Although he is extremely raw, Junior Lake is one of the most talented players in the Chicago Cubs‘ organization. He has great speed, impressive power and one of the strongest arms that you will see for an outfielder. While he was inconsistent, Lake was very exciting last season hitting .284/.332/.428 in 236 MLB at-bats. He has spent seven seasons in the minors, and at 24 years old, he has nothing left to prove down there. It is time for him to get a full-time MLB opportunity so the Cubs can see what they have in the toolsy outfielder.
Last season, Lake played 27 of his 56 MLB games in center field. While his play defensively was very shaky at times, Lake was always an infielder in the past. Last season was the first time he has ever played the outfield in his seven-year professional career. Things like taking correct routes to the ball will come more natural to Lake as he plays more in the outfield. I think with his elite-level athleticism, Lake will be able to handle center field as he becomes more comfortable and grows as an outfielder. He has the talent to play CF, and that is half of the battle.
While he is incredibly athletic, Lake has severe contact issues that make his chances of reaching his elite potential unlikely. That being said, a low batting average and contact rate would be much more acceptable if he was playing center field than if he was playing on the corners. Teams expect great offensive production out of a corner OF position, but because defense is more important in CF, lower offensive production is acceptable.
With a team that is highly unlikely to compete this season, the Cubs have nothing to lose by giving Lake a chance to prove himself in CF this season. If he proves that he can be an above-average defender at the position, the contact rate and inconsistency becomes less of a concern. Lake has legitimate 30-30 potential. If he can play solid defense in CF and reaches his offensive potential, he becomes an All-Star-caliber player.