Junior Lake as Ben Zobrist? And Other Bullets

junior lake cubsMore live Draft action coming at you today, and it’s the fast and furious day: Rounds 11 through 40 start today at 12pm CT, and the picks fly in without delay, so check in at BN periodically to see the latest picks as the day goes on.

  • Dale Sveum on Francisco Liriano yesterday, per Cubs.com: “He’s done this to everybody. When he’s right and he has his velocity, he’s basically in the CC Sabathia-type category where he has great velocity but really doesn’t throw his fastball that much. He’s got great command of his changeup and slider. He’s one of those guys where it’s very, very difficult if he’s on with his offspeed stuff – it’s going to be a tough day.” Thing is, Sveum really isn’t exaggerating. This year, Liriano has been insanely, ridiculously good. Of course, two of his starts have come against the Cubs, so …
  • As expected, the Cubs have already taken advantage of the new night game ordinance, and they’ve changed four Friday dates from TBD to 3:05pm CT: July 5, July 12, Aug. 2 and Aug. 16.
  • The Cubs were named among three NL teams that got good value on the second day of the Draft, according to ESPN’s Christopher Crawford. He particularly liked the Skulina/Masek/Frazier stretch.
  • Tommy Birch writes up Junior Lake’s latest game at AAA Iowa. The 23-year-old prospect played in right field yesterday, and apparently looked good out there. He understands his role now as a super utility player, and seems to be taking well to it. We’ve now seen Lake play successfully at shortstop, third base, center field, and right field in the last two years. That’s enough to get you a job, but I’m assuming he could handle left field, second base, and first base as well. With that much versatility, he’s not going to need to hit a ton to be a Major League bench piece by 2014 – and, who knows? Maybe he does hit well and becomes the Cubs’ Ben Zobrist.
  • With the Draft underway and the short seasons getting ready to begin next week, Extended Spring Training has come to a close. Arizona Phil at TCR has compiled the Ex. ST stats for your perusal. Remember: this is for entertainment only, as the stats are (1) small sample, (2) against varying competition, and (3) from semi-real games that feature oddities like the same batter batting at the top of every single inning.
  • Check out these pictures of the Cubs’ now completed new facility in the Dominican Republic. Dig it.
  • Much to your chagrin, I did better in this week’s “Beat the Expert” fantasy contest than I did last time around. Only 23 of you beat me and earned the bonus cash. In your face! … but that means I finished 24th, which means I didn’t win any money. These folks did, though: g123, aprahl, bracetoby, dean78904, and mlowe – I reckon they’re pretty happy about it this morning.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

63 responses to “Junior Lake as Ben Zobrist? And Other Bullets”

  1. Zachary

    We can only hope he gets on base like Ben Zobrist

  2. Frank

    Brett,
    I saw somewhere that the Dominican facility is done. Did I have a weird dream after drinking a case of Pepsi or is it true? If true, when will you have info on it.

    1. cjdubbya

      Not Brett, but here’s a link to Twitter where they’re posing for the grand opening…

      https://twitter.com/Cubs/status/336619888485466114/photo/1

      Hope this helps.

  3. cjdubbya

    So Lake can play any of the infield positions, and any of the outfield positions…BUT CAN HE CATCH?

    Seriously. I’d love to see a game where he plays all nine positions. Preferably not at Wrigley, but that’d be fun for a minor league game.

  4. Frank

    cjdubbya,
    Thanks for the pic.

  5. Die hard

    Sounds like his best position is DH

  6. The Dude Abides

    Junior Lake as Ben Zobrist, that would be great. Zobrist is a great fantasy player for your team, you can always use more of those kinda guys.

    Good Luck Junior!!!

    1. cubzfan

      Zobrist is a great player, period. Lake would have to improve his hitting by about 40% to become Ben Zobrist. I mean, it’s not impossible, Zobrist himself made major changes to swing after coming up to the majors, but Zobrist isn’t just flexible in the field, he’s a very good hitter.

  7. Jim

    People scoff at me when I say that Lake will be a starter by 2015. I think that he will be an impact player.

    1. Dustin S

      Odds are against him after a rough last couple of years, but Lake does seem like the kind of player that has a chance of being a somewhat late bloomer. Once roster spots open after some trades and assuming Lake is called up, it would be interesting to see how he does in the majors if Sveum gives him some regular starts.

      I also wouldn’t be surprised if he’s included in one of those trades, just because of his high K (23-25%, almost Brett Jackson territory) and low walk rate. He’s one of those situations where he might have more trade value before being called up to Chicago since it leaves more intrigue about his potential. Bring him up and he hits .200, and they’ve got another Jackson/Vitters that isn’t going to bring them much if they decide to deal him.

      Good to see about the DR facility too. It should help with Latin signings and player scouting/development in the long-run. Part of our fan pain indirectly this year and last went to plant that $6M-$8M seed. So it is a small example that Ricketts isn’t just throwing out a budget team and pocketing all the profits.

      1. JOE

        This comment raised a question in my mind… I still feel that Jackson has the potential to be at the very least a serviceable everyday outfielder for a big league club, and I certainly would assume he’ll be part of the trade talks this June/July. What would be an appropriate expected return for Jackson as a trade piece, either as a primary target or as part of a package that may include guys like Garza/Feldman/DDJ, etc.? I still would like to see Garza get an extension, but I also think we could fetch some significant prospects in a trade that involved both he and BJax.

        1. Hansman1982

          A Brett Jackson type player. Or junior Lake.

          We aren’t getting anything of value back for him or junior lake. Unless we somehow hoodwink one of the front offices that think batting eye is teachable.

          1. Rudy

            At what point does the whole ‘retooling’ of Jackson’s swing get scrapped? It seems to have sapped his power and his K-rate is still awful. Seems to me his only hope now might be to bulk up a bit, swing from the heels and become a three outcome guy with good D and decent speed. Could be useful in a platoon and maybe a hot streak could lead to a ‘hoodwinking’, haha!

  8. Oswego Chris

    I think we could see Lake this year…you have to try some of these guys in the majors sooner or later…just look at how well it worked with Vitters and Jackson last year…

    ….oh yeah

    Really though, I think he will be up.

    1. Die hard

      Think Puig

      1. Timothy Scarbrough

        There are very little, if any, comparisons between Lake and Puig.

        1. AB

          Blow Hard is just blowing hot air again.

          1. Die hard

            Oh but ok to compare to Zobrist? Your head is where bottom should be

            1. Timothy Scarbrough

              Puig and Zobrist aren’t in the same class of players.

              1. Die hard

                Quit trolling and explain

                1. Timothy Scarbrough

                  Puig is a very talented player, who can hit both power and average, and has a respectable K/BB. He is likely to become a superstar. Ben Zobrist is a very useful utility player who is 10 years older, and his a weaker bat, although still an above average bat.

        2. Die hard

          Explain? Each young 20s if Puig BC true and each can hit and with power… Dodgers moved him fast.. Why won’t Cubs do same?

          1. Chad

            At one point Lake and Castro were considered equal prospects. Castro moved quickly and IMO it hasn’t worked out that well as he has not developed. I’m excited to see what Lake can do and needs spend the rest of the year in AAA.

            1. Hansman1982

              Lake and Castro are only similar in that they don’t walk near enough and are Latin American born SS.

              Castro has a hit tool that lake only dreams about.

              1. Chad

                In no way have I said they are similar now. I said at one point Lake was actually considered the better prospect and was my point to why they should not rush him to the majors. Also, Castro’s hit tool aint that great. He has not developed and honestly regressed a bit. I think he’s still got potential, but I would have liked to see Castro develop more in the minors. I am one that is still optimistic on Lake. I’m interested to see what he can do. I don’t think he’ll ever be a super star or likely even an every day starter at one position, but I still like his athleticism.

                1. SenorGato

                  That one point would be when they were 16.

          2. Timothy Scarbrough

            Lake is a .270/.320/.410 bat in the minors. Puig was a .330/.405/.610 batter in the minors, granted in only 229 AB’s. There really is nothing there.

            1. Cedlandrum

              I could make comparisons. Both are very, very good athletes, with big arms and a ton of power potential. Lake is a better base stealer and Puig has a better idea of the strike zone. I don’t really see the comparison, but they do have some similarities.

      2. MichiganGoat

        Oh die hard you extra sassy these last few days and it really interfers with what we love about your comments. Just keep with the fun satire but don’t get upset when people call your ridiculous comments for what they are.

        1. Cyranojoe

          Have you noticed he’s started calling other people trolls when he’s trolling them? It’s a new tack on the comedy track.

        2. Jp3

          Yeah, he has been extra sassy lately, it’s just a new twist. Keep using the insanity workout, it’s working

  9. 70'scub

    I like the thought process of defining to the prospect what is there best chance of having a productive MLB job.

  10. Ben

    Lake becoming Ben Zobrist is a pretty tall order. I’ve wondered for awhile if someone like Zobrist wouldn’t be a perfect target acquisition for the Cubs — great leadership for the young players as they mature and get ready to win. Is he a FA soon? (Plus, I know his uncle who is an insane Cardinals fan and it would drive him crazy)

    1. cjdubbya

      After 2014

  11. JOE

    I know that Theo/Jed have said that they like to allow prospects to complete a full season at the AAA level before being promoted to Wrigley (i.e. Rizzo) but that seems to contradict the theories that guys like Bryant and Soler could see action as soon as 2014. Is that a practice that they are already abandoning, or do you think analysts are just jumping the gun on these guys? Personally, I think prospects should be evaluated on an individual basis, and there shouldn’t be a cut and dry rule regarding how much time they must put in at any level. Thoughts?

    1. mdavis

      it’s what they would like to do is get their guys 500 PA’s. but certain players are different. Their play will dictate how quickly they move. I don’t think its a set in stone type of thing.

      1. Die hard

        Agree… Looking back maybe Castro should have had even more seasoning to learn to deal with setbacks and slumps

      2. JOE

        I hope it’s not a hard and fast rule, because I don’t know that I have the patience for that lol. I need something to get excited about, and even if we’re terrible this time next season I’d like to at least have a reason to tune in and watch some young guys play. I know that last season, I for one watched far more second-half games just to see Rizzo, Jackson, and Vitters. Getting Soler, Bryant, and Baez to the bigs as soon as possible would certainly put more butts in the seats, at least, even if we’re not competitive right off the bat.

      3. wvcubsfan

        I would think a player drafted out of college might be treated differently than a player drafted out of high school, but just my guess.

        1. nkniacc13

          maybe as far as where they start but I doubt that where they are drafted from will matter next year when they break ST

    2. Die hard

      Baby steps til Soriano contract off books is my take as why slow

    3. Chad

      I don’t think they’ve abandoned it. It depends on what the player needs to work on. AA is very similar to AAA. AAA pitchers have a more rounded game/ secondary pitches, but if a guy doesn’t need to work on that he can likely jump straight to the majors. However, I’m still not happy that Castro made this jump.

      1. JOE

        Yeah in hindsight I do think it would have been beneficial for Castro’s development to see some time at AAA before making the jump, but until this year I never would have made that statement. With Castro, he saw decent success for a long enough period of time in the bigs that the FO really couldn’t send him back down once he did start struggling. I think that’s why Rizzo is actually better off for having struggled when he was first called up by the Padres, then had the chance to work it out a bit in AAA with the Cubs. Hopefully guys like Jackson and Vitters will be reap that benefit, as well. Which is why I’m not against bringing up prospects from AA late in the year and, if they struggle, starting them out in AAA the following season to work on some things. They get a feel for what works and what doesn’t at the big league level and can work on making adjustments from there.

        1. Rich H

          Everyone has to remember the minors has changed lately (last 5 years or so) and the Cubs were one of the last to make this change.

          For a while most fast rising prospects were a stop away from the majors in AA. While your AAA team was made up of more fringe type guys. So Castro getting the trip from AA to AAA was not the problem. The idea that he saw most of his competition in AA only once before the quick bounce was the problem. He went from tearing up AA in his first step to the majors and never struggled to see the way the guys changed their approach to him. So now he had to learn how to deal with adversity in the majors.

          I am not saying that he won’t make the adjustment because he has before. I am just saying his learning curve is different on this because he has not seen these type of adjustments over and over like he would have if he spent a whole year at AA.

        2. Hansman1982

          Nah, Castro was going to have the same struggles if he had spent a season in AAA or not. He is struggling because pitchers are not afraid to expand the strike zone on him because he doesn’t know how to draw a walk.

          This is not something that AAA time would have fixed.

          1. mdavis

            i also think hes suffering from paralysis by analysis. he’s thinking up there way too much, and i think that’s obvious. sveum needs to sit him for a couple of days and let the kid catch a breather

          2. Chad

            Might as well abolish AAA then. I think it would have helped Castro if had been in this regime’s term, but probably not during the Hendry era.

  12. Oswego Chris

    I agree with this…maybe not sitting him…but just put him in a spot in the order and let him stay….if he didn’t already have a couple of years under his belt than I might think differently…put him in front of Rizzo to get some fastballs and just let him play for awhile…

    1. mdavis

      …are you talking about Castro still? because he was hitting in front of rizzo the entire season and has been terrible.

  13. Die hard

    Bogesvic must be injured… Otherwise should be called up soon

  14. DaveY

    With limited windows and at least some brick in the Dominican facility, it looks like it is probably built to withstand hurricanes. If that’s the case I hope the Cubs will let players and their families take shelter there if needed.

  15. Dynastyin2017

    Maybe we can trade Lake for Profar. :-).

  16. MNeuman

    Fans…First time commenter, long time reader here

    I have been reading this blog for some time now and enjoy every second of it! After reading many others over the years I know rely solely on Belacher Nation for all things Cubs!

    I wanted to see what everyones opinions on Matt Szczur are…there was a lot written about him and then a lot of writing him off. I think this year shows just what this kid has done his entire career…take a year to adjust and then play very well the next. I know Almora is in the wings for CF but Szczur has all the tools I want in a CF and lead off hitter….12-15% K rate, 10% BB rate, 370 OBP, hits for average and has a little pop. He has excellent speed on the bases, an average arm and just getting better on his reads. He was raw when we drafted him and seems to be very intelligent as it pertains to adjusting. Have we written him off completely as our CF of the future? I for one would love to see him get a cup….much more than Jackson truthfully.

  17. willis

    I think with a healthy spring he could be contributing now on the big team. And the reports so far are all positive. The kid has every tool you want. It’s fun to watch his continued development.

  18. ncsujuri

    I got hosed by rainouts….4 of my position players and Harvey…suck!

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