Results tagged ‘ Junior Lake ’
(Photo by Stephen Green)
It had to happen sometime, but Cubs fans in Arizona will definitely miss seeing Javier Baez and Jorge Soler play on a regular basis. The Chicago Cubs have assigned seven players—including many of the organization’s top prospects—to minor league camp, reducing their spring roster from 53 to 46 players.
Infielders Junior Lake and Josh Vitters have been optioned to Triple-A Iowa, while infielder Christian Villanueva has been optioned to Double-A Tennessee. Outfielder Jorge Soler has been optioned to Single-A Daytona.
Three non-roster invitees have been assigned to minor league camp: right-handed pitcher Barret Loux, infielder Javier Baez and catcher Rafael Lopez.
“I’ll be honest, [at Spring Training] I look forward to the sixth through ninth innings more than I look forward to the first five innings,” said Cubs GM Jed Hoyer. “We’ll watch the veteran guys all year. … Getting a chance to see the young players up close is something we cherish because we can’t do that all season.”
Chicago’s spring roster now consists of 24 pitchers (eight non-roster invitees), four catchers (one non-roster invitee), nine infielders (four non-roster invitees) and nine outfielders (three non-roster invitees).
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The Cubs agreed to terms with all 21 pre-arbitration eligible players currently on the organization’s 40-man roster Monday. Terms were not disclosed.
Right-handed pitchers Michael Bowden, Alberto Cabrera, Rafael Dolis, Trey McNutt, Hector Rondon, Arodys Vizcaino and Robert Whitenack; and lefties Brooks Raley, Chris Rusin and Travis Wood were all signed to new deals.
Catchers Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger; infielders Darwin Barney, Junior Lake, Anthony Rizzo, Christian Villanueva, Josh Vitters and Logan Watkins; and outfielders Brett Jackson, Dave Sappelt and Matt Szczur also earned updated contracts.
(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.
A steady rain drowned out most of the final day of Cubs baseball at Fitch Park on Wednesday, but there was still a little news.
The Cubs announced the starters for the opening games of their Cactus League slate, which kicks off this weekend. Travis Wood will get the Saturday start against the Los Angeles Angels in Tempe, and Jeff Samardzija will pitch the Sunday home opener against the San Francisco Giants. Carlos Villanueva will pitch Game 3 on Monday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Edwin Jackson will start on Tuesday against the Colorado Rockies.
Matt Garza’s debut has been pushed back due to a mild lat strain on his left side. It was announced Tuesday that he’ll likely be out about a week before resuming baseball activities.
Manager Dale Sveum also held his daily presser, despite the lack of on-field action. Here are Sveum’s best quotes from the day:
Then vs. Now
“We have a lot of the same guys in camp [from a year ago] that ended getting some time in the big leagues. But like I said yesterday, there’s just a whole different look in their eyes. Having that experience and going through some adversity with some of the young guys, it’s a whole lot different. There’s just so much more talent in camp this year than there was last year—and also depth. Guys that are very capable of pitching in the big leagues or guys that are on our radar getting really close to the big leagues. … There’s just more playable talent in camp this year.”
“Spring Training is what it is in any park. Here it’s a little bit unique because you have to move [from Fitch to HoHoKam]. Probably my first memory here is when I had to come over here 25 years ago and rehab my leg clear across from Peoria [in extended Spring Training]. We shared it with the Cubs at that time.”
Prospect Watch (Javy Baez, Jorge Soler, Junior Lake, etc.)
“We have so many split-squad games they’re going to get quite a few games in before being sent down. There are a lot of at-bats out there.”
“I’m very anxious [to see them]. Those are the guys you talk about that are on your radar in the minor league systems that have all those God-given tools—the speed, the arm, the power, hopefully the hitting ability, meaning OPS and those things. A lot of that stuff comes a little bit later in careers. But it’s pretty special talent and bat speed those guys have. You want to see it in person and at game speed.”
“We do have some personalities that are able to fill those [leadership] roles. I think [Anthony] Rizzo is one of those guys. I think [Darwin] Barney is ready to be that guy. Obviously Rizzo’s rookie year and Barney winning a Gold Glove—those kinds of things give you added ability to be a leader in the clubhouse because people look up to people like that. We have [Alfonso] Soriano, and [Jeff] Samardzija is going to take on that role, as well as [Matt] Garza and Edwin Jackson. So we have plenty of personalities that can do that.”
Building for the Future
“Going into this last year, you knew the plan we had, and we weren’t going to take any shortcuts to vary from it. Within a year, the whole organization has changed so dramatically for the good. You just get better players in the organization, and you create an atmosphere where people want to play here, and they want to come to this ballpark and work. That’s all you can do. That’s the transformation we’re trying to do all the time here. And it’s changed a ton in a year.”
Cubs outfielder Dave Sappelt was one of the top performers in the Venezuelan league this winter (Photo by Stephen Green).
Winter league regional play finally came to a conclusion last night as Magallanes fended off Luis Valbuena and his Lara squad to win the Venezuelan title and claim the final spot in the Caribbean Series. The offseason leagues were an opportunity for players to rack up a few more innings of experience while still competing at a high level. Many of the Cubs took advantage of the opportunity, and some excelled in their respective leagues. Below is a list of Cubs representatives who fared well this winter.
Michael Bowden: Pitching for the Aguilas Cibaenas, Bowden posted a 2.76 ERA in 32.2 innings of work. He earned a 3-2 record and struck out 35 batters.
Alberto Cabrera: Playing for the Toros del Este, the Dominican native was used more frequently in the postseason. In 19.2 innings and four starts, Cabrera went 1-1 with a 0.92 ERA, fanning 15 batters and walking just six. He surrendered two earned runs in the playoffs.
Junior Lake: Representing the Estrellas de Oriente, Lake tore apart opposing pitchers, finishing with a line of .312/.382/.474 (AVG/OBP/SLG). The infielder was one of the Cubs’ top performers, hitting five homers, driving in 24 and stealing 11 bases in 154 at-bats.
Nelson Perez: A teammate of Lake’s in the Dominican, Perez was often utilized as a bat off the bench. In 84 at-bats, he compiled a .443 on-base percentage, drawing 29 walks and driving in 21. The Estrellas made the playoffs but were eliminated in the round robin portion.
Esmailin Caridad: The lone Cubs representative who will be participating in the Caribbean Series, Caridad was a solid bullpen arm this winter. In 42.0 innings during the regular season, the righty had a 2.57 ERA, struck out 49 and walked 12.
Jay Jackson: Jackson put up consistent numbers for the Venados de Mazatlan, posting a 3.86 ERA in 49.0 innings of work. The righty went 3-2 and struck out 34 batters over 10 starts.
Yoanner Negrin: In 12 starts for the Leones del Caracas, Negrin was tough to beat. Not a huge strikeout guy (38 K in 58.2 innings), the righty still managed a 2.61 ERA and a 4-1 record.
Dave Sappelt: Sappelt was another elite player this winter. In 116 at-bats, the outfielder put up a .336/.378/.526 line, belting five home runs and five doubles. He also stole five bases and drove in 15.
Luis Valbuena: One of the top performers in all the winter leagues, Valbuena powered his Cardenales de Lara side all the way to the Venezuelan championship. The Cardenales were eliminated last night, losing 11-9 in a back-and-forth Game 7 affair. During the regular season, the Cubs infielder hit .306/.414/.497 with 39 RBI in 183 at-bats. He also drew 34 walks. All of those totals were good enough for top 10 in the league. In the postseason, he hit .341 and drove in 21 in 91 at-bats.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The Estrellas de Oriente of the Dominican league don’t have a shot at reaching the best-of-seven league finals, which take place later this month, but they’re still playing for pride. On Tuesday, it was a trio of Cubs prospects leading the charge in the Estrellas’ 7-6 victory.
In the third inning, Cubs outfielder Nelson Perez reached on a walk and later advanced to third on a pair of singles by Ray Olmedo and Eliezer Mesa. The 25-year-old was then driven in on a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0. He stepped up again in the fourth and ripped a home run to right field to give his side a 5-0 lead. Perez was 1-for-3 with a walk, a homer, an RBI and two runs scored.
But Perez wasn’t the only Cubs prospect to contribute. Junior Lake drove in a run of his own on a single in the third inning and finished the day 1-for-4.
Not to be outdone, Cubs reliever Rafael Dolis was awarded the victory. The right-hander pitched a scoreless eighth inning, striking out one.
The Estrellas are statistically eliminated, as they sit four games out of second place with only two games remaining. The two squads with the best records will square off in the finals next week.
Other notes around the Caribbean:
Luis Valbuena went 2-for-4 with two RBI, a walk and a run scored for the Cardenales of the Venezuelan league.
(Photo by Rodger Wood)
The Caribbean baseball leagues are nearing the final days of their postseason play, with a trip to the Caribbean Series up for grabs for each country. The Dominican postseason round robin wraps up on Jan. 17, with the top two squads facing off in a best-of-nine series for the nation’s title.
The Puerto Rican league, which concludes its round-robin format on Jan. 16, and and the Venezuelan league, which wraps up on the 21st, will each have a best-of-seven series to determine its winner. The Mexican league wraps up on Jan. 20, with a seven-game series of its own.
The winners of each league will compete in the seven-day Caribbean Series, which begins Feb. 1. As the number of teams dwindles, there are fewer players to highlight. Still, a pair of Cubs who have been noted on more than a few occasions this winter came up big again Monday.
Junior Lake went 1-for-4 with an RBI triple for the Estrellas de Oriente of the Dominican league. He also scored a run in the 7-3 win.
Luis Valbuena had an RBI single for the Cardenales de Lara of Venezuela. His side fell 4-3 in the Venezuelan playoffs.
Outfielder Nelson Perez had 390 at-bats between Daytona and Tennessee in 2012 and was a key cog in both lineups. The same cannot be said for the 25-year-old in his winter league season. Despite getting into 40 games for the Estrellas de Oriente of the Dominican league, he’s received just 84 at-bats, or roughly two a game.
For many athletes who are used to playing every day, being relegated to part-time or pinch-hitting duty is a difficult transition. Despite the lack of at-bats, Perez has had a successful season in the Dominican. He recorded 29 walks for the playoff contender, easily the most on the squad, and his .443 on-base percentage was the highest of anyone with more than seven at-bats. Perez has also displayed a knack for timely hitting, plating 21 RBI, second on the team behind only fellow Cubs farmhand Junior Lake.
On Sunday, Perez continued his successful run, going 1-for-1 with a pinch-hit single in the ninth. He would score four batters later, but the Estrellas fell 11-4.
Other notes around the Caribbean:
Perez’s teammate Rafael Dolis fanned two batters in 0.2 innings, surrendering one hit and no earned runs.
(Photo by Rodger Wood)
The Estrellas de Oriente were one of the Dominican winter league’s most dominant teams during the regular season. They finished 30-20, two games out of the lead, and easily made the four-team round-robin postseason.
Though the team was led by its solid pitching staff, the offense was powered by Cubs IF/OF Junior Lake, whose bat not only led the Estrellas in multiple categories, but also ranked high among the rest of the league.
The 22-year-old had an excellent all-around season, hitting .312/.382/.474 (AVG/OBP/SLG), good for third, fifth and fifth respectively in the Dominican. His five home runs were tied for seventh, and his 11 stolen bases were tied for second. The only knock on his season offensively is that he struck out a league-high 46 times.
While his nine errors on the defensive side were a little alarming, the natural shortstop was asked to play a bevy of positions this winter, including third base, left field and occasionally center. Lake, who is expected to start the season at Double-A Tennessee, will likely continue honing his craft at multiple positions this year, as he is blocked by Starlin Castro at shortstop.
Playing left field on Thursday, the Dominican native recorded a pair of hits and drove in a run, giving Estrellas its first win of the postseason in six chances. He reached on a bunt single in the third inning, and drove in Eliezer Mesa from third on a single in the fifth. Lake also recorded a walk in the 10-inning game.
Other news around the Caribbean:
Justin Bour ripped an RBI double for the Gigantes in Puerto Rico. He finished 1-for-4.
Esmailin Caridad pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the Yaquis de Obregon of Mexico, striking out the side.
(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Johermyn Chavez is new to the Cubs organization, but he spent much of the 2012 season playing against the Double-A Tennessee squad in the Southern League. The Cubs front office must have seen something they liked, as they acquired Chavez on Nov. 21 in a minor league free agent deal.
Playing for the Jackson Generals (Mariners) this summer, the 23-year-old outfielder hit .232 with eight home runs and 26 RBI in 246 at-bats. What likely impressed the Cubs was his .339 on-base percentage on 35 walks—that’s a base on balls in 12 percent of his plate appearances. He also slugged .386 and compiled a respectable .725 OPS (on-base plus slugging).
Though his playing time has been limited of late in winter league action, Chavez is hitting .212 with 10 walks in 95 plate appearances. He has driven in 13 runs and scored 12. On Sunday, Chavez went 1-for-5 with a single and a run scored as the Caribes de Anzoategui of the Venezuelan league earned a 10-5 win.
Other notes around the Caribbean:
Junior Lake had a single and a walk in a 1-for-3 day for the Estrellas de Oriente of the Dominican on Sunday.
Loiger Padron pitched 2/3 of an inning, striking out one for the Leones del Caracas of the Dominican league.