Junior Lake center of attention, for now

Junior Lake center of attention, for now

Just as I finished writing that we would have to be patient and wait for the kids to come, here they come it seems.

It may have just been a couple of the system’s stars being promoted, but it felt big. Kris Bryant and Dan Vogelbach’s ascension weren’t the only moves that sent ripple effects through the organization Monday night.

In a surprising move, Junior Lake started in centerfield with David DeJesus moving over to left. What does this mean? It sounds as if the Cubs are ready to start making plans for the near and not too distant future.

Does this move signal the Cubs are ready to move DeJesus with a waiver type deal or during the offseason? Or is it simply to see where Lake can best fit in the present? Apparently Lake (former infielder) thinks he can make the transition to center easier than a corner spot. Jesse Rodgers of ESPN Chicago.com reports Dale Sveum concurs with that premise.

However, Sveum isn’t sure if Lake should get too comfortable there in any case.

“We don’t want to waste time developing something (when) in two years Almora might be here playing center field,” Sveum said. “That’s up to the organization. We have to get together and talk. There’s no reason to talk about it now. But I want to see (Lake) enough in center field before the season’s over.”

It is kind of something to see Sveum peeking ahead and putting the 19-year-old prospect in the mix already. However, Almora is viewed as ultra mature and a special outfielder by the organization.

This Lake thing sort of reminds you of when the Cubs signed Alfonso Soriano, a recently converted infielder to outfielder. The Cubs thought Soriano would be able to handle center with his athleticism, but that experiment ended quickly. Who knows if Lake will be able to thrive in center, but Soriano gave Lake some advice about making the transition before he left.

Cubs coach Dave McKay shared those thoughts with Patrick Mooney recently.

McKay feels the Cubs are so far ahead of the curve with Lake, who only 23 years old, or seven years younger than Soriano when he made the switch. This is a Soriano 2.0 project.

“He (Soriano) took (Lake) under his wing and pretty much told him: ‘You’re an infielder, like I was. You’re now an outfielder. You’ve got a good arm. You got the speed. You got everything it takes to be a very good outfielder. But you have to focus on your instruction each day and don’t ignore that.’”

“I said to Junior: Keep working hard because they gave you an opportunity now. Just keep working and do your thing.” Said Soriano.

That opportunity may have gotten a little bigger.

@TomLoxas

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  • I thought the Mooney article was great, Tom!! Really made me appreciate Sori; he'll be missed!

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:

    Mooney and Gordo are doing fine work.

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    I'm with you Tom-the moves felt big and certainly gives hope that the troops are coming sooner than later...

    I keep thinking about the 40 man roster. In my opinion, here are some guys that I think will dropped off the 40 man to create space for new players:

    1. Bogusevic
    2. Boscan
    3. Gillespie
    4. Gregg
    5. Bjax?
    6. McDonald
    7.Ransom
    8.Sappelt
    9. Sanchez
    10. Murphy
    11. Navarro

    That's a whole lot of players. It clears the deck for the infusion of youth we've been waiting for.

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    I think all of those players would yield to talent needing protection although I don't think the Cubs need to add more than a half dozen at the most IIRC. The more I see and hear, the more I believe the Cubs hope to resign Navarro and as your order implies, I believe he would be the most unlikely of the above group to be "demoted" sans the Team's failure to resign him.

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    In reply to Good Captain:

    Cubs don't have alot of talent that needs to be added this offseason. Alcantara is a lock, but beyond him, you just have Rosscup and Ha that are Rule-5 eligible and fringe choosable.

    There is no reason to add players like Baez, Almora, Bryant, Vogelbach, etc right now

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Ben Wells is a guy they like and while he's nohwere near roster ready, he has some kind of clause in his contract that he's to be added this year or he becomes a minor league free agent. I think the Cubs would prefer to work out a deal with him than roster him though. They'll probably feel out how much he wants to stay and see if he's willing to re-sign and set the timetable back a year or so.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Never understood why Hendry added that to his contract.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    It was probably either that or he went to college.

    Had Wells not gotten hurt last year, he very well could have been looking at a promotion to AA by now and then it wouldn't be quite so ridiculous that he would need to be added.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I think the Cubs budget constraints with regard to the draft forced him to be "creative" with signing overslots like Wells, Szczur, and others. It's too bad. Those guys probably would have taken money instead, which I'm sure Hendry would have preferred to offer as well.

    Hendry is a good baseball man but forcing him to be financially creative because ownership didn't want to spend did more harm than good during his tenure here. I'm not absolving Hendry, he made his share of mistakes, but I don't subscribe to the narrative that he was some bumbling buffoon. I think the Cubs ownership at the time was incompetent when it came to running the team, but they get the luxury of making Hendry the fall guy for their short-sighted philosophy. One of the perks of being a corporate suit, you can fade off into the background and let someone else shoulder all the blame.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    We could have whole articles on Hendry, but I also don't agree with the Hendry bashing. While the late FA contracts weren't good, he did make alot of good signings early in his tenure, and his trading record, on balance, is really good.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Agreed. I have a more balanced look at Hendry's tenure. The late signings didn't help him, nor did it help that he clung on dearly to old school principles and was made the butt of jokes by the increasingly influential sabermetric community.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Ive said that for a long time John. Last decent owner this team had prior to Ricketts was William Wrigley. Phil Wrigley was more comfortable with machines than people, and spent too much time worrying about Lake Geneva and the Wisconsin Dells, and didn't have his fathers will to win. The Trib was entirely too corporate, they hired decent baseball people(Green, McPhail) then didn't give them the tools to win with.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Agreed. The curse of the Cubs has been nothing more than the curse of bad ownership.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Cubs will have to make decisions on guys like Brian Schlitter, not top prospects but AAA - AA guys who are pitching well and could easily be scooped up by another team for their bullpen.

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    Cubs really only have a few that need protection this winter (Alacantara, Rosscup, Ha, Paniagua). But remember they also have a ton of guys on the 60 day DL that will need to be re added to the 40 this winter if they want to keep them. The only locks from that list are Fujikawa and Vizcaino. But Sweeney figures to be part of the plans, especially if they move DeJesus and Dolis figures to get one more shot as well. Also the Cubs will have to add at least one catcher to replace Navarro if he doesn't resign so in essence that removes one spot from the list.

    So really the 11 spots you listed above is really only about 2-4

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Great and substantive points, thanks!

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    Yes they did feel big, the 40 man will be interesting to watch this winter.

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    Mooney recently quoted Navarro as wanting to return. They need to make re-signing him a priority. I wouldn't expect him to maintain the kind of offensive year he has had, but he's a valuable complement & Back-up/mentor to Beef.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I advocate that....we have to sign a catcher from somewhere, because a backup for next year is not in our system. Might as well be him.

    Will he be too expensive though? Will another team look at him as a potential starter? He would be an upgrade for some teams; White Sox and Tyler Flowers springs to mind, for one......

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I am sure someone will look at him as a starter. you have to assume he has been a positive influence on Castillo who has made great strides this year. hard to say how much Navarro was part of that but I bet he was a major influence.

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    In reply to Dale Miller:

    I understand why we have so many players on 40-man, 48 total with all the 60-days, but it's certainly going to be a bloodbath this offseason. We have 12 outfielders alone; that's about 4-5 too many

  • In reply to Zonk:

    5 of them are easy DFAs (Neal, Sappelt, Bogusevic, Gillespie, McDonald) so that pretty much closes that problem right away. DeJesus/Sweeney may be redundant so only one of those guys may be back.

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    There's a lot of flexibility there and I think that's part of what they do really well -- roster management. Cubs won't have any trouble adding Rule 5 guys to the roster this offseason and they'll still have room for more additions.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Exactly, the FO is going to have lots of options this winter.

  • From my experience center is the easier field to play because one read the ball coming off the bat, but more ground to cover. Left and right can be an adventure.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    From what I can see so far, I think Lake could do it. I certainly think McKay will have him prepared. McKay believes if he had Sori from day one he would have flourished.

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    I think Lake is more valuable as a CF. If he plays well there next year he could be moved in favor of Almora but will have more market value.

  • I thought that left field was supposed to be the easiest outfield position. It's usually where the worst outfielder plays.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    Left Field isn't really easier to play, it just takes the least amount of athleticism. The throws are shorter and the amount of ground to cover is the least. CF obviously requires more speed. And RFers need to have arm and have to have decent speed so that they can retrieve balls in the corner/gap and quickly get them into the infield to limit hitters to a double and prevent runners from advancing an extra base.

    I agree with what others have said. The ball is much easier to read playing CF. LF/RF are difficult because the read isn't as true and the flight of the ball more difficult because it is either slicing away from you into the corner or towards you when heading to the gap. In CF the ball always slices away from you when heading to each gap.

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    I've played baseball my whole life and I know as far as reading the ball off the bat -- for me -- you get a truer read in CF as opposed to the corner where the ball is usually slicing. I always think of LF as a busy spot -- but usually reserved for the OF with the weakest arm. IMO you can't really hide a bad defender anywhere on a NL team. But I know what you mean...usually the converted guy or the poor defender is in LF.

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    I think the move to center, even if it is just temporary, makes sense.

    With all of Lake's physical tools (speed, arm strength and athleticism) the only position in the field that makes less sense for him to be playing than left is first base.

    His arm strength has value there but less value than the other outfield positions and his speed and athleticism has much more value in center.

  • In reply to Ken Roucka:

    Good points.

  • Junior is in a perfect situation because it will be a while before "the future" arrives to 100% fill in the outfield, if that happens at all. Soler or Almora might not work out or if Bryant moves out there. Or Olt won't work at 3B so Bryant stays there. Lake has some time to prove himself.

  • Lake has one of the strongest arms in the system. He has the physical tools to play CF. Playing CF for a year or so will make him a better LF'er. If Nate leaves via trade/FA, Jr's arm will profile just fine in RF.

    I'm wondering if their just converting him to f/t OF'er and giving up on the idea of a super-utility type. Jr's offense profiles just fine in CF, but he lacks the true power you want in a corner OF'er long term. Maybe by making him a CF, we can maximize his value and have a "potential" trade chip when Almora is ready to take over....

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Maybe.....I do agree that Junior's bat definitely does not profile to an OF corner, at least not as a starter.

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    I am in the camp that thinks Lake is not a starting ML'er. I think he profiles as more of a super sub, at best.

    He doesn't steal bases or have enough power to play a corner OF. He's too erratic, apparently, to start at 3B or in the infield. While he's hitting .314, that's not going to be sustainable over the long term if he strikes out 25% of his ABs. He's been pretty lucky on ball in play.

    The only shot at being a starter, IMO, is CF, and that's only if he pretty quickly masters routes and becomes reliable. Cubs may be thinking the same thing, which is why CF makes sense.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Even is he is a super sub, I like that for the future. I think getting a good look at him this year and next is going to be fun.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    When you have speed like lake does you tend to get "lucky" on balls in play more often. Lots of hurried throws and charging too hard. But if he is super utility I think that is the lowest he falls. Some longtime subs in ML right have never had the success lakes had to just start his career

  • As much time as Lake and Almora have spent on the DL, it may take both to keep a body in center. Don't forget Szczur.

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    As so many mentioned about, Lake is in a great position right now. There really isn't anyone pushing him. His opportunity is now. All he has to do is seize it.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    That's all a ballplayer can ask for. And if the Cubs get the expected attrition with prospects, there may still be a spot left for him when all is said and done (if he performs, of course)

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Best case scenario is if Brett Jackson would start playing his way back into the picture pushing Lake to right-field in 2014, but I don't see it happening. I think you stick a fork in Jackson. He's another casualty of poor player development upon the part of the previous regime. Theo and Jed got a hold of him to late it would seem. Hence, he will be forever thought of along with the likes of Patterson, Pie, Kelton, Hill, Choi and so many others.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I agree time is running out on Jackson and he's looking like he may join that legacy. I don't know if I'd chalk up Jackson to poor player development. He always had holes in his swing and trouble making contact -- and that to me is much harder to fix than something like plate discipline. Often more than the swing, making contact depends heavily on good hand/eye coordination and I don't know how much that can be improved at this stage. Jackson's contact issues were why an athletic, toolsy, high makeup CF'er with good pitch recognition lasted until the last pick of the first round. It was a flaw that no team felt comfortable they could fix -- or he would have been picked a lot earlier given the rest of his skill set.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    It's hard to believe that just two years ago Jackson had me grinning ear to ear at ST.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    While there is a lot of truth in what you wrote, I'm not in total agreement. I don't recall questions about his bat speed and it's not like he is so huge like Adam Dunn that he just has a naturally long swing. Fixing Jackson was a two part equation. The first part being the player. He has to believe there is a problem, and that's not always apparent in HS, college or at Hi-A and below. Second, the organization has to recognize the problem and make an effort to get the player to correct it.

    It's possible Jackson wasn't willing to adapt initially because he was still having success and he just wouldn't listen to what he was being told, but my guess is that the Cubs player development people probably never told him he needed to make some changes or they weren't insistent enough that he do so.

    Sometimes, and Epstein, Hoyer, McLeod and others have all said this specifically in regards to Jackson, a player has to struggle before he sees his own problem and attempts to adapt. This could be partially Jackson's issue. It could also be that he's just not capable of adapting or he is slower to do so. He's 25 now, and probably to set in his ways.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Making contact in many ways is a natural gift that blends a variety of physical skills that may not have a lot to do with traditional definitions of athleticism. I think some of those things just can't be taught, or at least we don't know how to teach them at this point.

    Bat speed was never an issue with Jackson, nor is it a deciding factor in the ability to make contact. Swing length is a different issue but also only a part of a rather large equation. Even swing mechanics as a whole falls short. Nobody has a more unorthodox swing than Matt Szczur, yet he makes contact relatively easily. Swing plane is a factor, as is hand-eye coordination, visual acuity, balance, and timing. It's a complicated process that isn't easily taught -- and maybe some of it simply can't be taught.

    Jackson's lack of ability to make contact was a huge concern in the draft in large part because many teams know it's extremely difficult to improve, much less teach someone to become proficient at it. He was a huge risk and was passed over by lesser players in terms of tools and ability because of that very flaw. I think you underestimate what a massive undertaking and the long odds involved in improving a flawed player's contact rate. The Cubs absolutely worked on Jackson's contact issues from day one. They or any team interested in taking Jackson were gambling that the rest of his skill set would overcome what was likely to be a lower batting average and plenty of strikeouts -- and for a while, up until about the AA level, it looked like that would be the case.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    So where do they go with him? Is he a complete loss? Or is it still possible things click for him, and is Olt going to be just a right-handed version of Jackson?

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I think it's always possible things click with Jackson but I think the ship has sailed as far as those projections that he could hit .270,a 10% walk rate, with 25 HRs and 25 SBs in CF. He is probably going to have to make it at a corner and he's probably going to hit around .250 or less -- so we're talking about a guy who has to increase the power numbers to have a shot at starting. A nice part of this is his speed and defense would be a nice bonus for a LF'er. If that doesn't happen, I'm seeing him more and more as a guy who could be an extra outfielder -- but he'll have plenty of competition for that too.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Also, I still don't think the previous regime did all it could do in regards to BJ. It's just wasn't the way they operated. I think, just as with all the other failures, they let him do his own thing and hoped it would work out.

    Now had he been drafted by this FO, it still might not have worked out, but they would've made every effort from day one. No stone would've been left unturned. He might still have failed for the very reasons you mention, but I just find it hard to believe the previous FO did all it could've done. They were pretty much throw them into the water and let them sink or swim, and as we know, most of them sank.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That's one of the most insightful descriptions of hitting a baseball that I have ever read. It's also why you can watch a player bat facing quality pitching Iust a few games and get read on his potential.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Thanks 44!

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    In reply to 44slug:

    Agreed! And again, BJ just might never have had those sorts of abilities, but that doesn't mean the previous regime did all it could do to help him succeed. We know they failed others miserably, and it's reasonable to conclude they failed him too, though his own deficiencies were a contributing factor.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I feel that was a great assessment of Jackson's issues, and the issue of contact skills in general, John. Kinda of a shame that it was relegated to the comment thread, could be part of a post of its own!

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    In reply to João Lucas:

    Agreed, it could've been an article completely unto itself.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I'm not ready to give up on Jackson yet. He seems like a guy who is willing to put in the work and wants to fix his flaws. Some of the other guys you mentioned seemed dead set of letting their god-given abilities get them to the majors. He is running out of time, but I would rather take another look at Jackson in camp next year than somebody like Gillespie or Bogusevic.

  • fb_avatar

    Cubs Den Fantasy Football is now filled. If more want to play, respond to this comment, and I'll either expand the league beyond it's current 8, though no more than 12, or I'll start another league. Thanks everyone, and let me know what you think about doing a hockey league. I've never done hockey. So my curiosity is up.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I'll play if you expand. I didn't want to play in an 8 team, but a 10 or 12 is much more interesting.

    I would definitely be interested in a hockey league.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to mjvz:

    Okay, here is what I've done. I've expanded the league to 12 teams, with two divisions of 6 each. The link is below.

    http://y.ahoo.it/W36nozTz

    It's a live online draft tonight at 10 pm EST, but if you can't be there, Yahoo will automatically choose BPA according to their rankings and your roster needs.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I went to sign in and the home page still shows 8 teams. I would like to join if there are spots still available.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Darin Spangler:

    Darin, the water is warm. As long as you join before 9:30 EST, you should be able to get in. There were still 4 open spots last I checked.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to mjvz:

    As far as the Hockey League goes, felzzy or his brother really need to jump in here. I suspect they know more about it than I.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I may join football but don't know yet what my plans are this offseason -- could be taking a vacation or two. If I join any league, it'll be football.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    Well, the great thing about fantasy football is it's a once a week habit, other than keeping an eye on the waiver wire.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Yep. That's why it's really the only fantasy league I'll play these days.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Is football with the round ball or that oblong one?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to 44slug:

    The oblong one!

  • The Cubs may need to add Ben Wells (contract provision) and/or Juan Carlos Paniagua (if his "first professional season" was in the DSL before his first contract was rejected). They also need to protect Ha, Amaya, Willson Contreras, Rosscup and Alcantara. So they need to open five to seven roster spots, plus clear the eight or so 60-day DL spots.

  • In reply to cubsin:

    I don't know how many of these guys would be selected. Alcantara certainly, Rosscup probably...after that I might be most interested in Wells or Paniagua. Ha is an extra outfielder, probably a 5th outfielder at that. Amaya is not ready. Contreras is nowhere near ready. Paniagua might get picked on a flyer based on FB and hidden deep in someone's bullpen. Wells is an interesting case but I can see the Cubs trying to re-work a deal.

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    In reply to cubsin:

    I don't see another club carrying Amaya, Contreras, Wells, Paniagua....remember, they have to spend entire season on 25-man. That's a real problem, and only worth it for players with a higher upside.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Paniagua would be the one that would worry me most (other than Alcantara and an MLB ready lefty like Rosscup). If someone can get his command back to where it was earlier in his career, he could survive on that FB and an average 2nd pitch.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    The Cubs would beg to differ.

  • Not sure if this was mentioned .... the Dodgers released Ian Stewart on Monday.

  • In reply to SouthsideB:

    A moment of silence for Ian Stewart's career...

    I wonder if it was the Dodgers' fault too.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    He really did himself no favors......another example of why professional athletes really shouldn't have twitter accounts (Matt Garza being Exhibit B)

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Athletes also should refrain from having career-threatening wrist injuries. Good luck to Stewart.

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    In reply to Zonk:

    Dave Sappelt has been his own worst enemy with Twitter as well. Probably a good reason why the Cubs have bypassed him with guys from outside the organization to fill in at Wrigley.

    He'll be gone over the winter, imo...

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    In reply to bocabobby:

    When you are passed over for a 34-year old OF hitting .236 in AAA, yeah, it's time to start packing

  • I worry about Junior. He lacks discipline, and managers tend to accept that for fear of inhibiting aggression. We already have one young star that is short on concentration. I am awed by Lake's obvious talent, and expect him to be a star in the future. I am concerned that too much faith is placed on minor leaguers' maturing. It is the exception rather than the rule. Building from within is IMO the prudent approach, and there seems to be plenty of marketable talent on the farm.

  • For the record, ny litnus test for the Jim Hendry era is simple:

    Did we win a World Series? No

    Did we get to the World Series? No

    Did we get to the NL champoinship series? Once in 2003

    Did we earn multiple playoff appearance? Yes, 2003, 2007 and 2008

    Overall, given the time at the GM helm, as well as the resources afforded him by working in a major market, he had a substandard tenure as the Cubs GM.

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    In reply to JK1969:

    Hendry made mistakes, but I subscribe to the Billy Beane theory of being a GM: The GMs job is to assemble a team to get to the playoffs. It's up to the team to win the playoffs, nothing at that point the GM can do about it.

    Anything can happen in the playoffs, it's really up for grabs.

  • Do September call-ups need to be on the 40 man roster?

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    Yes.

  • I think that's a pretty ridiculous comment by Sveum. Lake has 2 seasons or at least a season and a half before Almora arrives. If he can seize CF in that time and run with it that goes a long way to him (Sveum) keeping his job into the salad years. It also creates a terrific problem for the Cubs.

  • In reply to TheMightyGin:

    I have a feeling that Lake will never be Almora when it comes to baseball skills and instincts.

  • In reply to TheMightyGin:

    I agree. A lot of stuff can happen in 2 years.

    To even bring up Almora right now when he is still so far away is just crazy. If Almora continues on his current all-star trajectory, then things will take care of themselves.

    If in the mean time Lake can play lights out in CF, it will only increase the options available to the Cubs front Office. They could move him to right or left field, trade him, etc. but that is 18-24 months away at minimum.

  • Love the move to CF! With the rest of this season and off season under his belt Junior should be a defensive upgrade next year if not by the end of this year. Then if Almora represents a defensive upgrade over him that will be a great thing. Move Junior back left. Maybe Baez or Bryant's in left and Junior moves to right? Maybe Soler's in right already?? Maybe Soler's in left?? Really, really fun to speculate on the future of the outfield. Even more so now that Junior's emerged! Andreoli's my sleeper pick for big league playing time in the future!

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