Afternoon Bullets Are Still Bullets and Other Bullets

junior lake cubsHooray for afternoon Bullets. I think in the 2.5 years I’ve been doing daily morning Bullets, they’ve not shown up until the afternoon maybe four times. Once was probably due to late-night activities the evening prior, and then the other three have all been in the last week. Activity!

  • If you haven’t checked out the latest episode of the BN Podcast (or subscribed), check this one out, because there’s a huge section that is very appropriate now that Alfonso Soriano has been traded to the Yankees, and in light of Sahadev’s great Soriano piece today.
  • Keith Law caused a bit of a stir yesterday on Waddle and Silvy by describing Junior Lake rather harshly as a player, and suggesting that there was no chance he’d wind up a long-term, productive regular. I’m not sure why it riled folks up so much, given that Law has held that opinion on Lake for a long time (and he’s hardly alone), and it’s just, like, his opinion, man. Lake has huge upside, given the tools and physique, but he also has huge downside. None of this is new. If you want a more positive (but still reasonable) take on Lake, though, here’s one from Bradley Woodrum at FanGraphs, and here’s one from John Arguello at Cubs Den.
  • Tony Andracki at CSN runs down Alfonso Soriano’s career with the Cubs.
  • Speaking of Soriano, the Cubs will have to replace him on the 25-man roster. To the extent they wish to do it with an outfielder, it can’t be Dave Sappelt – since he was just optioned down to make room for David DeJesus, he cannot return for 10 days from the day of the option. The Cubs might bring up an extra reliever for a little while, given how taxed the bullpen is.
  • Dale Sveum sums up Scott Baker’s latest rehab start at Kane County, in which he gave up three earned runs on five hits and two walks over 3.0 innings with 2 Ks (per Cubs.com): ”It was kind of like the other ones, not super sharp, not a lot coming out. He topped out at 88 [mph]. He’s a little bit short right now.” That doesn’t sound so good.
  • Tennessee Smokies hitting coach Desi Wilson has very good things to say about Javier Baez and about Arismendy Alcantara.
  • In case you missed yesterday’s update on the BN Blogathon fundraiser, and the story of a young Chicago Cubs fan who received a Cubs wish from Make-A-Wish, check it out, if you please.

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

113 responses to “Afternoon Bullets Are Still Bullets and Other Bullets”

  1. TWC

    “Once was probably due to late-night activities the evening prior…”

    Still doing that Chatroulette thing?

  2. King Jeff

    If you think Law is harsh on Lake, then you should ask Kevin Goldstein what he thinks of Lake.

    1. college_of_coaches

      I didn’t get riled by Law’s response, and I’m familiar with Goldstein’s opinion. I was a bit surprised by the relative intensity of Law’s answer, and it makes me wonder. Here’s my question: To what degree are Law and Goldstein impartial to Lake’s professional development? They’ve been telling Cubs fans for years that Lake is a flawed prospect who will probably never be able to put it together. What happens if Lake proves them wrong?

      1. King Jeff

        I think Goldstein just got sick of answering questions about Lake from overzealous Cubs fans. I’m not sure on Law, but he does seem to like to stick to his first opinion of a prospect unless they overwhelmingly change his mind.

      2. Webb

        What got me about Law’s response what the stark lack of positivity. Usually when there is a Lake conversation there is a lot of positive response to his athleticism and the potential that creates for him. Law was so down on Lake’s baseball skills he refused to bring to light the other characteristics that make all of us lamens drool. Law could be dead right, don’t get me wrong, but he didn’t seem to show much acknowledgement for the fact that Lake has a lot of potential skill the could make him wrong. We’ll see how it plays out.

      3. cms0101

        Law says things to cause reactions. Same with Goldstein. They are particular harsh in their commentary with Cubs fans because we seem to come out in huge numbers whenever we ask them questions on our prospects. But neither of them are wrong. Lake IS flawed. But who cares. Most prospects are. What Lake has that not all prospects have are natural freakish tools. If the Cubs coaches can harness them and help Lake become a smarter player, the sky is the limit. He will slump at some point. He will swing at pitches in the dirt. He will make bone-headed plays in the outfield and on the bases. The people that get on Castro for these things now are going to HATE watching Lake when the honeymoon wears off. But he’s added some excitement to a dismal season and he will be a major league player, even if he eventually goes to the bench. Once a guy like Lake makes it to the majors, we should care less about what Law and Goldstein have to say. You can see for yourself anything those guys will try to tell you.

  3. RizzoCastro

    Lake is going to be in my mind a player that needed to be challenged more. Well Lake this is your chance to show people like Law you have what it takes to be a star in MLB. I like what I have seen from Lake, but it is only 31 AB and 7 games so we shall see. I for one hope he continues this for the rest of the year and doesn’t look back.

  4. mudge

    I don’t think people like Lake give a rat’s ass one way or the other about people like Law.

  5. cas-castro

    I am sure we have not even scratched the surface on how good (or bad) Lake will be. Time will tell. So far we have seen a lot of good and some bad. His defense might be a concern the way he airmailed a ball that one game and he needs to take charge in the outfield when he plays center

    1. arta

      he’s new to the OF, many veterans make the same mistakes. look at Sori. the thing is he can improve, most veterans can’t.

  6. Mick

    Does anyone else feel like 2014 might be a 100-loss season? I’m happy we cleared the books but…there won’t be much out there for free agency. I was having a hard time even finding lower-tier free agents the FO could find value in to trade at next year’s deadline. Saying we didn’t sign any FA’s this is what a projected lineup could look like, let’s assume we trade Schierholtz and keep DeJesus:

    CF DeJesus
    LF Lake
    SS Castro
    1B Rizzo
    3B Olt
    C Castillo
    RF Sappelt
    2B Barney

    1. daveyrosello

      That’s the risk with the FOs strategy. It is completely dependent on having the minor league prospects they’ve built up in the system (a) make it to the bigs, and (b) be significant producers once they get there. Because there are no established veterans to rely on whatsoever. If the prospects don’t pan out, Theo’s master plan fails and he’ll be out of a job. The plan has to come to fruition in 2015, that’s the do-or-die year. For 2014, yeah, looks like another brutal year.

      1. Mick

        I’m not calling for Theo’s head here I’m just starting to wonder where we go from here. We’ve cleared the books, traded away anything worth anything, next year’s free agent class is weak for premium FA’s and it’s even weak for value, so where do we go from here? I suppose maybe we try and sign Ellsbury, Garza, McCann, K-Rod, and McClouth?

        1. BT

          The books were going to clear themselves. I don’t think anyone is particularly upset that we don’t have Dempster, Maholm, Marmol or Reed Johnson right now, and they certainly were not going to lead us to 95 wins. Technically we can get Garza back if we really want him next year.

          The sell-off was inevitable. At this point, until the (inevitable) flame out of some of the prospects we got back, the front office seems to have done about as good of a job as possible getting a return for that sell-off. Now the build up will be begin. And since free agency will mostly suck going forward, teams are going to have to rely on their minor league systems in order to get better. Which is why we are better positioned than most teams going forward.

    2. arta

      No!

    3. Eric

      I think we see Baez and Soler get a look in 14, and maybe even Bryant by the 2nd half of 14.

      1. cubchymyst

        Soler Maybe, Baez and Bryant not likely. The only time we might see Soler is when rosters expand in September because he is already on the 40 man.

        1. Cheese Chad

          I tend to think that Soler is the odd man out too at least for 2014. With his injuries this year and the fast track that Beaz and Bryant will be on, I think Soler is more 2015 with maybe a September call-up in 2014 if he’s playing the way Baez is this year.

      2. Jp3

        Man I like Soler but he I’m about ready to call it the big 3 at this point or move Soler out and replace him with Alcy. I’m going to take a beating for this but he hasn’t really done all that much other than get suspended and get injured in his 1st season. He was pretty good when he was playing but the hype train on him has hopefully slows down some.

        1. cubchymyst

          It is way too early to count out Soler. As you said when playing he has been pretty good, and we don’t know how long the leg was bothering him before he went to the DL. He was shown a great approach at the plate and will likely start in AA next year. Besides the suspension he, everything he has done keeps him in the conversation as one of the cubs top prospects.

        2. ssckelley

          At the time Soler went on the DL his numbers were better than Baez, he got off to a very good start and I heard his injury was bothering him all spring. So if he can play that well in a pitchers league imagine what he will do once he is 100%. I think Soler ends up being the best of the group.

          1. InTheoWeTrust

            Agreed

        3. gocatsgo2003

          Wait, what? A .281/.343/.467 line, K-rate of 16.1%, and BB-rate of 8.9% in his first full season in the States isn’t enough to figure he’s got some potential?

    4. cubchymyst

      The front office will sign free agents this off season. Maybe not any big name large contract types, but they will likely bring in a few guys on 1-2 year contracts again.

      1. CubsFaninMS

        My prediction is that part of the reason they were so willing to part with Soriano is so that they have the budget flexibility to make a major splash over the off season. I could be wrong. And that’s certainly not the only logical reason to make the Soriano trade.

        1. cubchymyst

          Parting with Soriano creates a little budget flexibility but not a lot. The cubs are still covering a majority of his salary next year. I could see the Front office in on Hunter Pence on a 3 year deal.

    5. johnny chess Aka 2much2say

      Bryant will be short lived in minors. He will get his chance to make 25 man
      CF Lake 2nd Alcantara SS Castro 1st Rizzo 3rd Olt LF Bryant RF Soler C Castillo

      1. gocatsgo2003

        Yeah, no. If we were talking 2015? Then sure.

  7. jt

    I’m impressed but yet to be blown away by neither Baez nor Lake.
    Alcantara really really has gotten my attention.

    1. ssckelley

      Yeah a 20 year old hitting 25 home runs in 400 PA splitting time between AA and A while playing shortstop is not impressive at all. They need to trade Baez before everyone else discovers he is not all that good.

  8. Diggs

    Speaking of the 25-man roster, when did the Cubs call up Michael Bowden? I was surprised to see him pitching last night.

    1. King Jeff

      Bowden has been up for a few weeks now. Hasn’t pitched very much though.

      1. baseballet

        He’s our secret weapon.

      2. Diggs

        OK, guess I missed that. Thanks.

  9. itzscott
    1. ssckelley

      Matt Szczur still a Cubs top 10 prospect?

      1. King Jeff

        Mayo is a mainstream guy who has always put the “name” prospects high on his lists.

        1. ssckelley

          When I think of the Cubs top 10 prospects in my mind Szczur does not even get honorable mention anymore. I guess I never realized there were some still high on Szczur.

  10. Mr. B. Patient

    ” I’m not sure why it riled folks up so much”

    Because he demeaned the person. Not the player, the person. Some people may find that offensive. Especially coming from a guy who’s only concern is trolling for page hits.

    Brett, not once in the years I’ve been reading your blog, have you ever demeaned the person. Ever. Hell, you even gave Ian Stewart more respect then he might have deserved. If a player is playing poorly, you talk about it. That’s fine. You never make it personal. I respect you for that.

    1. sven-erik312

      Well said

      1. ltdan001

        This is true. Brett behaves as though he is a professional writer in the mainstream media, and I appreciate that he is objective for the most part and makes it clear when he is being subjective with personal opinions.

  11. cubzfan

    I didn’t hear the Law segment, but IIRC someone in a comment said he used the term “Lake is a con” or “Lake’s performance is a con.” That doesn’t sound like “unsustainable luck” but as if the player is doing something shady. Those kind of words are going to elicit more of an emotional reaction, and aren’t actually descriptive of the situation.

    Plus, I think avid, current Cub fans are invested in the value, not just the current performance of the team’s players. Having a guy with a big platform going around running down a prospect could reduce his perceived value. Now, I don’t think any front offices listen to Law rather than their own scouts, but again, it’s a natural reaction for fans to be displeased.

  12. AnonAuth

    Impulsive Big Lebowski response, ‘Let me tell you something, pendejo.’

  13. baseballet

    What exactly is it that baseball pundits (bundits?) dislike about Lake? I honestly don’t know. All I’ve ever read is that he is a toolbox full of tools, like everyone said about Brett Jackson. So if he’s Lake Toolbox then why are the bundits dissing Junior? Can someone be specific because all I’ve ever read are vague criticisms? Is it that he can’t hit a curve, or maybe that he won’t listen to coaching suggestions or that he has a bad attitude? What’s the deal with Junior?

    1. ssckelley

      The impression I get is they see a player who at times looks very good, like he is right now, and then there are other times he looks lost almost like he has mentally checked out. This is what I fear most about Lake, right now he looks like a player out to prove he belongs, what happens after everybody determines he does belong? Is he going to be that guy who turns it on and off or the one who is constantly being challenged and can keep his head in the game?

      For now I am enjoying the ride, I look forward to every one of Lakes at bats. Not every day you see a hitter go from knocking a ball out of the ball park to laying down a bunt for a hit in the same game.

      1. baseballet

        So the main complaint of the prospect watchers is that he doesn’t concentrate and that he doesn’t play with intensity? And if not for that problem then he’d be a highly regarded prospect?

        1. DarthHater
          1. baseballet

            Thanks! So in summary he’s not very good on defense, and on offense: “Potential OBP sink because of poor approach and hacker mentality. Has pop when he makes contact but power is mitigated by swing and miss issues and approach. Difficult to see full-time profile with offensive issues. Needs significant development in approach and quality contact.”

  14. Dustin S

    I watched Baker’s first start back and he was throwing 90-91, touching 92 once or twice (although I know guns can be a bit off, especially in A ball). He got batted around then too but he was also definitely just working on mechanics and not really mixing up pitches or throwing much breaking stuff, making it easy to hit. So I’m more concerned that he’s a few rehab starts in to where he should be getting more into the mode of attacking batters and not just mechanics but he’s not only still getting batted around, it also looks like his velocity went down a few mph since that first start back. I hope he’s ok, but to me the velocity going down a fair amount after the first start is kind of a red flag that things might not be right yet health-wise.

  15. Kyle N

    I have honestly no idea if Lake is going to be have a decent MLB career or not. I know from looking at his numbers and the testimonials of BN’ers that he is up-and-down, capable of mouth-watering potential and pants-poopingly bad results.

    I’m not surprised Law reacted the way he did after knowing his original take on Lake. He sticks to his guns on prospects, and there really isn’t any jaw-dropping evidence (SSS alert!) at this point to prove him otherwise.

    Law is often guilty of making brash, snarky statements that come across like he is stating absolute fact. That is what rubs people the wrong way with him (and others like him). It’s a very controversial way to talk in the field of baseball analysis. Smart people are wrong. A lot. Especially dealing with prospects. I understand the need to speak confidently, and with the level of baseball acumen he possesses you can argue he has the background to justify his statements. Personally I feel no sympathy for someone who gets called out for projecting someone wrong, goes on the defensive saying that “everyone is wrong once in awhile,” all while conveniently forgetting that their original statement came across as “I’m right, it’s a sure thing” while being void of things like “the numbers suggest”, “the probability is high”, “history hasn’t been kind to players of this profile,” etc.

    On a somewhat similar note, I am getting the feeling that many in the saber community are somewhat guilty of having ridiculous standards and have this obsession over comparing everyone to their so-called “perfect player.” Whenever they see a freakish athletic specimen with a couple of warts, many seem all too eager to try and heap over-the-top criticism on them, almost like it is backlash against the “old guard” and their overhyped five-tool prospects (which were actually missing a tool or two when it came time to crunch the numbers).

    Not every player is going to be have a low K-rate, take a ton of walks, have a high P/PA, hit for blistering power, play stellar defense, all while speaking multiple languages fluently and studying biochemistry in his free time.

    Players have wrinkles and flaws. That doesn’t mean an aggressive hitter that profiles like Starlin Castro or Alfonso Soriano can’t provide value. While thorough analysis has clearly shown that raw athleticism is often overrated in the absence of a baseball skill set and paying them according to hype is an obvious mistake, choosing to ignore them completely is an equal mistake. Many look at one or two saber-friendly stats (like OBP) and immediately consider them “bad.” Soriano was far from bad during his tenure with the Cubs. He was very, very good. Worth his contract? Arguably no, but he definitely had value.

    1. BT

      Very well said.

  16. cubsfanforever

    Please don’t ever bring up Sappelt ever. I have seen enough in Iowa and Chicago. Bring up anyone else. I hope they trade Barney by the deadline. On a winning team he will be a great bench player as he can play more than one position. Just not enough bat to play everyday.

    1. ssckelley

      I can’t help but wonder if Sappelt won’t be a 40 man roster casualty anyway in the off season. The backlash of bringing in all these prospects is now being able to protect them all. I like Barney, he is a scrappy guy who does a lot of things right but I agree on a good team he would be a role/bench player (I find that so weird to say about a gold glove player). But I look in the minors and see all the talent coming up and I wonder just how long he will be able to hold his job. This September I am hoping to see Watkins come up and get a shot plus there are others coming up behind him.

    2. ruby2626

      please don’t get me started on Barney. I was livid last night when as the tying run in the 9th inning he swings at ball 4 and taps a pitch right to the pitcher. Cub lineup really lacks pop with Soriano now gone and Rizzo hitting homers few and far between. Was it Cody Ransom that batted cleanup last night, that’s embarrassing. Keep Barney as a middle infielder reserve and for crying out loud, get someone who can hit at 2B.

      I didn’t realize what kind of powerless year Castillo was having until I noticed his stats last night. 2 home runs and 16 RBI’s, you have to be kidding. Maybe Navarro should be the one with 75% of the starts.

      1. CubsFaninMS

        Olt to the rescue!

      2. On The Farm

        Noticed the same thing about Welly’s HR drought last night

        1. baseballet

          Lake already has the same number of HRs and almost a third of the RBIs as Beef.

    3. Mush

      I like your thinking. Sappelt, Bourbon, say bye bye to them both.

  17. Magicman

    when is soler expected back? Early August was it?

  18. Melrosepad

    Why do we need to replace him with an outfielder? Why not bring up Murphy or Maysonet? We already called up an infielder and put him in the outfield.

    Outfield
    Starter – Lake, DeJesus, Schierholtz
    Bench – Borbon, Gillespie

    Infield
    Starter – Valbuena, Castro, Barney, Rizzo
    Bench – Ransom

  19. jpeck

    I like the fan graphs chart. When he swings at low sliders out of the zone, he misses…bad. But he let’s a lot go…..good. Isn’t that everyone?

  20. gocatsgo2003

    Any word on the corresponding roster move before tonight’s game?

    1. nkniacc13

      E.Sanchez

  21. Lou Brock

    Agree totally on Barney for next year if Alcantara handles pitchers in spring training that he gets the opportunity on opening day to start at second. Also if Saltalamacchia is reasonable in contract demands , maybe 3 years at $ 15 million total Cubs should look hard at him to work behind the plate while Castillo developes.
    Lineup as follows for 2014: Alcantara 2B, Lake 3B, Rizzo 1B, Sweeney CF, Castro SS, Saltalamacchia C, DeJesus RF, Bogusevic LF. Bench of Castillo, Barney, Valbuena, Gillespie, Borbon.

    1. Mush

      Lake can’t play 3B in majors. He will be LF if he keeps playing well.

      1. DarthHater

        Shouldn’t he play RF with that arm?

      2. TheDondino

        I think he has a chance at 3rd and should get some looks there during the rest of this season. Granted it was a small sample size, only one night, but I saw him make some very beautiful plays on tough hits at 3rd in a game at Iowa. The instincts are there and the arm is unquestioned. I do think his future is in the outfield for us as we will probably have better options for 3rd coming very soon (Olt, Bryant, Baez, Candelario, etc.). But until Olt comes up this year, give Junior a few nights at 3rd just to see. If he plays well, it only adds to his overall value in case we put him in the package to T-Bay for Price.

    2. cms0101

      Castillo is already 26. He’s not going to develop on the bench in the big leagues and it doesn’t make sense to send him to AAA again. Saltamacchia isn’t going to settle for $5mil a year either being the best catcher on the market. Castillo is the catcher, and they will hopefully sign another solid backup like Navarro next season from the bargain bin. Alcantara will be playing 2nd in Iowa to start next season. They would have already moved him up to Iowa this season if they had planned on fast tracking him to the majors. Lake will be an OF and backup infielder next year. I don’t think he’ll play everyday in the infield. Olt is probably the 3rd baseman. I believe Sweeney will be a free agent, so I’m not sure you can pencil him in either. Barney will play 2nd until they trade him or until Alcantara hits his way out of Iowa. It will be interesting what they do with Baez next season. He’ll most likely start in AA again and move up to Iowa if/when he starts to hit consistently in AA. After that though, I have no idea where they might move him, in terms of position. Great problem to have if it happens.

      1. Jared

        If Olt is at 3rd, then why not slot Valbuena in at 2nd with Barney on the bench…that still keeps the offense “better”…

  22. On The Farm

    Mayo only gave Bryant a 7 on the power scale for his ceiling. Apparently he isn’t buying the hype.

    1. cubchymyst

      The most laughable thing in the Mayo rankings was that he gave Baez a current power number of 4. I wouldn’t trust any numbers on there.

      1. On The Farm

        Agreed, I am just not a fan of his rankings. That’s not to say they don’t have some value, but I feel like BP, BA, and of course BN do a better job evaluating.

  23. On The Farm

    Cubs add RHP Eduardo Sanchez

    1. DarthHater

      17 BBs in 24 IP at Iowa. Can’t wait! ;-)

      1. ssckelley

        Well the Cubs still have a shot at catching the Sox for #3.

        1. DarthHater

          Hey, we’re 27-26 over the last 2 months. :-P

  24. CubsFaninMS

    Soriano batting clean up for Yanks tonight.

  25. Funn Dave

    Lebowski reference appreciated. But why no link to the Keith law article?

    1. TheDondino

      I believe the Law comments came during a radio interview with a Chicago station, not in a print article.

  26. johnny chess Aka 2much2say

    You could put together a AAA team of Vog 1st Baez SS Alcantara 2nd Olt 3rd Bryant LF Soler RF Jackson CF See how things shake out

  27. jt

    “Yeah a 20 year old hitting 25 home runs in 400 PA splitting time between AA and A while playing shortstop is not impressive at all. They need to trade Baez before everyone else discovers he is not all that good.”
    *
    Alcantera is 13 months older. Baez has had 51 xbhits to Alcantera’s 39 but Alcantera has a SB/CS of 22/3 while Baez has earned one of 12/2. Yeah Baez can steal a base. He just doesn’t get on enough to keep up. Alcantara’s 0.349 has been earned at a higher level than the 0.324 of Baez much of which was earned at A+.
    *
    Again, I’m impressed with what Baez and Lake have done. But neither have proven that they can hit advanced pitching at a regular basis.
    *
    Alcantera has hit for power and for OBP against advanced pitching for 424 PA’s. What’s more he has 88% success rate over 25 SB attempts. So even on a BB he can get himself into scoring position.
    *
    Yeah, of the 3 (Lake, Baez and Alcantera) Alcantera has shone a much better all around game.

  28. David

    I’d love for the cubs to sign McCann in the offseason. Could use his leadership for our extremely young 2014 team (from the Bobby Cox era) and bat. 3 years, $21 million????

    1. cubzfan

      Given the contracts signed by other good-hitting catchers recently, I’d guess McCann is going to be asking for about 5 years at $15 M each.

  29. DarthHater

    Just listened to Kris Bryant interview on Boise radio. Don’t know if being smart, well-spoken, and level-headed has much effect on ML success, but if it does, then Bryant has a chance to be pretty good.

    1. MichiganGoat

      It will increase his scrappy factor ;)

      But lets hope he becomes a star because having that scrappy tool will make him a legend.

      1. DarthHater

        I think they are different things. You don’t have to be that bright to be scrappy. Take goats for instance. ;-) ::runs away::

        1. MichiganGoat

          stock-illustration-6230494-angry-goat-mascot.jpg

          1. DarthHater

            Lookin’ pretty scrappy there…

  30. Cheese Chad

    I think the biggest thing to take from the FO’s approach is that they are loading up the farm system. They aren’t “banking” on Baez, Soler, Bryant, Almora, Alcantara, Cabrera, Vizcaino, Johnson. I think they are banking on half of them being productive major leaguers and a quarter of them being all-stars. They can fill the rest of the positions in with other productive major leaguers with free-agent signings or guys that are unexpectedly good from the minors. It’s a good plan, power of numbers.

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