Outfielder Junior Lake will be setting out to make his first Opening Day roster in his Major League career as he heads to Spring Training for the 2014 season. All signs point to Lake becoming the starting left fielder for the Chicago Cubs this year. Lake is one of the many young prospects that the Cubs have in their organization that is looking to make an impact and ultimately lead the team into championship contention.
Chicago called up Lake midway through the season last year, and Lake made his debut on July 19, 2013 where he also hammered out three hits in his first four big-league at-bats. The upside is there for the soon-to-be 24-year old, and he figures to continue to build and develop upon on a nice rookie campaign. Former Cub Alfonso Soriano is on record as saying that he sees a younger version of himself in Lake’s talent, and that he might eventually progress into having potential for 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases. Lake will take over the spot Soriano held with the Cubs for the last seven seasons as the Cubs’ everyday left fielder.
The consensus is that Lake needs to improve in two key areas during his second season in Chicago. The first is cutting down his strikeout to walk rate which was 5:1 in 64 games last season. Lake will develop into a solid hitter if he is able to improve his plate discipline. For fans, it would be a pleasant sight to see a new No. 21 become a staple in the Cubs’ line-up once again.
The second area of improvement is defensively. While Lake does have a strong arm and above average speed, his fielding can use some needed improvement. However, that could be somewhat expected as he is a converted infielder still adjusting to life out in the grass. Although, having a left fielder that has adventures in the outfield is old hat for Cubs fans.
GM Jed Hoyer and manager Rick Renteria have already proclaimed that Lake will get plenty of playing time and plenty of at-bats in 2014 to see if his talents on the field can improve. With the anticipated heavy workload, some pressure might be on Lake to perform well or else he could be lost in the shuffle down the road. The Cubs have Jorge Soler, Albert Almora, and Kris Bryant all waiting in the wings that could claim outfield spots in the future.
This year, look for Lake to get around 145 games started, a .287 batting average, 19 home runs, and 75 RBIs for the Cubs in his first full season on the North side.
Nick Schaeflein is a Chicago Cubs writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ptchr2424 or add him to your network on Google.