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.