For Junior Lake it's all about finding the zone

There’s a sizeable chasm that separates talent and utility when it comes to baseball. Supremely gifted athletes with raw power and speed can quickly flame out or just stop progressing in impressively cruel fashion.

The craggy heights of Prospect Mountain are dotted with the failed careers of toolsy players who were unable to utilize their natural ability.

Junior Lake is a supremely gifted athlete capable of doing things on a diamond you’ve rarely seen done. This manifests itself in both a positive and negative fashion as Lake is just as likely to illicit couch noises as he is expletive laced tirades delivered at high decibels.

In short, Lake is an athletic freak with little refinement and it’s showing early this season. He’s hitting .220 and is striking out in 43% of his Plate Appearances. Lake’s walk rate will never be a positive facet to his game but the strikeout rate has climbed to irresponsible levels.

We were enticed by the tools array Lake showcased last year, and this year I can only look on in subdued fear that he is precisely what I thought he was heading into the year.

Lake is a fine player to watch from time to time. I do enjoy his aesthetic immensely but I don’t believe in his ability to control the strike zone enough to become a first division starter.

It’s early in the season and he’s only 63 PA’s in but so far he’s swinging more and making contact less.

Lake has a long developmental path ahead of him if he wants to become a solid major league contributor. His mental lapses are severe and his ability to recognize pitches is subpar at best. From a pure talent perspective I want to believe that his skillset will shine through as his ability lets me dream about a scenario where he can turn in a few 20/20 seasons and become a factor in the long run.

If Lake is to reach any part of his ceiling he will have to do a better job of understanding what he can and can’t hit. These aren’t the types of adjustments that happen overnight, these types of adjustments, if they do happen, occur over large swaths of playing time.

This type of development will be painful and it’s still not clear if it will pay off. I remain skeptical on Lake and in my personal opinion he will max out as a 4th outfielder; a part timer with skill and ability.

For Lake, his future will be determined by his ability to cut the mistakes and swing at better pitches. Such is the way of the raw but toolsy outfielder.

Filed under: Analysis

Tags: Cubs, Junior Lake, mlb


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  • teams have found breaking balls down in the zone is his achilles heel. especially the 2 seamer down and in. until he learns to adjust to that. meh

  • Send him down before he gets any more screwed up in the head. Get him AB's he should have been playing every AB. He is a young kid, he over swinging trying to hit a 5 run HR everytime up to show the manager he should be playing. He is swinging way to hard with his head pulled out. Lake has to go back down and re-learn his patience and pitch recognition, He may never make it but for the life of me I cant figure out why they started platooning him last summer look at his numbers when he is playing everyday compared to every other day or every 3rd day like he is doing now.

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    Count me among the Lake skeptics; even last year, he needed some luck to slash .284/.332/.428. Even that's just OK for a corner OF, nothing to write home about.

    He's a plus defender in LF, and so far passable in CF, but a 46% K-Rate is not going to work for even a backup. If he doesn't adjust soon, he'll wash out.

  • You can be a stud athlete with super bat speed, that will not help you if you don't keep your head on the ball.
    And why can they not get him to throw over the top from the outfield, and not like a shortstop? I question his ability to take coaching and make adjustments at this point.
    The guy I like is kalish, think he is going to be a keeper.

  • I agree about Kalish, he's definitely looking good so far. The part I like most is that he's not like Schierholtz where we pick him up at age 29 and he has his career year and then tails off. He's only 26 and could conceivably get better as he hits his prime. Not super exciting, but it's something to look forward to over the coarse of a bad season...

  • How about a Vitters/Kalish (not strict) platoon for a bit?

  • In reply to bwitty:

    Agree, send Lake down until Sept. Don't trade him.

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    In reply to bwitty:

    I'd be done for this as well. Vitters/Kalish, Sweeney/Bonifacio, Shierholtz/Ruggiano. Not great, but passable.

    I'm wondering..... If/when Alcantara is ready and Sweeney/Bonifacio have fallen off a cliff by mid- seasonlike most expect could AA handle CF duties until Almora is ready?? This is assuming a best case scenario that has Baez at 2b and Olt entrenched at 3B.

    AA seems like he could play a solid CF.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I agree, AA is athletic enough to handle the outfield.

  • I was disappointed to see Soriano was serving as a mentor to Lake last year, as I can't imagine anyone with a worse plate approach serving as a role model.

  • The only place Lake can really play is CF, he just doesn't have the hit tool for the corners - and the Cubs have tons of prospects at CF. Clearly won't be a long term solution at this point. Needs a lot more development, but that probably won't happen with the Cubs, may have some value as a trade throw in to get a better return.

  • He needs everyday atbats, but sending him to AAA with this club is pointless. Put him in CF, tell him that the position is his until August, and let's see what he can do.

  • I have watched Lake and he reminds me of a young Sosa. Lake is a trade-able piece, not unlike Olt. Many young Dominicans can hit the FB but hack at the wind when a bender off the plate and in the dirt is presented

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