Photo By Scott Jontes

There is a lot of speculation regarding Junior Lake the potential time table for promoting him to Iowa, and there are a couple of trends lining up that could point to that promotion taking place next month. Baring an injury, within the next three weeks Lake will play in his 100th game at Double A. That milestone will take place within a few weeks, at most, of Anthony Rizzo‘s anticipated mid-June promotion to Chicago. That could set the stage for Lake to take Rizzo’s place on the Iowa roster.

When Lake does go to Iowa, they will likely want him to continue to play both shortstop and third base, primarily third base. That causes a problem for Josh Vitters, the full time third baseman and still a decent prospect in his own right. However, if the Cubs wait to send Lake to Iowa until Rizzo has gone to Chicago, that would allow Vitters to spend some time playing first, thereby keeping his bat in the lineup on the days Lake plays third.

So, between Lake and Vitters, which one plays third base in the majors? Both of them will, at least some, along with some likely time in the outfield. However, I think only Lake will do so with the Cubs. The way things look now, I expect the Cubs will be willing to include Vitters (who still has a fair amount of value) in trade talks in July. I have no doubt that there are plenty of teams who would be more than happy to add Vitters to their farm system, likely as part of a larger deal.

AAA – Iowa Cubs. 19 – 27
Iowa’s hitters had a tough time scoring runs in an 8-2 loss.

Chris Rusin had a bad start. He only lasted four innings and gave up four walks while allowing four runs on his way to his fourth loss of the season. His record now stands at 4-4. Manny Corpas was decent in three innings of relief, but once again Nate Robertson struggled.

Anthony Rizzo had to settle for a double in this game. Luis Valbuena doubled twice to account for all the Cubs’ extra base hits. Brett Jackson and Ty Wright both had two hits for the Cubs. In the bad news department, Josh Vitters’ hitting streak came to an end.

AA – Tennesse Smokies. 20 – 28
The Smokies’ game was a good one, except for the final score. Tenneessee lost 3-2.

Dallas Beeler struck out five, walked five, and gave up five hits in his six innings of work. He took the loss, his fourth of the season. Brian Schlitter finished the game by striking out three batters over the final two innings.

James Adduci‘s solo home run was the only extra base hit earned by the Smokies. Junior Lake, now batting third instead of lead off, had another two hit game.

High A – Daytona Cubs. 18 – 27
This is getting depressing. When the farm system has a day like Thursday, it seems I’m writing about loses for ever. In any event, Daytona falls again, 5-2.

Ryan Searle pitched three and two thirds innings and allowed three runs as the Cubs lost by three. Hayden Simpson pitched two and a third and somehow escaped having allowed just one run despite giving up four hits and four walks. Eduardo Figueroa gave up another run in his two innings, and Ty’relle Harris finished the game with a scoreless outing.

Greg Rohan was three for four with a double and his eighth home run of the season. Rohan, due largely to his age, is a fringe prospect at best, but there is nothing fringe about what he has been doing in Daytona lately. He should get a crack at Tennessee at some point, and we’ll be watching when he does. I don’t expect him to emerge as a second Bryan LaHair, but you never know.

Arismendy Alcantara also doubled, and catcher Micah Gibbs hit his first home run of the season. Richard Jones and Ronald Torreyes both had two hits in the losing effort.

Low A – Peoria Chiefs. 21 – 26
We have a winner! Peoria survived a ninth inning rally to beat Clinton 4-3.

Kyler Burke finally picked up his first win of the season as he pitched six innings of two hit ball. He also walked four (which is a bit of a problem) and struck out four (which isn’t). His season ERA is down to 2.31.

Sheldon McDonald collected five scoreless outs before handing the ball over to Yao-Lin Wang. Wang eventually earned his third save, but only after two runs scored on him.

Three different Chiefs, including Oliver Zapata, Taiwan Easterling, and Paul Hoilman, all doubled. Zapata’s two bagger was part of a three hit night. Easterling, along with Marco Hernandez, had two hits in the game.

Peoria had all the hits they needed to break this game open, but they were just 2 for 15 with runners in scoring position.

  • Joel

    What’s your take on Hayden Simpson? Is he going to be any good? If not (and that seems to be the consensus), how could the Cubs ever justify taking him with their first pick?

    • CubFan Paul

      Ricketts went CHEAP on the 2010 draft. That’s why Simpson was our 1st round pick -easy signability

      • hansman1982

        Yes, please blame Tom, its not that Jim Hendry didn’t want to spend in the draft. I mean its not like when Hendry approached Ricketts with a plan and reason to spend more in the draft Ricketts gave him the extra money.

        • CubFan Paul

          Huh? In 2011, yes, but not in 2010 when Simpson was drafted…

          • hansman1982

            precisely, when Jim approached Tom and said “I want to spend more money in the draft” Tom ok’d it.

            It’s not like Hendry had a history of being cheap in the draft. Granted the fact that the Tribune cared more about inflating the value of the team through free agents didn’t help but Hendry could have just as easily thrown John Grabow’s salary into draft spending and been a top 10 farm system.

            • CubFan Paul

              Sooo you’re blaming Hendry for the shrinking 2010 baseball budget, the shrinking 2011 major league payroll?

              I’m quite sure Wilkens & Hendry wanted to spend more money on the 2010 draft & were told “No” and had to draft cheaply (Hayden Simpson)/work with what they had

              Hendry didn’t set baseball budget for the 2010 payroll or draft. Ricketts did when he shrank the budget to allocate those funds elsewhere

              • hansman1982

                So when have proof that when Hendry wanted a bigger draft budget he got it but we are to ignore that and go of your gut that it is Ricketts greed that caused Hendry to draft Simpson in the first round?

                • Norm

                  *not a reply to hansman, but a reply to all*: Maybe Wilken just made a mistake and had Simpson at the top of his board?

                  • CubFan Paul

                    LOL, if that was the case Wilkens & the final year of his contract would of been thrown out on his ass when Theo&Co took over

                    • hansman1982

                      Not if he had good reasoning for the selection and remember, Simpson did suffer from a terrible case of Mono that destroyed his arm strength.

                • CubFan Paul

                  The reason for the Bigger 2011 draft budget was because it was the last year teams could spend freely on the Draft. Lets not ignore the facts Hans.

                  If not for the new impending CBA, $20M would not have been spent on the 2011 draft & international free agents. That’s not only my opinion but it’s the consensus of those who get paid to have an opinion on the matter

                  • hansman1982

                    Well, lets just agree to disagree at this point. You think blame should be 90% Ricketts and 10% Wilken/Hendry and I think it should be 90% Hendry/Wilken and 10% Ricketts.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      The blame for 2010 first round pick is 100% Ricketts because he set out the budget in his first year of ownership and purposely under funded the Draft.

                      Conversely, the blame for the 2010 first round pick is 100% Wilkens & Hendry for not scouting properly with limited resources and over drafting a guy who had no business being in the first round

                      It could go either way

    • Edwin

      The Cubs saw Simpson as being a player who bloomed late while in college. He had great secondary stuff for his level, and had reportably been hitting the mid 90s with his fastball. I’m sure the Cubs saw this as a good way to get a great prospect for much less than the normal first round price. Apparently there were other teams that were starting to get interested in Simpson as well, which caused the Cubs to overreact and draft him in the first round. Unfortunetly for the Cubs, it seems that Hayden’s newfound velocity was more of a fluke than a trend.

      While I think they made a mistake, I understand their reasoning. Once you know the variables, it’s a simple calculation for team to make with a price/potential formula. You might disagree with how they projected potential, but the reasoning is there. Simpson is just another 1st round pick that hasn’t worked out. Most don’t.

      • CubFan Paul

        “The Cubs saw Simpson as being a player who bloomed late while in college. He had great secondary stuff for his level, and had reportably been hitting the mid 90s with his fastball. I’m sure the Cubs saw this as a good way to get a great prospect for much less than the normal first round price. Apparently there were other teams that were starting to get interested in Simpson as well, which caused the Cubs to overreact and draft him in the first round..”

        Spin from the Cubs front office the day after Simpson was drafted

      • Dumpgobbler

        Good post. This is exactly what happened with Simspon.

      • Luke

        Adding to what Edwin wrote (a theory that is agreed with by nearly all of the major prospect and minor league publications), the money the Cubs saved by drafting Simpson did not just evaporate.   The Cubs used it to sign a couple of players over slot, namely Reggie Golden and Matt Szczur.  Blame Hendry or Ricketts for a limited 2010 draft budget as you please, but I’d hesitate to toss Wilken in that pool.  Given a limited pool of funds, the strategy of drafting low early and taking a high ceiling slider isn’t a bad one.  Both Samardzija and Szczur are in the organization thanks to that drafting strategy.

        Naturally, drafting with an unlimited budget is the best strategy of all, but I can’t blame the draft director for that.

        Also, the same scout who found Simpson has also found two other pitching prospects, now in the Cubs’ system, who were pitching in a relative obscurity and were generally overlooked until they added velocity just before the draft.  Those two guys are Trey McNutt and Ben Wells.

    • Luke

      I wouldn’t write Simpson off completely just yet.  There are some reports that his velocity out of the bullpen has ticked up into the 90-92 range, and that’s very encouraging.  He still has very good command, and he still has two plus breaking pitches he can throw for strikes.

      Unfortunately, he’s gotten in the habit of trying to make perfect pitches on the edges of the zone, and as a result he giving up a lot of walks and is frequently working behind in the count.  It’s a fairly common problem in young pitches.  When he just throws strikes and gets ahead in the count, he tends to do alright.

      To that end, I’ve also seen reports that he’s adding a sinker to his arsenal.  A good sinker, combined with his command and his two plus breaking pitches, would turn him into a tough ground ball pitcher (assuming, of course, he attacks the strike zone with them).

  • CubFan Paul

    I’d like to see Vitters’ bat at 2B but I don’t know about his defense

    • RoughRiider

      I’d rather see Vitters’ bat at home plate where all the pitches go.

  • cubchymyst

    If Lake does progress to the point that he can take over 3rd and Rizzo is what we all hope, a high calibur 1st basemen, is there a place for Vitters in the outfield? I haven’t gotten to see Vitters play and all I have to go on is reports on this website. Just wondering if people who have seen him play think his bat is worthy enough of an outfield spot or if it would be better to move him for a pitching prospect. If a pitching prospect what level do you think we could get?

    • Luke

      He could play left, but I don’t think he’ll out hit LaHair enough to beat LaHair for the job (assuming that is where LaHair goes).

      Vitters could have a nice career as a Jeff Baker type utility guy, but I think his ceiling is higher than that.

  • Stan

    What’s the probability of sending Josh Vitters to Cleveland for an arm? If you look at CLE’s farm system, they’re loaded with SSs and Ps but you’d have to go down all the way to rank 20 to find a 3B. Josh Vitters isn’t more than a season and a half away, he could fill in the gap they’d have at 3B with current 32 year old Jack Hannahan playing there with Vitters. I’m sure with Cleveland’s stingy and deep bullpen they wouldn’t miss an arm.

    • Brett

      Prospect for prospect trades are relatively rare, for whatever reason. But I’d be on board with something like that.

      • Gabriel

        cleveland has Lonnie Chisenhall, who is a superior prospect to Vitters at 3B so I don’t see that as a hole for them at all.

    • MikeW

      Lonnie Chisenhall was the #25 prospect in baseball before 2011. He came up last year, struggled a little bit (and lost his prospect eligibility). Hes currently regrouping in AAA and hitting very well. He’s their 3B of the future and a much better hitter than Vitters.

  • Edwin

    right now my guess is that Vitters is more of a C to B level prospect. He hasn’t lived up to expectations, but he hasn’t played himself completely out of baseball yet. Pitching prospects are typically more valuable than hitting prospects, so for a straight up deal I would imagine the Cubs would get a C level prospect at best for Vitters.

    I would imagine that if the Cubs trade Vitters he will mostly be a throw in player, someone to help sweeten the pot.

  • Spriggs

    I’m just not at all sold on Junior Lake yet. He needs to stay where he’s at and let’s just see if he can keep it up in TN for a while. The guy has a long way to go before he proves that he’s a valid option anywhere in the infield. He makes tons of errors (almost one every other game so far at 3B — 16 errors in 33 games in his minor league career – and even worse if you count the AZ Fall League). His errors at SS have always been alarming. You can’t blame that all on crappy minor league fields either. He has been an error machine.

    If he is ever going to solve any of the Cubs problems, he will need to show a lot of improvement in the field, walk a lot more, strike out a lot less, and hit for more power. Up until this year, he hasn’t had a full year in the minors yet with OBP over .335 (.319 overall)or an OPS over .752 (.725 overall). This is his first year where his performance is starting to live up to some of his projections — in what, 78 plate appearances? I really think he needs to stay put and build on what is happening now.

    • Joker

      ^^^^ This…this is the voice of reason.

  • Cub Gone Wild

    I think the Cubs need to keep Vitters at third. We are not flush with third basemen. Ian Stewart is not the third basemen going into next year. I would like to see the Cubs put Lake at 2B and have Vitters at 3B next year. We need to bring up out best players. Vitters makes contact. Stewart strikes out a lot. We could keep Barney at utility infielder and dump these other guys. Lake is athletic enough to play anywhere on the infield so make him the 2B and we can get some production out of that position. If we brought Vitters up this year I would be okay with that. I would like to watch him play 3B for a while. It doesn’t cost us a penny to do that. You could even option Stewart back to AAA. If he has to clear waivers that’s not a problem. Nobody is going to claim him.

    • Luke

      “We are not flush with third basemen. ”

      Gotta disagree with that.  Third base is one of the farm system’s deepest positions.  Vitters, Lake, Baez, Candelario, Cerda, Amaya, Alcantara, and Darvill are all potential third basemen, as are a couple of guys still in the DSL.

      • Spriggs

        If the Cubs ever started a season with Darvill at 3B – we’d be in for our worst year since – well, 2012 I guess.

      • Joker

        Luke, I love your wide-eyed optimism over our prospects. Very refreshing.

  • RoughRiider

    If you look at Vitters stats throughout his career he has done better in each league the second time around. This is Vitters first season at Iowa. It would have been great to see him make the Cubs by now but he has had some injuries. In spite of that, he’s progressed every year. I’d expect him to be called up in September but not sooner and possibly be ready for the majors in 2013. All the talk about trading him or replacing him at third with Lake is premature. Vitters is only 7 months older than Lake and they have both been in the organization since 2007. We’ve been hearing Vitters name for seamingly a long time. But he’s still only 22 years old. He hasn’t proven that he can’t be the Cubs third baseman of the future yet.

  • nkniacc

    Id like to see lake get some time at 2b as well. Im not ready to give up on Vitters yet and at 22 in AAA it would seem atleast to me a dumb thing to do unless you got a top prospect for him. I wonder if lake or Vitters would have more trade value

  • JungleDrew

    Vitters vs Lake

    The two have a simliar amount of service time and are of a similar age so the two can be very easily compared. Not counting any time spent playing rookie ball, my expanded slash line shows Vitters’ minors number are superior across the board.

    51 HR / 248 RBI / 267 SO / 79 BB / .279 BA / .321 OBP / .443 SLG / .764 OPS in 1799 PA

    30 HR / 144 RBI / 359 SO / 82 BB / .244 BA / .310 OBP / .405 SLG / .715 OPS in 1484 PA

    I think the truely disturbing thing about Lake is the strike outs. In 300 fewer at bats against lower level pitching Lake has stuck out 92 more times than Vitters, while only walking 3 more times. That is why Lake is not considered a better prospect, nor will he be the one to over take Vitters. In fact, even if Vitters is traded we will not be seeing Lake as the 3B of the future because we have better options, like Baez, available. (We could also potentially get a good 3B by trade… Nationals, Indians, Tigers, Marlins and Rangers all have good prospect/blocked third baseman available and will be looking to upgrade at the trade deadline).

    Lake will probably have to fight with Darwin Barney for second (which is Lake’s better defensive postion anyway), and yes I say fight because Lake’s minors numbers aren’t much better than Barney’s and Barney has already proven he can be slightly better than mediocre in the bigs with a 3.8 WAR over his time with the Cubs.

    So I think any hype we’ve been reading about Lake from the Cubs is trade bait, pure and simple.

  • nkniacc

    Luke have you heard anything on any Cubs signings in Latin America? I know that the international signing part of the CBA goes into effect July 1 so I wondered if anything outside of Soler is brewing