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LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers made Texas high school right-hander Zach Lee their first selection in baseball's annual amateur draft on Monday, taking him with the 28th overall pick. There is a question, though, as to whether the Dodgers can sign Lee, who won 11 games, posted a 2.15 ERA and struck out 90 batters as a senior at McKinney High this spring.
Lee, a quarterback, already has signed a football letter of intent to attend Louisiana State University, where he presumably would be part of one of the nation's premier college baseball programs, as well.
That is a fact Lee, who is being advised by Houston-based agents Alan and Randy Hendricks, is almost certain to use as leverage in any negotiations with the Dodgers. It also was probably a big reason why Lee was still available that late in the first round.
Although officials from major league clubs aren't really supposed to refer to baseball's "slotting" system by name -- the system by which the league sets recommended parameters before the draft as to what each selection should receive in terms of a signing bonus -- Logan White, the Dodgers' assistant general manager for scouting, acknowledged that Lee is in line to get more than a 28th overall pick normally would.
"These are unusual circumstances,'' White said. "I can only say that I am optimistic we will sign him. ... [But] I can't sit here and tell you that we're going to sign him. It will really be Zach's decision and his family's decision. But we feel confident that once he and his family are able to get a good look at what this organization is all about, we'll have a good chance to get him.''
White said Lee's fastball has been clocked anywhere between 89-95 mph and routinely hits 93 and that he already has a plus changeup and curveball to go with it.
"One thing I will tell you is that he is quite an athlete,'' White said. "One thing we liked was his athleticism, his size and his strength. He is tall and has a very good delivery, just easy, easy arm action. He is a strike thrower, and he knows how to change speeds. He has a great feel for pitching. He doesn't just try to blow it by everybody, even though he has that ability. It's a chess game for him because he is very competitive.''
White said Lee plans to follow through with his plans to participate in LSU's summer football workouts, so an agreement with the Dodgers probably isn't imminent. White wouldn't rule out an agreement that would allow Lee to play football at LSU while playing baseball professionally in the Dodgers' system, but it also didn't sound like the kind of agreement White is eager to enter into.
"I wouldn't rule anything out, but I just feel like if we can get him into our organization, he is going to be [in the majors] pretty fast,'' White said.
Lee becomes the sixth high school pitcher the Dodgers have taken with their first pick in nine drafts White. He also is the fourth pitcher from Texas the Dodgers have taken with their first pick in the past five years, joining Clayton Kershaw (Highland Park High School) in 2006, Chris Withrow (Midland Christian) in 2007 and Aaron Miller (Channelview High and Baylor University) in 2009.
Like Kershaw and Withrow, Lee was recommended by Calvin Jones, the Dodgers' longtime Dallas-based area scout.Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.