Prospectus Preview: Close to the Bigs, Junior Lake
(Photo by Rodger Wood)
After a slow start, Junior Lake really took off in 2012. He spent a full season at Double-A Tennessee, where he hit .279/.341/.432 (AVG/OBP/SLG) and focused on developing patience at the plate. As the year went on, he became a big part of the Smokies offense, ripping 10 home runs, driving in 50 and stealing 21 bases.
Though General Manager Jed Hoyer said in a December conference call that he doesn’t put a ton of stock into Caribbean Winter League stats, it’s hard to ignore Lake’s efforts in the Dominican. The versatile defender played all over the diamond, including shortstop, third base and the outfield. His .312/.382/.474 line was in the top five in the league in each category, and he hit five home runs and stole 11 bases during the regular season.
Lake will be playing third and batting seventh for the blue team in the Cubs’ first intrasquad matchup on Thursday afternoon in Mesa, Ariz. He’ll be playing alongside star prospects like Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, and Brett Jackson and will be opposite the potential Opening Day lineup.
Though the Cubs aren’t entirely sure where they want to place Lake defensively, the 22-year-old showed he can hit against Double-A pitching last season and was added to the team’s 40-man roster.
Lake is one of more than 60 players covered in Vine Line’s annual Minor League Prospectus. The issue is on newsstands now, with single issues available by calling 800-618-8377. It’s an exhaustive rundown, perfect for Spring Training and beyond.
IF | Junior Lake
Born: 3.27/90 in San Pedro, Dominican Republic
Acquired: 2008 NDFA
Tools: Power, Arm, Speed
2012 STATS (Double-A): .279/.341/.432 in 103 games
Lake’s a prospect you can’t miss, both because of his height (taller than the listed 6-foot-2) and his tools. He has a cannon arm, big, raw power, and good speed despite his large frame. Lake had a solid 2012, though he still hasn’t had the explosive, breakout year many expect. This season, he came to the ballpark with a plan every day, and his walk rate doubled (to 7.8 percent) under the new development team’s expectations. He’ll start at Triple-A and continue to work on defensive versatility, probably at third base and in the outfield as he did in the Dominican Winter League. Not yet 23, Lake has the majors within reach if he shows game utility.
Other players featured in this section: infielders Josh Vitters and Logan Watkins; outfielders Brett Jackson and Matt Szczur; and pitchers Alberto Cabrera, Trey McNutt, Brooks Raley, Nick Struck, Robert Whitenack and Tony Zych.
Plus, tidbits on OF Jae-Hoon Ha, LHP Chris Rusin, LHP Frank Del Valle, LHP Zach Rosscup, RHP Matt Loosen, IF Justin Bour, RHP Marcus Hatley, LHP Austin Kirk and RHP Eric Jokisch.