When the Seattle Mariners signed Dae-ho Lee in February of 2016, not much was expected of the 33-year-old Korean star. He was signed to a minor-league deal, but after a good spring training the Mariners added Lee to the 40-man roster. Lee became part of a platoon with left-handed hitting Adam Lind.
The platoon did not exactly start off how the Mariners had hoped, as Lind struggled mightily out of the gate, and Lee did not see much playing time initially as Seattle faced more righties. On April 13, however, Lee would come up with maybe the biggest hit of the young season. With Seattle stumbling in the first couple weeks, Lee dug in in the bottom of the 10th against Texas. Down in the count 0-2, Lee took a high Jake Diekman fastball and hammered it out of the park. At the time, the Mariners were 2-6, and starving for offense. Since Lee’s walkoff, the Mariners are 27-15 and have not had any issues producing runs.
Not only did Lee jumpstart the Mariners offense, he has been a major contributor to that offense. He trails only fellow countryman Byung-ho Park and upstart Nomar Mazara in American League home runs by a rookie. What makes that more impressive, is Lee has almost half as many at-bats as Mazara and Park. Most of his homers have been clutch ones too. He came up with two monster shots in Oakland to help the Mariners complete a comeback and sweep away the Athletics. His three-run shot a week later against the Tampa Bay Rays proved a major difference maker in the Mariners’ 6-4 victory. Then yesterday, Lee smacked another three-run shot to help the Mariners officially put away the San Diego Padres.
After the Mariners platoon appeared as an issue initially, it is slowly becoming an asset. While Lee has received most of the spotlight, Adam Lind has quietly been heating up as well giving the Mariners a potentially dynamic platoon. Interestingly enough, Lee has hit just as well against righties as he has lefties. With Lind hitting better, the talks have quieted but there was some speculation that Lee may move into a more regular role with the team. While that does not seem likely now, it does seem likely that Lee will continue to produce in a big way for the Mariners.