junior lake cubsFor the first time in almost a week, I do not have a sick child at home with me today. In some ways, I value the extra time spent together, but it’s also good to be able to get back to 100% focus on BN and the Cubs during the day. Any gratuitous typos or ill-thought-out points over the past week can be attributed to familial sickness. (As I type this, I just got a phone call from The Little Girl’s school that she threw up, and may soon have to come home. Naturally. Poor kid.)

  • The Vine Line blog has been doing a good job recapping the Winter League action involving Cubs players and prospects this year. Junior Lake is hitting well in the DWL once again, sporting a .333/.375/.471 line over 51 at bats, with a couple homers and six steals. For me, he remains a guy that you hope can play in a utility role or start in center field. Beyond that – which is to say, as a starter in left field – I just don’t think he’s going to put up the numbers the Cubs will need from that position long-term to be competitive.
  • That said, it’s worth noting where Lake has been playing: center field. Unless the Cubs go way outside the box and add someone like Jacoby Ellsbury this offseason, I’d have no problem entering the year with Lake in center field every day, to see how he would handle it. In that setup, you’d like to see Ryan Sweeney as a fourth outfielder, and a big bat added in left field.
  • And while perusing those recaps, I came upon a great Justin Grimm interview from late last week.
  • Tomorrow, Ernie Banks will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor.
  • BN’er Spriggs is an Arizona’er, and he had occasion to take in a great deal of the AFL this year. He shares his first-hand thoughts over at the Message Board.
  • Farley Flash

    Why such little confidence in Lake?

    • Cubbie Blues

      That’s not little confidence. If he can be a serviceable CF than that makes him one of only a handful of players in the world that can hold that job and if is relegated to a utility position (which is more likely), he will be a fine bat coming off the bench that every team needs. As a utility player, he would also provide versatility in the field, kind of a super utility player.

      • terencemann

        If he can play well in center field, it takes a lot of pressure off of his bat. Playing center also gives him a lot more room for error than shortstop. He has the kind of arm that could be great in the outfield.

        • Cubbie Blues

          Oh, I don’t disagree with you at all on that. Consistency with his bat is what I am worried about.

    • Edwin

      It’s just projection based on what he’s done in his minor league career, and what he’s shown in his MLB career so far. So far, he’s shown the ability to play an ok OF. He’s a high strikeout, low walk type of hitter. He doesn’t hit for much power, and his baserunning is ok.

      He should be a nice cheap utility OF. Nothing wrong with that.

    • Funn Dave

      Sample size, babip.

      • Scotti

        His BABIP is high because he is an excellent bunter for hits (he was 3rd, or such, this year in the league in his limited play) That is a repeatable skill.

  • mdavis

    good interview with Grimm. Sounds like they are just making him a full time reliever. I wouldn’t of minded seeing him getting a shot to log some innings as a starter, at least in spring thoguh.

  • Jono

    What an honor for Mr. Cub! He deserves it. The guy is amazing. He’s always smiling, always happy to take pictures with fans. Banks is a top notch person

  • Chad

    Looks like Grimm is prepping for a role in the bullpen.

    • On The Farm

      I suppose with Shark, Arrieta, Jackson, and Wood, Grimm’s best chances are coming out of the pen this next season. Who knows maybe after this year in the pen they can stretch him back out to the starter in the future. Either way it would be nice to have more than just one guy in the pen you feel comfortable giving the ball to.

  • ssckelley

    Spriggs, thanks for the write up. Good stuff as always!

  • Rich

    SICK SICK SICK hmm……………….again

  • David

    Hopefully Mr. Lake will take advantage of his opportunity to play center field for the next 2years. I think he can bring a lot of energy to the team until Almora is ready. Bat him2nd and leave him there.

  • http://Permalink papad1945

    Great news. What about the coaching staff.

  • mdavis

    Any thoughts on Drew Stubbs as an extra OF? I know he’s also high K low BB. But he has some pop, and good wheels and plays good D. With talk that Renteria wants to be aggressive on the basepaths, could use some guys who could actually run.

  • David

    is “bit bat” supposed to be “big bat” brett? Just curious. Last sentence, 4th to last bullet.

  • Bob

    I don’t get your positioning of Lake as a utility player. Considering his youth and the ability he’s shown so far to put his bat on a major league pitch, I see him with the potential to become a middle of the order kind of guy with ‘plus’ defensive skills, once he settles into a position. What have I missed?

    • Cubbie Blues

      His Minor League career.

      • Cubbie Blues

        OK that was a bit harsh. His Minor League numbers tell us that he has a lot of potential, but he has never been able to put them all together.

    • Kyle

      He’s not *that* young and even his success last year had some troubling statistical indicators.

      He doesn’t really walk that much, he strikes out a lot, and he doesn’t really hit for much power, so his OBP is always going to be low long-term unless he changes those things.

      • cub2014

        Geez Kyle, he is 23 thats pretty young.
        I think his biggest problem is over swinging
        (thats my visual opinion) but until Svuem
        decided to quit playing everyday his stats
        were very good.

        And still he does look like a utility player,
        who needs to get better in his OF defense.
        He may prove us wrong again. I hope so.

      • Eric

        Good grief, now 23 isn’t young for a MLB player?

        • Edwin

          I’d say 23 isn’t so young that you can project a ton of growth for Lake. Certainly not enough to think that he’ll go from Utility OF to above average starter. You can project some improvement, but it’s not like he’s 18-20 with little pro experience. He has almost 2500 pro PA’s.

        • Kyle

          23 isn’t young enough to be projecting significant, breakout-types of growth. Sure, it can happen, but it isn’t particularly likely at this age.

          Lake at 27 is very likely to be a somewhat better version of what Lake is at 23. That could be anything from a 5th outfielder to a nice starter, but it’s unlikely (although as always, not impossible) that he’ll be a “middle of the order” type.

      • Senor Cub

        Kyle – stop talking out of your behind. The fact that he had some success was impressive. If you’ve been reading for any time you would know that he is not projected to have much success….so he is proving everyone wrong in the meantime. Enjoy it man!

        • Kyle

          There’s nothing mutually exclusive about being impressed with the step forward he took in 2013 and not believing he’s a “middle of the order” type long-term.

        • roz

          C’mon. Kyle can be a little cynical at times but he’s not wrong about Lake.

      • JB88

        He’s a utility player at best. And I’m not really certain that even his bat translates well enough, longterm to even be that good of a utlity player. Maybe a poorman’s Reed Johnson? And only if his OF defense improves tremendously. Lake screams “transition player” to me.

    • cub2014

      Bob, I am with you on Lake. Though it feels
      like he will be a utility player, he has been written
      off at every level. Yet he has continued to make
      adjustments and improve at every level. He has
      power it just hasnt shown so far. So ya I am all
      in with letting him start the season in CF (would
      rather have Choo) lets see what he can do.

    • Edwin

      Lake doesn’t draw many walks, he strikes out at a high rate, and he doesn’t hit for an abundance of power. His defense is good enough that he can play OF, but not special enough to make him into a regular.

      He’s basically Alfonso Soriano of the past couple years, but with fewer walks, more strikeouts, and much less power. For him to turn into a “middle of the order kind of guy with ‘plus’ defense”, he would need a lot of things to break his way.

      • Chad

        I’m a bit higher on Lake than most, but I’m admittedly a big cubs homer. His defense will improve. His first game to play CF was in Chicago last year. If you have spent your whole life as an IF, then spent a few games in LF in Iowa nobody should expect your defense to be very good. I don’t think Lake is a middle of the order bat, but he has a lot of tools that will make him a useful player on the cubs team, especially since he is cheap. I don’t see any reason to bash on him or give up on him yet.

        • Edwin

          I’m not bashing him or giving up on him. I think he can be a useful 4th OF, and he’ll be pretty cheap.

          • cub2014

            Our OF coming in to next year is really
            5 unknown guys.
            *Schierholtz – first time playing fulltime
            hit lefties better than righties.
            *Bogusevic – converted pitcher, never played
            fulltime, hits lefties at .147 OUCH!
            *Sweeney – only regular once hit .293 w OBP
            .348 (no power, decent CF, David Dejesus?)
            *Lake – great debut, hit .400 against lefties and
            .250 against righties (jury is still out)
            *Vitters – unknown, hit everywhere except those
            100 AB’s in chicago in 2012.

            If the Cubs dont bring in Choo or Ellsbury, I think
            we will see Lake in CF, Schierholtz in RF, with
            Vitters and Sweeney platooning in LF.

            • roz

              I’m good with that. At this point, it’s put up or shut up time for Vitters, so I’d love to see him get some playing time with the big league squad.

  • hansman

    Didn’t Banks already have 1 Presidential Medal of Freedom?

    • DarthHater

      It’s a great day for two.

  • SH

    Awesome read Spriggs, thanks for sharing.

  • anonymous-ly

    Disregard the pundits and critics. Lake will be an excellent MLB player. Maybe have a better career than some of the fan favorites in minor league ball. Theo has been on record that Lake is a late bloomer because he was constantly growing in size. Lake has been steadily improving his peripherals every year since the decline in his growth rate.

    “He’s got a chance to be a really exciting player,” team president Theo Epstein said. “But there’s still a lot of development left. He’s got that incredible physical ability, amazing tools, where when he is locked in, and when he is seeing the ball well, he can do some things on the baseball field that make you drop your jaw.”

    • Cubbie Blues

      I don’t think anyone here would disagree with your second paragraph. That has been the take on him since day one in the Minors. But, that’s just it. He is now up in the Majors and is still very raw.

      • Nate Dawg

        The thing about Lake that always intrigues me is his sheer size and athleticism. I think it’s unlikely that his on-base skills improve significantly, but it isn’t out of the question that sometime down the road his power spikes unexpectedly like Joey Bautista or Chris Davis. While that is also unlikely, it’s conceivable given Lake’s build. Maybe he’ll change his swing plane or something will just click. My hopes aren’t super high, but I’m not ready to write him off as a utility guy just yet.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      On which peripherals has Lake been improving? Not K’s:
      With the exception of one unusually bad level, he’s been pretty constant (and not great).

      Not BB’s:
      With the exception of one unusually bad level, he’s been pretty constant (and not great).

      Probably not HR’s:
      This is the closest: but you’d expect one player in about 12 or 13 to show that difference in results between the first three leagues and the last three leagues. (As his K & BB rates have remained roughly constant, PAs is still appropriate here; you reach the same conclusion with ABs.)

      Now, Lake has not fallen behind the competition: but he has not been steadily improving in any basic results.

      • anonymous-ly

        Doc, how do you not include his A ball level to justify your graph? A ball is actually when he starts to play against significant competition. There has been improvement in all his peripherals since A ball. Plus, he did way better than golden child Rizzo in his first taste of MLB action.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Something was seriously wonky about his A-ball stats. They basically are an outlier, suggesting that something else (health? vision issues? weird ballpark effects?). Take away those, and there is zero trend in these data. A+ – AAA in particular is just classic probablistic fluctuation: there is zero story there.

          And, no, Lake did not do way better than Rizzo. The K-rates, XBH rates and even HR rates are indisitinguishable given the tiny sample sizes involved. (And that is telling, given the huge difference in home parks that the two had.) Basically we’d expect the same contrasts if the guys were playing the same one time in every 2 comparisons, tops.

          However, the walk rates were not: Rizzo would draw that many more walks than Lake in so few PAs at the same rate about one time in 30.

          The difference was, of course, BABiP: and that is a fickle and unpredictable thing. Lake probably will always have a higher one than Rizzo, but that’s the only thing that separated them.

          So, Lake will probably give us a lot more singles than Rizzo. However, given taht there is no correlation between out-singling the opposition and winning (where there are huge correlations between out-slugging and out-walking the opposition and winning), that’s a minor “Huzzah” at best.

  • Jon

    Would anyone else be disappointed if the best Kris Bryant becomes is Dave Kingman?

  • Stevie B

    Look at Sammy Sosa’s stats in the minors up to age 23, and tell me Lake can’t be a great ball player.
    These are KIDS….for the love of mayonnaise, why so quick to give up and pigeon hole / label players?
    Josh Donaldson called and wants….well nothing from the Cubs….except to say thanks!

    • MichiganGoat

      Um well Sammy used ummmm well um yeah… but yes it’s not that Lake is too old it’s just that some aren’t as sold on him yet. I hope for the best but don’t expect much.

      • Edwin

        His numbers were good, even before his “power surge”. His 1993-1996 seasons were solid.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Also, whenever Sammy started taking whatever he was taking, it doesn’t explain how he started *not* swinging at pitches a foot outside the strike zone. If they could bottle *that* and start juicing Lake, Baez, Castro (hell, even Patterson is young enough still!), then the Cubs could have a Sox-like lineup in a hurry.

    • Edwin

      Nobody is saying that Lake “can’t” be a great ballplayer, just that it’s unlikely, based on his minor league numbers.

  • Terry

    I think Lake might be fine in center,I think the big bat they could get in a trade is Mark Trumbo.I have wanted the Cubs to go after him ever since the Angels signed Pujols.

    • bbmoney

      I don’t get the Trumbo love from a lot of folks. Yes, he’s got light tower power and it appears he might, at age 27, be learning to take a walk.

      But he’s really a 1b/DH only who’s just about to start getting expensive, his career OBP is under .300, he’s coming off his worst offensive season, and if you want to play him anywhere but 1b he’s a terrible defender.

      I’d rather the Cubs hang on to all the prospect arms they’ve got (since that’s almost certainly what the Angels will want) and let Rizzo hold down 1b.

      • JB88

        The other curious thing is that anyone who lands Trumbo is certain to overpay since he affords something that is lacking throughout baseball: power, which the Cubs have quite a bit of in the minor leagues already. So effectively, the Cubs would be overpaying for a flawed player with a skill set that they already have quite a few near-ML-ready players that already have that same skill.

        If the Cubs overpay for anything, I don’t see the need to overpay for power, at this point.

  • Stevie B

    Ok Goat….you win. I just cant help but see Sammy when I look at Lake.
    To me, Lake is an athlete who is learning to play baseball…..kinda like Happy Gilmore…..”I’m a hockey player, but today I’m playing golf.”

  • Aaron

    Is Junior Lake the larger sized, right handed version of Corey Patterson?

    • MichiganGoat

      It’s very possible. I do hope he makes it but if he fails it should be interesting when the pendulum swings from “play him, give him a chance” to “trade away his worthless ass.”