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Intriguing Cubs Prospect: Junior Lake

Matt Swain

Illinois engineering student, way too emotionally invested in the Cubs.

By Dan Cupples

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Photo: Jim Denton

Daytona shortstop Junior Lake has been somewhat of an enigma since signing as a 17 year old kid in 2007. In '07 and '08 he put up solid numbers in the Dominican Summer League and in Arizonia rookie ball, raising some eyebrows. After '08 he was the Cubs 14th best prospect according to BA just 7 slots behind Starlin Castro, and  the two were generally considered to be on about the same level.

2009 saw Lake go a separate direction from Castro. While Starlin had a breakout season that would set up him to take over the Cubs shortstop position in 2010, Lake struggled in the pitcher friendly Midwest League at Peoria. Hitting just .248 with 138 SO in 463 ABs (28.8% k rate) he was overmatched and had trouble recognizing off speed pitches. Dropping to 29th on the Cubs prospect list (BA) his '09 showing left a lot of questions to be answered. Unfortunately, as recently as two months ago, 2010 was shaping up to be a repeat of 2009, as Lake was hitting just .209 in April and May over 115 ABs with a 28% K rate.

But Lake has seemed to figure things out over the last 2 months. In June and July he is sporting a very respectable slash line of .288/.369/.525 over 157 PA. While his K rate sits at 27% which is similar to 2009, it's his walk rate that has me conservitavely optimisitc. Last year he posted a 3.7% walk rate, and this year it's jumped to 9.6 %, which is no small feat. The power has come around lately also, and he's posted almost all of his XBH and all of his HR over the last 2 months.

Lake has an intriguing set of tools in his 6'2 200 frame. With he systems best arm rating as a 70 (on the 20-80 scouting scale) and considered by BA as one of the best in the minors. His athleticism is top notch, and overall perhaps the best in the Cubs system. The frame says he may have to move off shortstop, but if needed he has plenty of arm for 3B as well as above average to plus power potential. His speed is currently solid-average and is more then enough range to for 3B. The main issues with Lake are the obvious holes in his swing and mental lapses, which have lead to being caught stealing far too many times in '09 and '10 (19 SB but 16 CS) and 42 errors in 2009.

What can we take from all this? Well, Lake, has tools that scouts love to dream on and the obvious flaws that most Latin American players his age have. At 20 years old in High-A ball, he could easily pass for age appropriate in Low-A. Going forward the rest of the season will be  huge in determining what type of player he can be. The walk rate has improved and the power potential is becoming game useable. With Hak-Ju Lee ticketed for Daytona next year, Lake should move up to Tennessee against more advanced pitching which may verify or expose this year's improvements. If Lake can continue these improvements for the rest of the year and show he can handle more advanced pitching next year, he could vault up prospect lists. It will be fun seeing how this all plays out.



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1 Comment

Doogolas said:

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His arm is really rated higher than Hak-Ju Lee's? I thought Lee had some kind of crazy ridiculous cannon attached to his arm or something? I've read in places he's been clocked at over 80MPH from SS. I would think that'd rank higher than a 70? I'm not really sure how that is though, but i figured you'd know?

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