2022 Braves Player Review: Dylan Lee

Dylan Lee is a good middle reliever, and a great baseball story. He was “the first pitcher in history to make his first big league start in a World Series game,” though that’s not really fair, and it’s only slightly accurate: he was being used as an opener, which is just an early-inning middle reliever. A year later, Lee spent the full season with the club, and he was a mid- to late-inning middle reliever. A very effective one, actually, with a sparkling 5.9 K/BB ratio and a 2.13 ERA.

Not a bad rookie campaign for a 10th-round draft pick who the previous year had gotten cut in March by the woeful Marlins, then picked up by the Braves in April and thrown into the fire for a World Series cup of coffee in October, and earning a ring after throwing only two regular season innings prior to 2022.

So, again, great story. But how good a pitcher is he?

His Statcast page is quite underwhelming: 29th percentile in fastball velo (of course, his average fastball is still 92.2 mph, and when you and I were growing up, that was considered pretty good; times have changed, kiddos), and 56th percentile in fastball spin. And he only has one other main offering, a slider that averages 83.8 mph; every once in a while, he’ll feature a changeup, but it’s a little faster than his slider and he throws it about as frequently as Spencer Strider.

But you’re not going to tick off too many managers if all you do is show up and throw strikes, and that’s what Lee has done since Alex Anthopoulos picked him up. While he typically posted a BB/9 around 3.0 in the Marlins system, Lee posted a BB/9 of 1.2 in Gwinnett in 2021, and 1.8 in Atlanta in 2022. A reliever who doesn’t give out free passes is a skipper’s best friend.

Though, actually, what he throws aren’t strikes, exactly: they’re pitches batters swing at. Though Lee never walks anybody, fewer than half of the pitches he throws are strikes. Statcast reveals that he makes his money exactly where he has to: the shadow zone, the edge of the zone, where about half the pitches are called balls and half are called strikes. Nearly all of his effectiveness is here, and nearly none of it is in the heart of the plate.

That’s a contrast to, say, another two-pitch pitcher the Braves have. Spencer Strider gets nearly as many outs in the heart of the zone as he does in the shadow. Given the difference in stuff, Lee is exactly where he needs to be.

Of course, we only have a single season’s data to go on, and it’s hard to predict that Lee will be able to keep this up. In small ways, he’s fairly certain to regress: his ERA won’t be 2.10 again, his strand rate was probably a little too lucky, and perhaps his BABIP was too, not to mention the unknown of how he and all the pitchers will be affected by losing both Dansby Swanson and defensive overshifting.

But it’s easy to root for a late-round draft pick who is getting the most out of his ability, and who comes out of the pen and just doesn’t walk anybody.

Who were the five greatest left-handed middle relievers in the Atlanta Braves bullpen in 2022? Dylan, Dylan, Dylan, Dylan, and Dylan.

18 thoughts on “2022 Braves Player Review: Dylan Lee”

  1. Thank you Mr. Remington.

    Although it is only “suggestive” and not “determinative,” ZIPS team projections are up today on Fangraphs and Braves are projected to win 96, Mets 84. The next best wins number of anybody is 91. That is a pure computer analysis. So, to say “oh, we desperately need to make a big move,” seems quite overstated.

  2. I think that was an article from 11/23. I wouldn’t think the Braves number would change much, but the Mets have done a ton since then.

  3. @ 3, unfortunately correct. I saw several “retrospective” articles, but they all said “2022” in the title. I did not notice the date.

  4. I predict the Mets with 0 wins and the Braves with 162.

    It is possible that the Mets will beat the Phillies in a game or two, though, so I’m prepared to be wrong.

  5. @5 – I’m predicting that the entire Mets roster goes on the IL and their team is filled with A, AA, and AAA players. In a surprise move, Chris Johnson and Chris Reitsma come out of retirement and are signed by the Mets. Both players play major roles in their final win, pushing them over the 50 win threshold. Reitsma pitches 3 scoreless innings in relief and Johnson hits a homerun in the bottom of the 15th to win the game. After the game, both are named co-managers for the 2024 season.

  6. Chris Reitsma, three scoreless innings in relief? He couldn’t do that when he was in his 20s!

  7. He’d be a good add, but I can’t imagine a package that makes sense for him unless the Padres are in love with Ian Anderson or Bryce Elder or something.

  8. The trade simulator didn’t value Kim very high. Bryce Elder and a small piece would get Kim. Or d’Arnaud and a small piece. I would definitely do a deal involving Elder.

  9. Considering how many teams still could stand to upgrade at shortstop or second base (aside from the Braves, the Twins, Dodgers, Red Sox, possibly the Yankees) and how the Padres are under no obligation or pressure to trade Ha (I wouldn’t if I were them unless someone went out on a limb), I have to figure they can do better than Elder and a small piece, even if by some objective measure it’s a fair exchange.

  10. @13 Yeah, I agree with that. It seemed really low.

    Other interesting notes about my perusal through the trade simulator thingy:

    -Matt Olson has significant negative trade value (-32). That’s one of the lowest numbers I’ve seen. Of course, that changes very quickly if Olson has a season more in line with his career averages than last year’s performance.
    -Sean Murphy now has significant positive trade value (like 62 or something huge?). For all you people poopoo’ing both the trade and the extension, AA had to have known he was going to sign such a team friendly extension.

    I also wonder if AA is getting a little smarter about the optics of the long-term deals. Ozzie’s, of course, is so widely criticized as straight-up stealing money. But I’d say there’s just as much “money stealing” with Murphy, but $73M for a catcher looks a whole lot better than $35M for a young, flashy, exciting second baseman. If the optics are bad, then players may be less apt to trust AA.

  11. He has an extremely long contract that pays him basically market value, plays low on the defensive spectrum, is a non-elite bat, and is not particularly young. All factors that count against you when people are trying to create standardized measurements of trade value.

    It should be noted that most “win now” type players are going to score low on these kinds of measurements, but that tends not to matter (at least in the short term), because their teams are trying to use them to win, not maximize the amount they can get for them in trades.

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