Is Derrek Lee an Upgrade?

Last night I saw an update flash by on Twitter that Derrek Lee had hit his 12th homer of the year.  My first thought was “that can’t be right, last time I looked he had four homers on the year”.  Then I took another look at Lee, my first since mid-June.

On June 17th, Lee went 5-for-5 at the plate.  From June 17th to now, Lee has a .294/.331/.538 line with eight homers in 143 at-bats.  If Lee is starting to heat up for a big second half run, it wouldn’t be anything we haven’t seen before.  Last year Lee started off slow, with a .233/.329/.366 line in 322 at-bats in the first half.  In the second half he posted a strong .298/.373/.516 line. We’re seeing the same thing so far this year.  Lee started off with a .235/.294/.372 line in 277 at-bats in the first half of the 2011 season.  So far in the second half he’s hitting for a .321/.368/.604 line in 53 at-bats.

The problem Pirates fans might have is this:

Player A: .248/.306/.409 in 330 AB

Player B: .228/.301/.343 in 347 AB

The Orioles are looking to trade Lee for salary relief.

Player A looks like he has better numbers, but the difference isn’t significant.  It’s a bit more power, and 20 points higher in average, with an overall bad average.  Player A is Lee.  Player B is Lyle Overbay.  That’s what you see when you look at their overall numbers: two very similar first basemen, with Lee only serving as a slight upgrade.  But as shown above, when you break it down, Lee is trending upward.  He’s hitting well lately, he’s got a recent history of strong second half success, and if you’re in to that sort of thing, and feel it makes a difference, he’s got a World Series ring from the 2002 Marlins.  He also has better defense than Overbay, which would be a help, since Overbay has been disappointing in that area this year.

The Baltimore Orioles just traded relief pitcher Koji Uehara to the Texas Rangers for first baseman Chris Davis and right handed pitcher Tommy Hunter.  According to Jenifer Langosch, the Orioles are now looking to move Lee as soon as they can, and are mostly looking for salary relief.  We heard earlier today that the Pirates are unsure that Lee is an upgrade.  Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that Lee came out of the opener of today’s double header in the 8th inning and isn’t in game two.

I’ve been on the Carlos Pena bandwagon for over a month now for two big reasons.  The first reason is that he would provide the Pirates with an upgrade at a weak position.  The second reason is that he would come cheap, in theory, due to his large salary (it’s now looking like the Cubs will just hold on to him).  Baltimore is now looking to deal Lee, looking for salary relief.  That’s a move the Pirates need to go for.  We’ve heard that they’re not sure he’s an upgrade.  Looking at the overall numbers, he doesn’t look like an upgrade.  However, digging deeper, we see that he could provide the Pirates with a strong second half effort, which would clearly be an upgrade from Overbay.

For years we saw Adam LaRoche in Pittsburgh putting up poor first halves, then taking off in the second half when the Pirates were out of contention.  Now the Pirates are contenders and could use a guy who is capable of a monster second half.  That could be Lee, based on his 2010 history, and based on his performance over the last month and a half.  The Orioles seem set to trade him.  The Pirates need to take advantage, because he is an upgrade.

Enjoy this story? Pirates Prospects will be switching to a subscription site on 4/13, so that we can continue bringing you the best Pirates coverage there is. For a very small monthly price, you can continue getting articles like this, along with coverage from every minor league city. Get more information here, and subscribe today!

Share This Article

Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

Pirates Talking With Athletics

Next Story »

Pirates Should Be Shopping Paul Maholm

  • Nate

    I see your point on Player A/B but there is absolutely nothing to suggest Overbay is about to turn it on in the second half.

  • Jimmy Cali

    Yeah not saying your logic might not be right but the fans deserve someone else than Overbay at first.  Besides we didn’t give up anything to go get him.  

    The scary thing is that he puts up a great 2nd half and the Bucs decide to give him a multi year deal.   Then it would be disaster.

Latest Analysis

  • Alen Hanson f

    Pirates Talk With David Todd: Hanson, Ramirez, Taillon, Kingham, Richard, Worley

    2 hours ago

    I was on 970 ESPN in Pittsburgh this afternoon for my weekly segment with David Todd. The podcast can be heard below. Here is a summary of ...

    Read More
  • Billy Roth is the top prospect in Bristol this year.

    Another Projectable Prep Pitcher Sees An Increase in His Velocity

    8 hours ago

    When discussing the best Pittsburgh Pirates draft under Neal Huntington, the 2011 group has to be at the top of the list. It features Gerrit Cole, Tyler ...

    Read More
  • Arquimedes Caminero

    Breaking Down the Final Pirates Roster Battles After Today’s Cuts

    2 days ago

    With less than a week remaining in camp, the Pittsburgh Pirates made their latest round of cuts this morning, sending three relievers to minor league camp, including ...

    Read More
  • Keller Supak Hinsz

    Even With the New Draft Rules, the Pirates Are Still Loading Up on Projectable Pitchers

    3 days ago

    From 2008-2011, the Pittsburgh Pirates spent a lot of resources on projectable pitchers out of high school. So far, this approach has led to breakout performances from ...

    Read More
  • Josh Bell made the move to first base over the off-season. (Photo credit: David Hague)

    Why Should You Care About Prospects?

    5 days ago

    Yesterday I had a shorter day than usual. The Pirates had cuts at the MLB level, and a road game. The day was shortened at Pirate City, ...

    Read More
  • Gregory Polanco

    Q&A: Trading Prospects For Rentals, Polanco Concerns, Meadows vs Appel

    5 days ago

    I missed the Q&A last week due to a common problem in Spring Training: I forgot what day it was. It was around 6:00 that I was ...

    Read More
  • Nick Kingham f

    Improving His Two-Seam Fastball will Make Nick Kingham a More Effective Pitcher

    7 days ago

    With Jameson Taillon returning from Tommy John surgery, and unlikely to make an impact at the Major League level early in the year, the top prospect to ...

    Read More
  • Arquimedes Caminero 3

    The Roster Situations That Could Impact the Makeup of the Pirates Bullpen

    1 week ago

    There are less than two weeks remaining in Spring Training, and the one area where the Pittsburgh Pirates had actual position battles is heating up. There were ...

    Read More
  • Jordan Luplow

    How the Pirates are Trying to Stay Ahead of the Curve With the New Draft Rules

    1 week ago

    The 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement brought a lot of changes to Major League Baseball. The biggest change for the Pittsburgh Pirates came in the draft. From 2008-2011, ...

    Read More
  • Alen Hanson

    The Key For Alen Hanson to Help the Pirates in the Majors This Year

    1 week ago

    When the Pittsburgh Pirates moved Alen Hanson to second base last year, part of the plan was to get him to the majors faster by putting him at ...

    Read More
  • Browse More Articles