Preseason Countdown No. 25: 2019 Offensive MVP


After a dominant senior season at Maryland, shortstop A.J. Lee was drafted in the 34th round of the MLB Draft–a reward for his rebound from a slow start and early-season injury with the Terps.

Lee’s dominant senior season marked a comeback from his lackluster junior campaign, when he slashed .232/.375/.396. In 2019 Lee finished as the only player batting over .300, batting .317 with a .940 OPS and a team-high .443 on-base percentage, making him the Terps’ most valuable hitter.

The season didn’t start off well for Lee, however. Through the Terps’ first eight games, Lee hit .148 with a .314 on-base percentage and only two RBI.

But when an ankle injury on March 1 forced Lee to miss eight games, the senior refocused and came back stronger. In his first eight games back Lee batted .320 and reached base 50% of the time. He also tallied seven RBI in that stretch–more than three times as many as his first eight games.

While Lee’s power and approach at the plate may have re-emerged–his final stats a marked improvement from those of his junior campaign–his ability to get on base remained one of the shortstop’s assets.

As a senior, Lee led the team in walks for the second year in a row (29, tied with Taylor Wright and Randy Bednar) and worked 16 hit-by-pitches.

Lee also tallied more than three times as many RBI in 2019 as he had in 2018 (from 11 RBI to 36 RBI).

Included in that statistic is, arguably, the most memorable moment of Lee’s career: his two-run walk-off home run against Iowa in the Terps’ last series opener of 2019, their first walk off of the season and the best bat flip of the year.

“I had a pretty good idea [it was going out],” Lee said. “But [the bat flip] was just out of pure excitement. I knew pretty much it was going to be gone.”

“Regardless of what happens in the next two days,” head coach Rob Vaughn said, “that’s a moment that that young man’s never going to forget. [Lee] deserves it.”

His performance in 2019 earned Lee 2019 All-Big Ten Third Team honors. Lee also earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors after his dominance in the final week of the regular season, when he batted .588 in four games (10-for-17) with three home runs, two doubles and six RBI. He also worked two walks and stole two bases, crossing the plate eight times in those four Maryland victories.

After the Houston Astros drafted Lee in the 34th round of the 2019 MLB Draft, he spent time in both high-A and low-A, where he hit a combined five homers.