If ever there was a club that needed to win the World Series, the Chicago Cubs would be it. It’s been a long time . . . 105 years to be exact. (Sorry, Cubs fans. I’m really not trying to open some really old wounds, but more just setting some context here.) But perhaps some light is coming at the end of the tunnel. To get out of this epic slump, the Cubs are going to need some young talent, and it’s possible that talent has arrived. While he’s not technically a “rookie,” 23 year-old outfielder Junior Lake is the one Cubs fans are placing their hope in.
In just 64 big league games, Lake batted .286 with 67 hits, six home runs and 16 RBI. Those numbers aren’t bad at all for a first year player. To put it in perspective; averaging those numbers out over a season of 162 games would come out to 170 hits, 15 home runs and 41 RBI. Suffice to say, he can hit. But those numbers don’t tell the entire story. The hope of Cubs fans doesn’t come without its flaws. After all, a ballplayer needs to make contact in order to be a great hitter.
Lake’s strikeouts outnumbered his walks by more than a 5:1 clip in 2013. Because of that, his on base percentage was a meager .332. Granted, I should remind readers that this is based on a small sample size but it does illustrate something worth keeping an eye on. For one his own manager at the time, Dale Sveum, went on the record and said he’d like Lake to work on “Not being so aggressive at the plate.” Unfortunately, that’s not the only hindrance to Lake’s MLB hopes.
He’s had a rough go of it in the field thus far. Thanks to the fine folks at Baseball Reference, the fielding portion of the previous link illustrates just how rough that has been. *I’d give a basic understanding of what some of those numbers mean, but it would require a page full of words that people likely won’t read anyway, so here is the gist of it.*
He has a fantastic arm and very good speed. But on the field, he hasn’t gotten to a lot of the plays he should have. As noted by one major league scout, “instincts are slow and his first step is often late. Shows good range once underway . . . Not a natural defender.”
He’s hesitant in the field. He has to develop more of a ballplayer’s instinct, defensively. Lake is fantastically talented, extremely athletic and has the tools to become a tremendous ballplayer. But he has to translate those skills onto the field. If he can make that happen, he’ll do big things. With the talent he has, more reps in the field can only help him. The question is whether the club has time to show patience through his learning. He has incredible potential.
Assuming Lake can improve defensively and the club gives him time to do so, he is going to have a solid season at the plate. I foresee a .290 average with 20 home runs, 80 RBI but only a .340 OBP because of his strikeout propensity.