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junior lake cubsThe kiddos are doing a breakfast with Santa thing this morning. I’ve never gone to one before, and I’m not entirely sure I get the connection between Santa and breakfast. Does he bring the pancakes himself? Is there reindeer sausage? You know, holly is not to be eaten, Mr. Claus.

  • When Junior Lake’s season in the Dominican Winter League ended earlier this week, I assumed it was because he decided it was time to rest up and focus on Spring Training ahead. It’ll be a critical one for Lake – well, a critical early season – who is trying to lock down a starting job in the Cubs’ outfield, and, absent another major move, left field will be his to lose. Shutting things down in the DWL would have made some sense. Turns out, it wasn’t necessarily Lake’s decision, according to the Tribune. The Cubs were the ones who invoked a “fatigue clause” in the deal permitting Lake to play in the DWL (it’s a standard clause for big leaguers playing in offseason leagues). Given that Lake was dominating the league at the time, and getting valuable outfield experience, it’s fair to assume that the Cubs wouldn’t have shut him down unless they were quite serious about giving him a legitimate shot to win an outfield job next year. I no longer expect the Cubs to make an addition in left field (most of the reasonable options had long gone out the window anyway), and I think the team will enter the year with an outfield of Lake in left, Sweeney/Ruggiano in center, and Schierholtz/another righty in right. I understand why the outfield is going to look like that, but it won’t exactly put up MLB average outfield production. (Late in the season, I offered a couple of pieces digging into whether Lake could realistically provide above average production in left field, or in center field.)
  • Obligatory acknowledgement: yes, I think Josh Vitters will also get a nominal chance to win the left field job. I know nothing of his ability to play passable defense in left field, and I’m not sure his overall upside is as high as Lake’s, but Vitters’ bat certainly projects to be better if he maxes it out.
  • A great piece from Mark Gonzales in the Tribune about bench coach Brandon Hyde, his time as a bench coach with the Marlins, and his unique role in helping transition Rick Renteria into the manager’s seat. The more time we have to settle into the idea that the guy who was directing the farm system over the past two years is now on the big league bench, the more I really, really like it. Not only does Hyde have experience in the position, but he’s going to have a uniquely intimate view of all of the young talent on the way up. Who better to assist RR, and to serve as a conduit – I mean that in a good, non-pejorative way – for the front office when it comes to making game-related decisions about the young players?
  • The ZiPS projection on the Minnesota Twins is out, and it’s interesting to see how much impact adding a few big-ish free agents can have on a young, rebuilding team’s expected output. In the Twins’ case, the answer is … not much. That’s probably a bit idiosyncratic, given that ZiPS appears to hate (relatively speaking) Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes. Salient point here is only that it takes a lot of offseason movement to project a 2013 stinker as a 2014 winner. Most dramatic team-level swings in outcomes from year to year come from young players developing, veteran players bouncing back, and random players surprising/fluking.
  • A FanGraphs study indicates that, in the post-PED era, hitters no longer peak in their mid-to-late-20s. They don’t peak at all, actually. They just immediately start a decline from the early-20s on. It’s a striking revelation … HOWEVA, it is markedly neutered by the fact that the study includes such a short window of time, and that’s during an era when the offensive output across the board has been decreasing every year for reasons wholly unrelated to player peaking. So, across those seven years, the likelihood of seeing “peaks” is dramatically reduced. Offensive output needs to stabalize first before we can really try to figure out if hitter peaking has changed.
  • In case you missed any of the moves yesterday, the Cubs picked up 24-year-old righty Liam Hendriks from the Twins, and made a trio of minor league signings.
  • Jay offers his comprehensive thoughts on the enduring Cutler/McCown debate for the Bears fans among you.
  • And BN’er Chris’s 12 Days of Cubsmas contest – during which there are 12 chances to win a free copy of Chris’s book – continues apace.
  • cub2014

    If……………………
    Lake & Castillo keep making progress
    Rizzo & Castro revert back to normal numbers
    Baez & Bryant are solid big league hitters
    Choo & Brown are brought in
    Olt & Watkins, Sweeney & Ruggiono as serviceable back ups

    these guys are all tied up long term and all
    young (except choo)

    then you have: Villanueva,Soler,Almora
    Alcantera & Vogelbach waiting in the wings.

    with potential utility guys like: andreoli,saunders,
    bruno.

    If we just add those 2 guys everything looks very
    different for 2014 and 2015

    • Robert

      Don’t forget Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters ?

  • Jason P

    Even in the steroid era and other eras the fangraphs article analyzed, players still peaked around their age 25-26 seasons. A serious decline began around their age 29-30 seasons.

    Rizzo’s going to be 25 next year, so does that mean last year was close to his peak? I sure hope he’s the exception to the rule.

    • Jay

      Rizzo has only played a year and half of MLB ball. We haven’t even scratched the surface of what he’s going to do. I have no faith in any study that arrives at that idiotic conclusion. Rizzo would have to have a year decidedly worse than last year for me to even begin to lose faith in him, and that just is not going to happen.

    • FarmerTanColin

      Rizzo will be 24 for just about the entire season. I think you are misunderstanding the study as well. You cant properly derive much of a conclusion when mlb as a whole has seen a decline in offense. So as Brett said once the offensive numbers normalize (stop declining) then go back to looking at individual numbers and see if players do have a “peaking” period.

      After another full season is where we will probably see what Rizzo is capable of.

      • Jason P

        Did you not read my comment? I said “Even in the steroid era and other eras fangraphs analyzed…”

  • Michael

    Brett,
    Who do you see as possible platoon options with Nate in right field, considering both in-house options and free agents/trade targets?

    • FarmerTanColin

      Not Brett but it’s looking like Ruggiano or Vitters possibly Hoon-Ha. It looks like they are done signing outfielders. If Nate is traded could see Kalish take over his share of the platoon.

  • SenorGato

    Man do I hope the Cubs are just fucking with me and are looking to trade Lake before the offseason is out. I’d love to bundle him with others for a quality MLer.

    • Funn Dave

      Who else would they put out there?

  • Senor Cub

    Lake was 1 of 2 or even 3 highlights of last year. I am 100% rooting for him. I hope he sticks, I love his demeanor, and seems to be a quick study. I would have been bummed if he was not given a “true” opportunity. You just never know, he may be our next star in-spite of what the stats may show.

    • Funn Dave

      Same here. Yes some regression is to be expected, but until that happens, I say let him play.

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      I think that Lake might have been the highlight of last season period. Of course Travis Wood had a stellar year. Buy Lake just came out swinging and flat out played his way into the big picture. I saw raw talent there. Little was expected from him and he could have cared less. I may have to eat crow later, but I’m going out on a limb and predicting that Junior Lake will have a very good year.

  • http://worldseriesdreaming.com/ Jackson Scofield
    • Jason P

      The only one of those I would ever read would be the second… Maybe the first once in a blue moon.

  • CubsFaninAZ

    Whats with all the Choo chatter???? Cubs arent going to give the 31 yr old a Carl Crawford deal, so get over it. Only a desperate contender would. And if his price and years drop , the Reds would be all over re-signing him. Get over it. If you desperately want a deal done, might as well go after Carl Crawford himself, because the Dodgers would probably eat a good chunk of that for a couple decent prospects. To me Brett Gardner makes the most sense to add for the Cubs (if an addition is even needed at this point). If he plays really well with the Cubs your a bidder for him during free agency, if not oh well the spots open again to make another move in 2014. Yanks interest in Barney is great for us. Ship him and 3b prospect Christian Villeuneuva for Gardner. No way were trading EJax now that his deal seems to be better and better with the rates for #4 guys this off season. A bounce back year and some run support can have him looking like a #2. No way we deplete our rotation and the workhorse in the middle for that deal!

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      Well said.

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    I’m sure the Yankees would take Barney for Vernon Wells and most likely even eat the dollars remaining on his contract. Then Wells could platoon with Schierholtz in RF. I would ask for 2B Dean Anna from the Yanks in that deal who they really do not need on their 40 man.
    I was hot a couple of weeks ago that the Cubs should use their Rule V pick on him when he was in the Padres system. However the Yankees traded for him before that and the Cubs lost their pick as well.

    • CubsFaninAZ

      Problem with that is , Cubs have middle infield depth for days right now, no where to put him but on the bench at every level, unless you want to stunt one of the young studs growth!

  • Die hard

    If Astros sign Choo he can DH

    • MichiganGoat

      I’m shocked I never knew that any player in the AL could DH, I really need to study the game more.

      • DarthHater

        Hey, don’t discourage him on the rare occasions when he says something accurate.

        • MichiganGoat

          Great point, DH keep up the great work.

  • LER

    Wells is old for his age, and not in a good way (smarts). He’s disappointed for at least four years now. And if the Yankees don’t need someone on their 40 as an infielder, given how lousy their infield is trending, then why bother with him?

  • Carew

    Why do people always put EJax in trade proposals? He is not going to be traded! I think he is a prime candidate for a good bounce-back season

  • LER

    Agreed.

  • dAn

    Hoyer made a quote recently (sometime in the last week or so) saying that they wanted Lake to get significant playing time, and that the Cubs like what they saw from him in Winter Ball. Can’t remember where I saw/heard that, though.

    Ruggiano might platoon in RF with Schierholtz. Sweeney was pretty good against LHP, last year at least. If Ruggiano helps in CF, then maybe Vitters pairs with Schierholtz in RF.

    • Jason P

      Lake has always dominated winter ball. I’m still skeptical he’ll produce at a starter’s level in the bigs, but he certainly crushes mistakes.

      Unless Vitters has a great spring, I’m thinking a 4-man rotation of Sweeney, lake, Schierholtz, and Ruggiano in the outfield is likely.

      • TOOT

        Um. Was the lower case with Lake intentional? I think the dude crushes skeptics next year, and it’s O.K. if you hold me to it. Been wrong before, but going by gut feeling here instead of metrics.

  • bobk

    I think Lake can be a real stud. The other outfielders are all #4 type guys that we should be flipping at the break if they perform. I could see a future outfield of (Lake, Almora, Soler) or if we add a big name FA to the outfield Lake would be a great #4 guy. He and Starlin are buddies. I think they feed of each others energy. Castro’s bat started to come along after Lake made his arrival. I would not be surprised at all to see him have a break out year.

  • Die hard

    Pitchers and catchers report in 45 days

    • Rich`

      I think it is more like 65 days

    • ClevelandCubsFan

      The Cubs have not announced the pitchers’ and catchers’ reporting date yet (according to two sites I checked). Of the teams that have, the Brewers report in 63 days, the A’s and Royals report in 62 days, and the Rangers report in 64 days.

  • Mrs. Howell

    For the last time, VITTERS IS NOT A THIRD BASEMAN! Did no one who comments here see him play during his call-up in 2012. I hope he can bring a bat to the outfield as a platoon player but 3B, NEVER!

  • arta

    thank u.

  • terencemann

    Lately, I’ve seen more and more about batted ball types and their impact on a hitter’s potential (thanks largely to Tony Blengino’s recent Fangraphs contributions) and I wonder if the FO has some set of number that suggest the ceiling is quite high for Lake if he can just make a basic adjustment.

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