Cubs call up Justin Ruggiano, Ryan Kalish to Iowa as Junior Lake grows into everyday role

A Happy Memorial Day to everyone and a special thanks to those who have served.  We appreciate the sacrifices you've all made.

A quick article today as I, like many people, have plans today to spend time with some family.  I will be watching the game and sneaking in for an occasional peek at the blog and the internet in general, but mostly I will be enjoying the weather, food, and conversation.

Some quick news...

The Cubs called up outfielder Justin Ruggiano, who had been rehabbing in Iowa, and sent down outfielder Ryan Kalish.  A while back we suggested sending down Kalish so that he could get more consistent ABs, especially considering he has had limited ABs the past two seasons because of injury.  He needs the reps.

The move to send down Kalish was also undoubtedly influenced by the good play of Junior Lake, who continues to defy expectations (including my own) by producing at an above league average rate (.340 wOBA, 111 RC+) on offense despite an approach that has his K rate at 34% and his walk rate under 5%.  On the bright side, he has struck out less in May (27%).

The BABIP is at a likely unsustainable ,381 though it is likely that Lake's raw speed and hard contact will always have him at a BABIP that is well above that of the league average, which is around .300.  I expect him to be around the .340-.350 mark this season, so if he can continue cutting down on those strikeouts without sacrificing hard contact (which is essentially what he has done this month) he may end up with a surprisingly productive year.  That is not to say he will be a star -- or even an above average regular for that matter -- but on this team as it currently stands, he has earned the shot to play everyday.

With that, here is today's lineup...

  1. Bonifacio CF
  2. Lake LF
  3. Rizzo 1B
  4. Castro SS
  5. Valbuena 3B
  6. Castillo C
  7. Schierholtz RF
  8. Barney 2B
  9. Samardzija p

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  • Keith Law can suck it

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    I saw a comment from Klaw when he toned down his snark and he said something to the effect, of he's seen Lake going well, and you'd think he's a star in the making, but then seen prolonged stretches of him appearing to have no clue at the plate and in the field. According to Klaw, the tools are/were there.

    I'm hoping that Lake can get by on his talent to be a serviceable regular over the next two years, while his approach gradually improves to make him a poor man's Soriano, instead of a homeless man's Soriano.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    Interesting. I think if Law always felt that way and said that from the beginning, he would have had no problems with most Cubs fans on Lake. I think we can all (or at least most) agree with what Law just said right there.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Exactly. If Law had said that from the beginning their would have been no problem as that is pretty much cleat to everyone that Lake's physical talents have always been way ahead of his approach. Instead he said that lake would NEVER make the Major Leagues, then when he did, he said that he was a fake, that he could NEVER reproduce last years stats again, that he would be down in the minors, and that he had no chance to succeed. So of course he's had to backtrack some now as Lake has continually shown that despite his faults he can play and continues to produce while his mental catches up with his physical skills. He has now put up a respectable .280 /.322/.448 slash line in 109 games with the Cubs. At 24 years old, I believe he will keep improving, slowly but steadily and end up with a good long career in the majors. As far as BABIP, it is statistically proven that most speedy guys have higher BABIP's than average.

    Lake specifically:

    2012 (AA) - .353 BABIP in 448 PA's - .279/.341/.432
    2013 (AAA) - .347 BABIP in 170 PA's - .295/.341/.462
    2013 (Cubs) - .377 BABIP in 254 PA's - .284/.332/.428
    2014 (Cubs) - .381 BABIP in 149 PA's - .273/ .304 /.482

    At some point people have to stop calling it a fluke or lucky.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Klaw I think he said it early 2013, when Lake was on a bit of a tear in Iowa. Remember from his perspective he's talking about top prospects and probably dozens of Cubs fans were harping on him about Lake, "is he a top 100 prospect now". He typically goes for sound bites and provides snarky 1-line answers.

    Lake is a massive boom/bust candidate. I'm a big fan, and I'm skeptical he can be a everyday player. He obviously should be on the Cubs with the way their OF is right now. From Klaw's perspective there are probably a couple hundred prospects he likes more. I get that. As it stands Lake is pretty much a homeless man's Soriano. Sure he has the ceiling to be Soriano, but you've got to be skeptical about his ability to get there. If the Cubs had a playoff caliber team, we likely wouldn't be giving Lake the chance to develop at the major league level. He's a real project. Hopefully in another year or 2, his approach will improve to the point where he's a plus player.

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    In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    I don't have high expectations for Lake down the road, but he may be able to stick around for a few years as a utility guy.

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    I really wish Ricky would swap Valbuena and Lake. Boni/Valbuena/Rizzo/Castro/Lake/Schierholz/Olt/Beef

  • In reply to Matthew Andersen:


  • In reply to John Arguello:

    While I do think Valbuena is better suited for the 2 hole than Lake, I think batting Lake in front of Rizzo will help Lake's development. He's much more likely to be challenged there, and with Lake's agressiveness that probably helps him.

    While I do want to see a more competitive team this year, the Cubs should still be focused on the development of Rizzo, Castro, Lake and Castillo.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    I agree. I believe Lake batting in the two hole helps the development of his confidence, which is important right now. It doesn't do as much for developing his ability to lay off pitches out of zone and recognizing sharp breaking balls, but that should come later.

    The two hitter (and lead-off) will typically see more fastballs/strikes because they're in front of the team's best hitters and pitchers dont want to walk guys in front of them. Hitting Lake 2nd allows him to see more pitches to hit and hitting them hard is what he's good at right now. What he is not good at yet is making the pitcher come to him and getting HIS pitch yet. In the two hole, he doesnt have to worry about that as much as he would if he had the 8th hitter and pitcher coming after him.

    All sample sizes on Lake's major league career are too small right now, but the early evidence supports this. When hitting 1st-5th, Lake has walked in 5.5% of his PAs while striking out 26.2% of the time. In the 6th-8th slots, it's 1.0% and 35.1%.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Seems like Ricky wants his speed up top and to protect him a but so he sees more strikes. It does leave the backend a little more ploddingly slow.

  • In reply to Gator:

    Speed and helping Lake get pitches to hit is part of what is driving the decision to bat him 2nd. It hasn't come to pass yet, but I also think that Lake has a better chance of hitting well in the two hole than if he were hitting 6th-8th. The numbers haven't played that out yet, but sample sizes are still very small. The thinking being Lake will produce better batting 2nd whereas Valbuena will do what he does anywhere in the line-up. The numbers do show that Valbuena hits well 5th-7th over the last two seasons.

  • In reply to Matthew Andersen:

    I like it.Lake hacks far too much to be batting second.

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    In reply to Matthew Andersen:

    I'd also like this. Get your top two obp guys at the top.

  • I didn't mind giving Kalish a shot right out of the gate but I do think at this point it is best for him to just get some reps at Iowa. I'm excited to see what Ruggiano will do coming back from injury. He started really slow but seemed like he was just starting to come around when he got hurt. Any addition to the outfield is a welcome thing at this point...

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    Kalish needs the reps in AAA he's a guy I like for the long term. Coglan will do fine in his spot.

  • IF they are going to find out whether Ruggiano (if healthy) can be a regular contributor in an otherwise underpowered and underwhelming OF rotation (Lake's May not withstanding), OR if he is viable trade bait - they gotta play him.

    Similarly - IF they are going to see if Kalish is worth keeping, he needs the regular reps either in Iowa or Wrigley. I want to see Kalish find success - as he fills a need for the near future Cubs teams.

    Good moves overall.

    If Lake can hold a batting average >0.240 for the season, hit 15 HR and knock in 60-70 RBI while holding the strikeout rate to under 30% - his season has to be regarded as a success as well.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    As much as I'm pulling for Lake, it's hard to believe the Cubs don't have 3 better OFs on their roster, and they don't. If there is an aspect of the FO that is below par, the inability to get power or average at those 3 positions is frustrating.

  • In reply to IVYADDICT:

    Can't say I disagree with you IVYADDICT.

    Lake has potential that - if he ever realizes it, could make him a solid ML-level contributor for several years. As long has he can maintian his better than average footspeed, continue to improve defensively as an OF, and keep a league-average or better contact rate up - he's got a spot on sombody's roster somewhere.

    BUT - currently he's a bit erratic on both offense and defense to rate a regular starting gig on a contending team. IF he could get to a better level of consistency, then he might merit a CF/LF starting spot until something better comes along.

    But, also - there is nothing better on the Cubs roster to push him out of an at least semi-regular starting gig at the moment. Between Kalish/Sweeney/Ruggiano/Coughlin at present - he's got the best current production.

    Game changes when/if the likes of Bryant/Soler/Alcantara/Almora press him. That ain't goint to happen this year though.

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    In reply to drkazmd65:

    He still reminds me of a young Raul Mondesi.

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    6-7-8-9 in this lineup is just painful. Baez and Bryant are gonna have so much pressure on them when they come up -- fortunately I think both of them can handle it.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    When will that be, Mike? I hope Bryant gets to AAA in next couple of weeks and if he does well there, get him up here in August, definitely in September. And hopefully Baez continues his solid plays and they both come up together. Now that would exciting!

    I know you're gonna preach patience but, man, lets push them just a little bit please.

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    In reply to TTP:

    My guess? April. Could see the argument for bringing Baez up this year in July or August. You would do that specifically because he usually starts off ice cold in a new level, so best to get that out of the way this year when it doesn't count.

    There doesn't seem to be a promotion in the near future for Bryant. They want him to face the same pitchers two or more times and also face the Southern Division teams, who have better pitching.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think 6-7-8-9 in this lineup heard you!

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    I consider these to be good moves as well but I don't understand why Coglan still has a spot in the team. Watkins or Valika both seem like better options than him

  • In reply to William Ray:

    I'm sure that will come, but talking about playing time and development those 2 have been getting some good everyday reps in AAA and would not get anywhere close to that on the big club. Coglan is a veteran (relatively speaking) so he should be able to deal with the lack of playing time better. Again I don't doubt a switch, but I'm okay for now.

  • I loved Lake from the get go. Exciting player with tremendous raw talent. Sure, he's gonna look bad at times -- but he always seems to bounce back well. And he seems to be learning and I suspect he's gonna continue to learn. Glad he's playing regularly.

  • Last 10 games... Lake has a 7.5 walk % and 17.5 K %.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Since spring Lake has gradually cut his strikeouts. It was near 50% then 40 and he's getting close to 30.

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    In reply to Caps:

    Could you chalk that up to small sample size? His career numbers in the minors were around 23% k rate and 7% bb rate, right? I think 25% and 7% would be passable as long as he keeps up that LD%.

  • Lake is still very raw and will take all season to develop. Good to
    send Kalish down for BA's and work. By Aug 1 lets hope the
    roster will be younger and different.

  • I can handle watching lake over guys like Barney, Olt, or Nate. Lake has so much more to offer you just hope the what the heck moments are fewer and fewer. I just love the speed.

  • Kalish is better off going down, but Lake is exactly the kind of player a team like the current Cubs should be playing. He is likely to be a bust, but he COULD be great. Players like Watkins and to a certain extent Valaika could be a little better now, but have little chance to be better than average in the future.

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    ICubs are doing all kinds of unspeakable things to the Sky Sox this afternoon. Among the lines:

    Alcantara 4-for-4 2B 3B SB BB
    Baez 3-for-4 2 2B

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    What's the matter, Javy? Couldn't hit a homer...what a bum!

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    He just missed one on his second double. Bad day for Javy.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Yep, off the wall...Baez also had a couple of outstanding defensive plays today.

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    In reply to Quedub:

    Between this performance, and Bryant's 0'fer yesterday, we may as well scrap the plan!

  • Lake has speed and power and a certain flair to his game. If the Cubs think he can be further developed at the ML level, then playing him every day is best.
    Let's see what he can do over the rest of the season.

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    Yes, Mike....I-Cubs bats were smokin' today! Baez keeps up his torrid pace...but Alcantara and Valaika also contributed big time....

  • It doesn't feel like Alcantara has been talked about much on here. What's his ETA? With the lack of production from Barney, I hope he gets an opportunity after rosters expand this year.

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    ruggiano, coghlan, kalish, schierholtz, casper wells - what on earth difference does it make, these guys come with interchangeable parts. If they think Kalish because of his age and past potential has a possible future with the Cubs, I'd just as soon see him take his lumps at Wrigley and learn from major league pitching. I see zero point in bringing back Ruggiano - he's a replacement level player, and if you're going to bring up one of those it might as well be Bjax or Vitters to finally make a decision on them.

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    Look ive been in Olts corner since day one and will continue to be, but it makes no sense playing Barney and Nate everyday.., theyre abysmal offensively and really are not part if this teams future.,, Olt at least can alter a game with his im writing this Nate just homered go figure.., is castillo absolved from crituscism here?? Hes very mediocre from my vantage point

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    Meanwhile, Bryant just keeps chugging along with another home run. Ho-hum.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Pshh! Just a solo shot...whatevs

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    bryant 2-2, javy 3-4, alcantara 4-4: all is well with the world for one day.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    I'm not too ashamed to admit "it" moved, when I saw the boxscore from the Iowa game.

  • Bryant hit a shot. I have been to a few games in Huntsville and it takes a shot to get one out--does not carry well.

    I could not stay at the game due to a conference call. I was able to get there a little before. He was engaging with the fans and kids--signing autographs and taking pictures.

    I saw his 1st AB. He had a good approach. He hit a 2-1 pitch out to left center. I got a video on my phone. I am not sure how to post it--the ball explodes off his bat it seems. My video does not due the justice of how high the ball got--moon shot almost.

  • I like Kalish going down to get everyday reps because he is more important to develop due to his age and being a lefty. To increase his value they should get him some reps at 1B in the offseason.

  • Wow. Some think the Astros might go with Jackson first overall. Assuming the Marlins would take Kolek, Aiken or Rodon could fall to the Cubs

  • In reply to Javier Bryant:

    Why wouldn't they take Aiken?

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Supposedly they really like Kolek. Maybe they take Aiken. Obviously all just speculation as of now

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    In reply to Javier Bryant:

    Jackson, Kolek at 1-2 is the best of all worlds.

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    In reply to Giffmo:

    Theo would race out and buy a lottery ticket on the spot.

  • In reply to Javier Bryant:

    The talk is that Kolek is dropping, but as you say it's all speculation right now.

  • Last year, in the beginning of the year I wanted the Cubs to sign Smudgia. Then he goes out and pitches like a mid-rotation guy. Then I say, "trade the bum because he is who he is", as well as the fact that he has that dreaded NTC.

    Now this year he is pitching how we all thought he might, if he was able to control his emotions and continue to develop and possibly reach his ceiling, (a top of the rotation guy).

    Questions that I have are:

    1) is Smudgia still demanding to have the dreaded NTC ?
    2) can Jedstoyer throw in some more cheese to offset not giving him the dreaded NTC ?
    3) Jed & Theo, how do you sleep ?

    p.s. Loving the 1.07 WHIP

  • In reply to biittnersmustache:

    Supposedly he is still asking for the NTC and that is a major hold up. I've asked this question several times but haven't gotten an answer. Doesn't Smarge qualify for 5/10 rights anyway? Or won't he very soon? So why does he need an NTC?

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    In reply to jorel1114:

    10/5 rights refers to 10 years in the league and 5 years on current team.

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    In reply to jorel1114:

    He hasn't even been in the league five full years yet. So he's more than 5 years away from 5/10.

  • With Valbuena's increased playing time, where does this leave Olt's development? Should he go to AAA for AB's?

  • I believe that this is his 7th year at the ML level. His 10/5 rights would kick in for the 2018 season. I can't see why the NTC would be such an impediment, they could certainly put some restrictions into the contract. If the Cubs want to resign him to a longer deal then they're not going to trade him before his 10/5 rights kick in

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    In reply to Cuyler:

    Just because he's played in parts of seven seasons doesn't mean he's accumulated seven years of service time. He is still under team control through 2015, at which point he'll only have just over six years of service.

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    In reply to Cuyler:

    I believe it's by service time, and Jeff will have accumulated just over 5 years of service time after this season. So, he has a long way to go.

  • So who potentially gets stretched out for next season, Grimm and/or Ramirez? Do they give Vizcaino a chance at starting next year?

  • In reply to Gator:

    None of the above. Vizcaino has nasty stuff, but a small frame, and with two surgeries under his belt he will be a late inning reliever. I like Ramirez very much, but he is much better as a reliever, as he gains a couple of MPH of velocity on his fastball, so their is no reason to make him a bottom of the rotation starter when he can be a quality high-leverage reliever for the Cubs... and every-day-Grimmy (thanks Felz).has found his role as a middle reliever. Guys like Veras, Wright, Russell will most likely be gone next year, some guys could get traded as more power arms come up as well.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Ramirez K% is 40% of the hitters hes facing-thats a high-end relief pitchers #s. Agreed on Viz, hes throws really hard for a small guy, he also has rp spelled all over him. I suspect Edwards will end up there also, unless he turns out to be a Roy Oswalt clone.

  • John,

    You talk a lot about a "league average outfielder" - can you give us the slash line that is "league average" and compare it to Junior's?

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