Junior Lake, Presumptive Left Fielder and Other Bullets

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Junior Lake, Presumptive Left Fielder and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

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.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.