At this point, the Chicago Cubs should be focused on the future of the club. Based on what we saw this season from rookie outfielder Junior Lake, he could be the future.
Since debuting for the Cubs after the All-Star break, the 23-year-old Lake has spent a good portion of his time doing things that most others haven’t. He was the first Cubs player to hit safely in his first seven MLB games since Jerome Walton in 1989. Then, on September 6, he became only the fourth player in the last five years to hit a grand slam and get a base hit off of a bunt in the same game.
Still, the rookie hasn’t been without his fair share of struggles.
During the season, Lake went 2-20 in a one-week stretch and had a five-game streak of multiple strikeouts that put his hacktastic approach to the plate on display. After a blazing start with the Cubs, he cooled off and was plagued by inconsistency. The production is there, though.
As of September 11, Lake is batting .313/.356/.474 with six home runs and four stolen bases in 192 at-bats. He’ll need to cut down on the strikeouts (49) moving forward, but is showing extremely well for a rookie.
Lake has put a handful of tools (arm strength, power hitting, speed) on display during his rookie campaign, and it’s given the Cubs plenty to be excited about. Despite streaky batting, he possesses solid fielding ability and clearly excels as a base runner. Although not known as a power hitter, Lake has also shown a knack for pitching in more home runs than his minor league stat sheet would lead you to believe.
On top of everything, though, Lake has a team-first mentality and is undoubtedly invested in doing what he can to help the Cubs compete.
The Cubs are a team looking to rebuild this offseason. They parted ways with Matt Garza and Alfonso Soriano midway through the year, and are looking to add pieces that can develop into long-term assets. Building a roster around a talented young player like Lake will definitely help as they make this transition.
There are still some lingering questions about Lake, but the Cubs appear to have a key piece of the puzzle in the young outfielder.