When it comes to Junior Lake, the physical tools are obvious. Power at the plate, speed on the base paths and a rocket arm in the outfield. Lake is a very interesting player and has been exciting to watch since the Chicago Cubs called him up back in July.
In 226 plate appearances, Lake is hitting .302/.342/.458 with six home runs and four stolen bases. He has played better than expected defensively in the outfield, showcasing his speed and incredible arm strength. Lake is currently featuring his talent for the Cubs’ front office as he tries to become part of the future plans of the organization. I think Lake has done enough to force the Cubs to give him playing time next season as they try to decide whether he will continue to be an everyday player for this team.
Playing mostly in the infield, the 23-year-old Lake was considered to be a very raw prospect during his time in the minor leagues. The skills have always been there, but he struggled mightily with consistency. One game Lake would go 3-for-4 and look like an obvious future major league star, and the next he would look like he just started playing baseball. Plate discipline and mental defensive errors were legitimate concerns by scouts while Lake was in the minors. He has seemed to be more consistent at the major league level, but these issues have certainly not completely gone away. If he is ever going to reach his potential, Lake must become more patient at the plate and more focused in the field.
Overall Lake has been very impressive with the Cubs. Impressive enough, that I wonder whether he will receive some votes for National League Rookie of the Year. Realistically, Lake is not going to win the award. Outfielder Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers and pitchers Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins and Shelby Miller of the St. Louis Cardinals lead an impressive group of rookies in the National League. One of Puig, Fernandez and Miller will probably win the award, with my hypothetical vote going to Fernandez. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Julio Teheran are also guys who will certainly receive some votes.
With such a loaded rookie class, I have a hard time seeing Lake receiving a significant amount of votes. He has been impressive and certainly would receive a fair amount of votes in a normal season. I would not be surprised if he does get a few votes, and that would hopefully help his confidence heading into next season. Regardless, Lake is the most exciting player on the Cubs’ roster, and it will be very interesting to see how his career unfolds.