After spending years refining his tools in the minor leagues, Junior Lake finally got his chance in the majors last season. While his flaws were obvious, Lake showed big-time potential at times with an incredible combination of power, speed and athleticism. One game, Lake looks a huge part of the future for the Chicago Cubs, while the next he looks like he has never played the game before. The talent is obvious, but so are his inconsistencies.
With the Cubs needing to see what they have in the 23-year-old outfielder this season, Lake had a starting job in the outfield all but locked up heading into Spring Training. Until Sunday, Lake had been terrible this spring, hitting an embarrassing .200/.237/.257 with no home runs and only one stolen base. He also struck out 14 times in only 35 at-bats. You never want to put too much stock in spring training stats, and it is only a 35-at-bat sample, but Lake has looked completely lost at the plate, and showed that the downside of his career can be ugly.
On Sunday against the Oakland Athletics, however, Lake broke out of his slump in a huge way, when he hit not only his first home run this spring in the sixth inning, but added two more for good measure. He also did not strikeout at all in five at-bats. Lake’s impressive three-home-run game shows how great he can be if he ever puts it all together.
Lake will certainly be an interesting player to watch this season, and considering the Cubs’ lack of depth in the outfield, I am sure he will get ample opportunity. It will likely be a season of drastic ups and downs, but if Lake ever puts together some sort of consistency in his play, he could become a huge asset for the Cubs.