Game Report: Cubs Prospect Junior Lake
Cubs prospect and Tennessee Smokies Infielder Junior Lake showed off an impressive bat against some very good Jackson Generals (AA-Mariners) pitchers; however, there are still holes in his game that need to be addressed before a promotion to the majors is reality.
I was much more impressed with my look at Lake this season, as oppose to the look I had of him last season. He looked like an absolute mess last year at the plate, practically employing a different batting stance every pitch. In 8 observed plate appearances this season, his consistency, pitch by pitch during the at bat, was the starkest improvement in his game.
Power: Junior Lake has outstanding power. He hit a home run off of Mariners prospect James Paxton that not only cleared the wall but almost cleared the fence separating Smokies Park and it's next door neighbor. If that wasn't impressive enough, Lake turned around a high 90s offering from Mariners prospect Taijuan Walker foul that landed outside of Smokies Park. It was a tremendous blast against a top 10 prospect. As this kid matures, I think he is definitely a 20 home run hitter, with the ability to hit 30. His power displayed impressed me that much.
Contact: I worry about Lake's swing and miss percentage. He's walking much more, laying off pitches he flailed at last year, like breaking balls way out of the zone. He's also taking unhittable fastballs as well. Combined, these are the two primary reasons for the uptake in walks so far. However, if a pitcher were to throw a change up that sinks out of the zone or a good breaking breaking ball that ends up in the dirt, Lake is going to offer at it almost everytime. Those pitches are very much Lake's Kryptonite. His pitch recognition skills still need a lot of work.
Base Running: Junior Lake has not improved his base stealing ability. His feet almost seem to become tangled when he takes his jump off first. He was successful in his lone steal attempt but it was more the product of the Generals not executing well than Lake exhibiting base stealing ability.
Fielding: I observed Lake playing third base and thought he looked better there than my previous experience watching him play short. Lake has one of the best infield arms I've ever scouted; however, the rest of his infield game is a bit unrefined. I thought he showed good reactions at third, making a great bare handed play on a slow ground ball. He also made a good play to his right on a hard hit smash. Lake's biggest problem defensively is his hard hands. It's like his hands are made of stone. He made an error on a ball he simply booted, much like what I observed last season. The good still doesn't outweigh the bad thought. I truly believe this kid screams for a change to the outfield. Players with his athleticism and arm should be able to find a place in the outfield fairly easily.
The Cubs organization needs to practice patience with Lake. He's a very unrefined ballplayer, who has gotten to Double A on his talent skill set alone. He has grown so much from last season but has a ways to go before he is ready to take his place in the Cubs lineup. I really stress that a move to the outfield would be beneficial to all parties above. His ETA is Mid-2013.