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About Junior Lake

About Junior Lake

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.

Filed under: Analysis

Tags: Baseball, Junior Lake, mlb

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  • fb_avatar

    Hate to say it, but I am with you on Lake. I don't think he's a starter, and this year he'll be exposed for the talented, but hacktastic, player that he is. If he can play a passable CF, I think he can carve out a major league career as a reserve OF; if he can't learn CF, I question whether he's even going to stay in the majors

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Maybe if Castro shows up big this year Lake and some of the other more talent based guys will jump into the program

  • In reply to Cueil:

    The maybes are all IMO related to what kind of performance we get from Renteria. I think Lake could turn out to be a phenom, if he's handled properly. I think the Puig syndrome has to be watched out for. There is a pile of talent under that cap.

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    I would love to see Vitters win leftfield with Lake starting the season in iowa where he can improve his centerfield and refine his game. I like him and would hate to see him regress

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    Agreed - that would actually make two more-or-less plusses in my book.

    Vitters demonstrating that he is worth his roster spot,.... and maybe evolving into a useful (albiet most likely trade chip kinda) player.

    And giving Lake a chance to force his way back onto the roster again,.... after having had a chance to work on his OF defensive game a bit more - and maybe cut down that K-rate a notch or two.

    But yes - I think in the long run if Lake makes it as a big-league player he's going to either stick (somewhere - if not with the Cubs) at CF or he is going to become a super-UT player with roster value.

  • Lake is the only threat on the bases we have. Last year we were last from going to first to third on a hit. I hope he does well for us.
    Can he play outfield, second base or third base to give some one a day off? I would rather he play then valbuena or Murphy.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    I'd rather see Olt come back healthy and win the 3rd base job

  • In reply to Cueil:

    I would too. I was wondering if lake could maybe give olt a day off at 3b

  • It just seems to me that last year Lake developed a lot as a player. Who would have projected during ST that he would have those offensive #s as an MLB starter for half a year! I doubt anybody here did.

    So if you're going to assume that his development days are over, that he has hit his peak so to speak, then OK, maybe he won't hack it as a starter in the outfield.

    But I'm not ready to assume that he will not improve over last year. So I'll chug me some of the blue stuff when it comes to Junior, until fate shows me I'm wrong.

  • His percentage of infield hits might be sustainable when you consider that (if I remember correctly) he had 5 bunt hits in 9 attempts. He is a good enough bunter that, combined with his ability to hit line drives, he may well be able to sustain that record.

    I agree that he is not likely to become a MLB regular. UNLESS he actually turns into a plus plus center fielder, which is certainly not out of the question from reports I have seen. If he does, teams that do not have an Almora in their system could see value in him.

    Another thing to remember is that, after a period of adjustment, he performed better at each level than he had at the previous level. This is unusual enough to make me think that he might be unique enough to beat the odds.

  • I have to agree with you on this one John. I have very low expectations for Lake and anything he can achieve must be considered gravy.

    I think the novice fan looks at Lake and the raw numbers and think there is something there. Just don't think he can sustain things as you said.

    I went to one game last year. The game Junior hit a Grand Slam.

    So there is that....

  • Disco Stu expects Lake to hit 35% line drives next season. Ayyyyy!

  • I don't think Lake is ever going to get his K-rate down to league-average levels,..... but if he continues to show the ability to bunt with regularity, and with a continued threat to smack the ball hard to keep fielder honest,.... he could be a steady >0.260 BA player with 10-15 HR potential and some stolen bases.

    He could make somebody a pretty decent CF.

  • At only 24, I feel with Reterias fine communication skills and tutelage, the sky is the limit if he can keep him grounded. I'm not ready to write him off quite yet.

  • fb_avatar

    Junior Lake and I share a birthday - 22 years apart. And no, I'm not a two-year-old. lol

  • I think the bottom line on Lake is that, despite the assumptions of too many people with writing jobs, a 25-man roster spot is not his to lose - it's his to earn.

    I too would rather see him gain refinement in AAA this year. Schierholtz, Sweeney, Ruggiano, Coghlan and Bonifacio can handle the outfield for now. But if Lake forces the issue, so be it. I just want him playing every day.

  • fb_avatar

    article on Fangraphs that I'm hoping someone can explain to me:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-pointlessness-of-signing-after-the-draft/#comment-4381032

    I’m not seeing the basic premise of this article, i hope someone can clarify it for me: IFA draft pool money can be traded because those draft slots can be traded. The Dodgers example uses IFA pool money to illustrate that point. But amateur draft slots can’t be traded (except for competitive draft picks) – so how does a team acquire draft pool money without acquiring the draft slot to go with it?

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Web filter at work won't let me read the article, but there are a handful of competitive balance picks in the amatuer draft that can be traded, perhaps that is what they are referring to.

  • I'm. not too concerned about Lake's projections. What I like about Lake is all of the potential. I am excited about his future , even if it's just a reserve role. This is such an exciting time to be a Cubs fan.....so much talent advancing to the big club in the next couple years. I'm looking forward to a big year from Olt as well in 2014. And here's to Steve Stone and Haray Caray.

  • In reply to MikeWadle:

    I agree and a player like Lake is great to have. He adds a ton of excitement and makes the game fun. He has so many tools and hes young enough to improve. If he can't start he offers much as a reserve outfielder.

  • Who am I to question PECOTA, Steamer and ZIPS. But the kid is only 24, got called up out the blue, and man was he exciting. I actually started watching games just to see him. Only game I went to after opening day (I think against the Dodgers) and he two bombs in his first two trips to the plate. Reminds me of Shawon Dunston in his first few years. I'm really pulling for the kid and hope he proves the models wrong.

  • I know people are more precise today when evaluating talent, but it sounds like Alfonso Soriano Jr here.

  • It has nothing to do with slot acquisitions. It has to do with slot forfeitures.

    He says that slot money is worth 2.4 times real dollars. So forfeiting 1 million slot dollars is equal to spending 2.4 million dollars.

    If this is true, it follows that if you sign a player that results in the forfeiture of 1 million slot dollars, it is equal to paying him 2.4 million dollars. So if you value player x at 10 million dollars, you will not pay him more than 7.6 million dollars if as a result of the signing, you lose 1 million slot dollars.

    If you wait to sign him until the end of the 2014 draft, you no longer forfeit the 2.4 million by signing him, but you have lost 40 % of his potential playing time, so if his value has not changed, you would not pay him more than 6 million.

    Hence the player would have lost 1.6 million dollars by waiting until after the draft to signn a contract (7.6 million less 6 million).

    If any of that makes sense, can you explain it to me, since I was unable to follow it all.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to DaveP:

    But by losing a draft pick you are not " losing" any money in an absolute sense, you're simply constrained from spending any of your own money. The money is still in your pocket, so the whole idea of losing a draft pick costing actual money doesn't make any sense.

  • I think Jr Lake can live with a high BABIP for a while due to his speed and bunting ability... But I don't think he's going to be a star caliber hitter... Probably a nice place holder that could become a nice versatile utility guy.

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    Hard to believe Castro and Lake are the same age and were signed the same year.

    What's even more hard to believe is that so many people feel Lake isn't done developing, should be given every chance to reach his potential, fan should be patient because he's so young, etc

    yet after a few really good seasons Castro finally took some lumps next thing we know everybody thinks he's somehow regressing and is incapable of being 2010 CastroCastro so should be traded. Makes no sense.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Baseball fans are a funny and fickle lot.

  • In a sense, Lake may be the new Dunston--enough big time tools to be an okay player, but not enough of a good percentage player to ever become a star.

  • In reply to SVAZCUB:

    My almost same exact thoughts when I see Lke is the comp in skill set to a young Dunston.

    The question we cannot answer is whether he will continue to grow and mature as a player or will he forever be nothing more than a tease?

    Time will tell.

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    In reply to JK1969:

    I can see the similarities, but in reality they are totally different in terms of value. Dunston played a premium defensive position fairly well; his bat had lots of holes, but was good enough for SS.

    Lake's problem is that if he is a LF, he doesn't have enough bat even with his statistically inflated 2013 stats to add real value. To me, he has to play a good CF, or he becomes pretty useless unless he changes his approach or continues to defy statistical logic

  • If nothing else Lake should be a great plattoon player. Small sample size alert but in 61 at bats against lefties he hit a cool .377 vs. .251 against righties in 175 at bats. I agree with what one person wrote, he is still young and has improved at every level. Give him a chance he may fix most of the obvious weaknesses.

  • Junior Lake is fun to watch. That's worth a lot, on a team like this one.

  • Yo Mauricio

    Need a favor.

    Please Please please don't ever say TOOTBLAN again.

    Thank you.

    The Management.

  • In reply to felzz:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z17rrnRRHDM

  • Problem is that for Lake to be really useful he needs to play CF, and he's not mentally cut out for it. CF is the captain of the outfield. If the corner OFs can't depend on the CF to make good decisions, bad things happen in the seams.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    Report out of the winter league is Lake made significant strides in playing the OF. He just may be mentally cut out for CF. We will have to wait and see how he does.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    Do you have one shred of evidence that he is not mentally cut out for it

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Sorry Dave. I should have said "In my unprofessional opinion formed by watching his crazy routes to fly balls last year ..."

  • In a world of never ending acronyms, our website has managed to actually add even more. What exactly is:
    PECOTA
    WARP
    TAU
    PAS
    TOOTBLANS
    ZIPS
    BABIP
    Thank you in advance. (LSMFT)

  • I posted a comment on this article when it came out, but somehow it got lost in the web ether. I am really in the Lake corner, so posting it again.

    What a lot of people here at CD don't take into account with Lake is how much he improved last year as a player. I don't think any of the guys who are writing him off already as a ceiling of utility outfielder made the prediction last year that he would be starting by the end of the year, and put up Very Decent Offensive #s. That's because he improved beyond people's expectations for him.

    He has his flaws, esp. his walk and strikeout rates, but if he can continue improving at the rate he improved last year, he will be a definite keeper for this team. I hope he does.

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