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2024 CPL No. 0.5 — To Jung-hoo Lee or not to Jung-hoo Lee?

A brief detour on our prospect ranking

Jung-hoo Lee in his backswing. Photo by Han Myung-Gu/Getty Images

On Monday, we kicked off the latest annual installment of the Willie McCovey Memorial Community Prospect List, in which we rank the top 44 prospects in the San Francisco Giants organization. We began by nominating prospects to be in contention for the coveted title of “top prospect,” a label that Kyle Harrison hopes to hold onto for a second year.

And then we got a curveball (a curveball that was slapped the other way for a single, I might add). On Tuesday, the Giants made easily their largest free agent signing in the Farhan Zaidi era, inking KBO center fielder Jung-hoo Lee to a six-year deal worth $113 million, with nearly $20 million added in posting fees.

My initial thought was that Lee should not be included in the CPL, but I got a fair amount of pushback on that when I mentioned it in Monday’s article. And I agree with most of that pushback, and I think I’ve changed my mind. But this is a community project — I’m just the one with the byline on it. So I want to spend today’s CPL chapter discussing whether or not Lee should be included in this project. And on Friday, we’ll vote on the No. 1 prospect in the system — which Lee may or may not be eligible for.

Stump one way or the other in the comments, but here are the primary reasons each way, as I see them.

Reasons to include Lee in the CPL:

  • He is, by the league’s definition, a prospect. He has full rookie eligibility, which makes him a prospect.
  • See the above point. That’s pretty important.
  • He is, like everyone else on the list, an unproven MLB player.
  • It opens the door for some really fun discussions about how we value ceiling vs. floor, and also how we value proximity. Most people will probably feel that Lee doesn’t have the ceiling that some of the Giants prospects do. But he’s guaranteed to be a part of the roster and will almost surely provide decent value. How do we rank that?
  • It will seem odd if Lee wins Rookie of the Year after not being on our list of prospect rankings.

Reasons not to include Lee in the CPL:

  • While technically a prospect, it feels like a disingenuous title — or, to borrow a phrase that our sister site used when facing this issue with Kodai Senga, “frankly a bit insulting.” Lee signed a Major League contract in free agency. He is not subject to arbitration or pre-arbitration. He will not be slotted into a Minor League affiliate. You won’t hear Kyle Haines talk about him. If you’re making a list of all the players in the Giants system and grouping them into buckets, Lee is with the Thairo Estradas and Logan Webbs and Michael Confortos, not the Marco Lucianos and Bryce Eldridges and Carson Whisenhunts.
  • Lee will likely never have an at-bat in the Minor Leagues except in rehab stints. It’s quite possible that Lee’s contract includes a stipulation that he can’t even be optioned. He will need to be developed, sure, but not in the same way as the other players here.
  • A huge part of prospecting comes in trying to figure out whether a player will make the Majors and whether they’ll stick there. Those questions don’t really exist with Lee, who will only be on the Giants payroll for fewer than six years if he’s good enough to chase more money sooner.
  • We tend to think of “the farm” as being the entity that contains all of the prospects. Does anyone feel like the Giants farm is stronger today than it was before signing Lee? Personally, I don’t. I just feel like their Major League team is.

For what it’s worth, this is an issue that other places grapple with, too. Most prospect sites, like Fangraphs and Baseball America, include international free agents on MLB deals in prospect rankings. But interestingly, while the league determines rookie eligibility rules, their own prospect publication does not include such players — neither Senga nor Masataka Yoshida were included on prospect lists last year.

So it’s really in our hands. Which means it’s time to vote!

Poll

Should Jung-hoo Lee be eligible for the CPL?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    Yes
    (210 votes)
  • 63%
    No
    (366 votes)
576 votes total Vote Now