We’ve spent a lot of time talking about Starlin Castro, Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood Anthony Rizzo etc etc for the past few months. It’s primarily a function of the team not making many moves coupled with a few unexpected surprises (mostly negative) from 2013.
There’s one positive surprise we’ve largely ignored even though there are plenty of opinions out on him.
Let’s stop and talk about Junior Lake. He was a pleasant surprise in a lost season; a small beacon of joy as his aesthetic is so very attractive and the results were, on the surface, pretty good. He slashed .284/.332/.428 in 254 PA’s for the Cubs.
If you don't know the red flags, however, they are as follows. 5% BB Rate, 26.8% K Rate, 27.8% linedrive rate (which is pretty unsustainable), and a 24.2% infield hit rate which I don't expect to be repeated again in 2014.
I think it's easy to get excited about Lake, he's a wild card player whose tools lend itself to extraordinary feats from time to time. It's the inconsistency that really burns him as he's also prone to looking like he has no idea what's going on out there. It touches every aspect of his game as well, as his approach at the plate can sometimes be negatively affected by his lack of a plan. His arm is supernatural but he can sail his throws. His TOOTBLANs border on the sublime as well, as his speed overrides his thought process at times leading him to make decisions that are at best, unwise.
PECOTA has a very pessimistic outlook on Lake as it projects a 0.4 WARP and a .243 TAv in 541 PAs. Steamer and ZIPs have similar projections on Lake as his production and talent level will likely grow apart as time passes. Look, I want Lake to succeed because he's beyond fun. He plays the game as a child would; doing things because he feels like it and sometimes doing them at a super human level. Cannon arm, power bat and good speed packages are the stuff dreams are made of, but with Lake those tools come with the caveat that he may never refine them into skills.
I get a lot of questions about Junior Lake on twitter, Podcasts and emails. People like watching him play and some wish he'll be something more. It's understandable but for me Junior Lake will eventually transition into a utility player who can do something outstanding every so often. As far as 2014 is concerned I think PECOTA's projection will be close.
Lake will get his shot to prove everyone, myself included, dead wrong this year.
I hope he does.