Cubs Junior Lake: Boom or Bust Prospect

Per the Urban Dictionary, the phrase “hot mess” means, “When ones thoughts or appearance are in a state of disarray, but they maintain an undeniable attractiveness or beauty.” When scouting Junior Lake during the Southern League playoffs, his game was part car wreck, but I simply could not help but be enamored with his tools. Rocket arm. Explosive hand speed. Plus runner. Other than the way he actually played baseball, there was nothing not to like.

Now this assessment may seem a little bit harsh, but when placed into the context of a 21-year old Dominican prospect who was young for the level of competition, it’s pretty much par for the course. Of course after four years and 1,850 minor league plate appearances, one would hope for a more development from a baseball standpoint, but Lake can log another 1,000+ plate appearances at the minor league level and still break through at 24, an age when many big league regulars surface.

In terms of athleticism, Lake has the frame and explosive movements to make scouts swoon. Listed at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, it’s easy to dream on a more disciplined Lake eventually learning how to tap into his power potential to become a 20-20 threat at whatever position he settles into. But for all his raw athleticism, Lake’s perceived lack of body control negates at least some of his ability to turn tools into baseball production. Even if Lake does not blossom into a big leaguer, his tools alone are likely to keep him in the game for many years to come on the small chance things click.

Offensively, Lake’s swing is messy and in need of significant quieting. With explosive wrists and plus bat speed, he simply does not need the extra movement to generate power. In fact, Lake quieting his stance may result in a spike in power production as his timing may improve resulting in more consistent, hard contact.

In game action, movement in his stance literally changed every at bat and the violent waggle mid-load is a disruptive force, as is the present foot tap to a lesser extent. When a scout mentions, “Player A will occasionally run into a pitch.” Junior Lake is a prime example as his timing mechanism will severely limit his ability to truly square up.

Fortunately for Lake, the Boston Red Sox were excellent at quieting hitters with “loud” hitting mechanics and pieces of that regime are now in Chicago. This leaves me much more bullish on his ability to adjust after witnessing Oscar Tejeda post back-to-back campaigns of sub-.300 wOBA’s in the South Atlantic League before a mechanical overhaul led to a spike in production and a .350+ wOBA at the high-A level.

On defense, Lake has one of the best arms in all of minor league baseball. At some point, a move to the mound may become an option if the organization were to deem his development as a position player a lost cause. In the field, his lack of body control leads to poor footwork and many errors. In the AFL Rising Stars game, his defensive flaws were on display as he made a throwing error and also muffed a softly hit ball behind the pitchers mound. A need to move off the position is likely with center field or third base being a more likely landing spot in the long run.

In pulling a 60-65 run time on the 20/80 scale from video, Lake is a plus runner. With 38 stolen bases in 44 attempts, base running is the most polished aspect of his game. With his physique, his speed should continue to be a weapon for years to come leaving him with the potential for 25+ stolen bases annually should he reach Chicago for good. In many respects, his game resembles that of a poor man’s B.J. Upton without the added value of bases on balls.

In terms of tools, few are more impressive than shortstop Junior Lake, but the gap between them and his present baseball skills is cavernous. Of course organizations and scouts alike are more likely to covet a skill set similar to Lake’s and turn them over to the player development staff to cultivate them into in game production. Of players scouted over the past few seasons, I’ve seen few whose tools I’d prefer to roll the proverbial dice on, but Lake is admittedly more boom or bust than most would want to see in a prospect at the double-A level.



Print This Post



Mike Newman is the Owner/Managing Editor ofROTOscouting, a subscription site focused on baseball scouting, baseball prospects and fantasy baseball. Follow me onTwitter. Likeus on Facebook.Subscribeto my YouTube Channel.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
JRH
Guest
JRH

What an awkward, slightly racist, introductory paragraph. You equate “minority” with “inner city,” and hey! now that you’re back in white bread suburbia, you don’t “need to keep up with [that] dialect.” Back to the Queen’s English for you! As if every cultural group, white bread suburbanites included, didn’t have their own “dialect.”

Also, “hot mess” has become a pretty widely used expression, not just a bit of “dialect” from those exotic “minority” “inner-city” people.

Mac
Guest
Mac

Speaking of harsh criticism…

There’s little need to extrapolate more than is actually there, sir.

Mac
Guest
Mac

(in reference to JRH)

TDW
Guest
TDW

Don’t apologize to this asshole JRH, manners are privilege extended to the deserving. Mike thank you for your breakdown, I appreciate you bringing your expertise to this free site, and offering us all perspective we can’t find in the just the numbers. Oh Yeah and JRH go ahead and Jim Norton’s homepage.

Bob
Guest
Bob

I’ve been reading FanGraphs for years and have never felt the need to negatively comment on another posting (maybe an article or two…) until now. How you could equate what Mike wrote with anything even hinting at racism is just stupid dude. Go away.

MC
Guest
MC

Exactly. There was nothing even REMOTELY racist in that post. I also find it ironic how those most sensitive to racism (of black people) have no qualms whatsoever with dispensing by the truckload with racist or backhanded comments (about white people) – i.e. “white bread suburbia” etc. Perhaps JRH can explain the term “white bread suburbia”, which I find offensive.

There was nothing in the definition of “hot mess” (or the term itself) that had ANYTHING to do with racism, black people, white people, etc. Only a complete tool like JRH could interpret it as such.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

You have no idea what you’re talking about.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

re: JRH

Anon
Guest
Anon

Others have thoroughly addressed the content of the complaint, but I have one nit to pick. As a subject of Her Majesty, I can assure you that Mr. Newman most definitely does not use the Queen’s English, for if he did, he would be referring to Junior Lake as being a centrefielder and not a centerfielder.

Julian Assange
Guest
Julian Assange

Shouldn’t you be helping me get out of jail, instead of hanging around on FG?

David Horrell
Guest
David Horrell

In JRH’s world there’s a racist behind every tree. With his mindset it’s no wonder race relations never seem to improve.

wpDiscuz