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iowa cubs mascotFor years now, Junior Lake has been one of the most exciting and enigmatic prospects in the Chicago Cubs’ system. Bless with obvious physical talent, Lake is, at times, a scout’s dream. Frequently in recent years, the numbers have matched that dream.

But he’s also been inconsistent in his approach at the plate, and has yet to settle on a defensive position where a¬†consensus¬†of folks believe he can stick long-term. He’s not old at 23, but because he was put on the 40-man roster before the 2012 season, the clock is ticking just a bit for the Cubs to figure out whether he can be a future contributor on the big team. To that end, the 2013 season was going to be a big one for Lake, who was expected to start the season at AAA Iowa, his first stint there.

And then he broke a rib in Spring Training (up by his shoulder), which must have proved to be a serious injury – or at least one with setbacks or something – because he’s been out for quite some time, healing and rehabbing.

Today, Tommy Birch reports that Iowa Cubs manger Marty Pevey says Lake will be joining Iowa on Thursday. Whew. Finally.

I can’t wait to see where Lake sees the majority of action (he’s been playing third base and center field in Extended Spring Training, and most folks believe his days at shortstop are behind him), and whether it tips off how the Cubs view his future. He may have to move around a fair bit just to get at bats, but maybe that will be the best thing for his future value to the Cubs anyway, as a super utility type.

I also can’t wait to see if Lake has improved at the plate any, and can consistently show the kind of approach that impresses everyone for multi-week stretches at a time.

  • arta

    I’ve been a Lake fan from day one, just hope he makes it.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    Finally. Thursday is going to be a busy day.

  • Kyle

    Nats DFA’d a couple of relief pitchers today. Would have an interest in Zach Duke. If we’re going to have three or four crummy relief pitchers in the back of our pen, maybe one should be a lefty.

    • mudge

      Absolutely one should be a lefty.

    • DarthHater

      Just as long as they’re all crummy. That’s all I ask.

      • jt

        they do serve cookies

        • fromthemitten

          dude fell apart after his rookie year when he posted a 1.81 ERA as a SP now he can’t even be a LOOGY. baseball is weird

    • THEOlogical

      Don’t want Duke. He is atrocious against righties and his best fastball is at 91. Saw him pitch this past weekend against the Braves and got rocked. McCann (a lefty) just waited on something outside to turn on. He knew Duke couldn’t get him out on the inside. There’s nothing there that intrigues me.

  • http://cubsdailyrecaps.blogspot.com Jason P

    Hopefully he can put together a good season because we literally don’t have a single prospect in AAA who you could say is tearing it up… or really even having a solid season. Unless you consider Chris Rusin a prospect.

  • Arkansas Cub

    What round did the cubs draft lake in?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      He was an international free agent signee when he was just a wee lad. Together with Castro, actually.

      • Corey

        Wow, does that mean Castro was pushed through the system to fast or was lake judt slower?

        • Drew7

          The former.

          • Gabriel

            Actually both.

            Obviously Castro is somewhat unpolished compared to what he would be if he had more time in the minors, but he is SO far ahead of Lake its redic. The Castro bashing is just so out of control all I can do is LOL at this point.

            • YourResidentJag

              Exactly, hate to call attention to another blog site, but CubsDen has an appropriate editorial, if you will, on this sort of thing. And it’s on par, especially consider the source of its frustration, Dan Bernstein.

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                Never hate calling attention to Cubs Den – it’s good stuff.

                • YourResidentJag

                  So do you like it that Jordan Bernfield is writing for them? I think he’s solid broadcaster as Chicago media goes, that is.

                  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                    Sure. Jordan’s great.

                • http://cubsdailyrecaps.blogspot.com Jason P

                  Bleacher nation and Cubs den are the only 2 Cubs blogs I read.

              • Kyle

                I didn’t agree with much of that article.

                It’s just “everything is going to be fine for everyone. It was fine for Jeff Samardzija” in longer form.

                • YourResidentJag

                  Well, I’ll def concede that point. I liked the argument made of a pre-determined outcome fostered by Bernstein based on his outlook and review of Castro’s stats. I really think Arguello’s right about a slump. But then that’s my contention with Bernstein the alarmist and sensationalist.

                • jt

                  more like “it was fine for Valbuena”.
                  I read that guys who are not going to adjust are going to have to move on. Further, that Castro has a lot of ability and that they are going to be patient with him. Further, that Castro has to develop more power. Castro has some pop to LF so he has to put the ball into the RF seats a few times so that they will again have to pitch him inside.
                  Arguello is on a par with Brett and Luke. This unholy trio fills my morning with useful Cubs wonderment.

  • Rich H

    I am hoping that this is the year that Lake becomes that elite prospect that he should be. All the tools just needs consistency. Hopefully the extra time in rehab this spring can help with that.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      He shows no sign of one of the most fundamental tools for a batter, pitch recognition. Guys with no batting eyes are not “inconsistent”: they consistently wax and wane with the inconsistencies of opposing pitchers. (That is the difference between stochastic and random.)

      • YourResidentJag

        Yeah, that’s kinda a problem with the majority of the last regime’s prospects, isn’t it?

      • Blublud

        According to you, every prospect that Hendry brought in sucks, has no batting eye and will never be anything in the majors. Every porspect Theo has brought in have the best eyes in baseball, are the most fundamentally sound and will be a super star. Put the koolaid down dude.

        • hansman1982

          Well what in the hell else does a 5.8% career BB rate with a 22% K rate mean? Or does he just have bat speed that is too fast to control, too?

          • Kyle

            He’s not walking because he’s getting too many good pitches to hit, and he’s striking out because his bat speed is too good.

            • hansman1982

              Basically, Junior Lake is too amazing…

              • Blublud

                I never said Lake was anything. I wasn’t even specificly talking about lake. I was talking about doc. I bet he thinks Almora and several others suck also, you know, since they are Hendry players.

                • Blublud

                  Not almora, alcantara.

                • hansman1982

                  Again, you are picking out guys who have TERRIBLE (read sub-6%) BB rates to go with TERRIBLE (over 22% K-rates) K rates. There is, literally, nothing else that it can be, other than terrible batting eyes.

            • Blublud

              And kyle, don’t talk shit because I was about the only saying you actually made more since then most people here when everyone else thought you were a dumb ass.

              • Blublud

                *sense*

                I guess now that you are except, you wanna talk trash to people. Not to long ago, you were complaining about that.

                • Kyle

                  Now that I take offense to. The House of Kyle was built on nothing if not pithy one-liners at someone’s expense.

                  • Blublud

                    Ok. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. My bad. Ill eat those words. I respect your opinion probably as much if not more then anyone here. But you are also still twistin my words from earlier.

                    • Kyle

                      It’s all in the spirit of fun.

                    • Blublud

                      True. I think to many people get caught up in the Hendry vs Theo game with prospects. The reality is Hendry did a farely decent job with what he had to work with.

              • Kyle

                Take solace in the fact that I only talk shit to people I feel are worth talking to.

          • Blublud

            I have never heard Doc say one good thing about a hendry player. According to him, castro, lake, baez, vogelbach and just about any other prospect will not make it. He always has some made up bullshit mathamatical equation to prove it that I’m sure no baseball teams has ever used to make a decision on a prospect. How can Baez, Lake, and Castro low walk rate signal bad batting eye, but Almora’s low walk rate signal a guy who can raise his. Oh, I know. Because he’s a Theo prospect. Almora will be lucky to strike out as little and hit as much as Castro. As for Docs BS mathmatical equation, it like my boy Jay Z said. “because he wears kufi, it don’t mean that he’s bright/ Cause you don’t understand him it don’t mean the he nice/it means you don’t understand all the BS he writes.

            • hansman1982

              Well, Baez, Lake and Castro all have corresponding scouting reports that suggest they don’t have batting eyes. Hendry was notorious for not caring for batting eyes so, of course, many of his players are not going to have batting eyes.

              Almora has the scouting report that says he has a batting eye and the low K rate suggests the same. Now, so far this year he has over an 8% BB rate and an identical K rate. The sub 10% K rate suggests a guy who knows the zone.

              As we have been trying to tell you, Almora’s time in Boise was a statistical fluke and that will be proven in about 60 PA.

              • Blublud

                So why can’t Almora’s year so far be a statistical flukeI instead. I prefer the new Almora, but as I have stated before, its not his batting eye that’s great, its hos contact skill. Similar to Barney. Barney swings at plenty of bad pitches, but he os great at still getting the bat on the ball. His numbers were very similar to Almora’s.

                • Kyle

                  It’s certainly possible, but Almora has scouting reports behind him that support his plate discipline.

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                  Because Almora doesn’t have enough PAs for his stat line to be all that meaningful yet.

                  Check back in two or three weeks.

          • cubzfan

            Lake did improve slightly last year in patience at the plate. To compare his previous half-season at AA and last year’s full season there:

            2011: 13 BB in 262 PA (5%), .300 OBP, .248 AVG
            2012: 35 BB in 448 PA (8%), .341 OBP, .279 AVG

            His K rate has been pretty consistent year-to-year at 23%.

            This year will be another big test for him. If he can get up to a 10% walk rate and down to a 20% K rate, there’s hope. I’m not sure he can do that while also improving his power, but there’s a place at Wrigley for him if he can.

      • jt

        tryin’ to get this straight:
        Baez is the variable with the consistent inconsistency. He swings at many pitches and makes inconsistent content dependent upon the pitch location.
        The pitchers (many and varied) are inconsistent inconsistencies. They constitute a relatively large set of elements each of which has its own attribute of tossing pitches to an area.
        The result is, to a large degree, dependent upon which pitcher is tossing.
        *
        It has been 20 years since I worked with CADD systems but I recall the wonders of fractals which found order in such things as the chaotic structure of leaf orientation on trees. Simply put, nature used a non-obvious geometric path to create structure. Even something such as the rain forests have wondrous patterns whose patterns have followed logical events.
        *
        Using Castro as the example:
        “Castro has great hand/eye coordination” is a quote often used here. “Castro has bad pitch recognition” is the other relevant quote. But how does hand/eye coordination work without pitch recognition? So, perhaps a more apt phrase would be that Castro has poor pitch/swing discipline. This may because his “flow” to the ball has been so good that he did/does not feel the need to develop it. Indeed, such discipline may even cause hesitation in the “flow” and thus make things hard for him.
        I am willing to accept your statistical evidence that this has been the case.
        But having watched Ted Williams hit as a nervous nanny, I wonder if he did not also have such “flow”. Williams had the hitch and Castro has the front leg swing. I mean, there is a lot going on here with non-obvious geometry.

  • willis

    This is great news. I, too have been a huge Lake fan and am excited to see what he can do for Iowa this year. Hopefully with Vitters out he’ll get the 3B starts. When Vitters gets back, not sure where he goes.

  • Featherstone

    At what point do the Cubs try to convert that arm into a pitcher?

    • Rich H

      3 years ago would have been when. Now at 23 his chances of making the show as a pitcher if they switched him now are not very good.

  • Bigg J

    Cubs going to continue to stash with possibly claiming Henry Rodriguez?

  • YourResidentJag

    Soler named to All-Star game.

  • YourResidentJag

    BioGenesis, it’s goin’ down.

    • hansman1982

      I saw that…Miguel Cabrera?

      • YourResidentJag

        Braun and Perralta. Cabrera not mentioned other than DUI. So, is Assman correct?

  • Mat B

    I don’t understand why nobody seems to be excited by Matt Szczur. I would think that he has passed Jackson as a prospect.

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