’s first sweep against a Big Ten opponent on the year, and helped propel the Terps to their No. 6 seeding in the conference tournament.
After that weekend, the Big Ten named Lee Player of the Week, his first time receiving the honor.
With his comeback senior year, Lee showed the Astros that he has the power at the plate, speed on the base paths and agility on defense to make a worthwhile draft pick.