Results tagged ‘ Junior Lake ’
Cubs prospect Junior Lake has crushed pitching in his native Dominican Republic this offseason. The infielder has spent much of the winter ball campaign as Estrellas de Oriente’s designated hitter and currently owns a .363/.409/.513 (AVG/OBP/SLG) slash line with six doubles and six stolen bases in 80 at-bats. So Monday was just more of the same for the 22-year-old. He went 3-for-4, scoring from second on a single in the fourth inning to record the team’s only run in a 6-1 loss. He got into scoring position by stealing second after a base hit.
Others who participated in Dominican League action include Arismendy Alcantara, Nelson Perez and Jeffry Antigua. Alcantara entered his game as a pinch-runner in the ninth for Tigres del Licey, scoring on a single in a winning effort. Lake’s teammate Perez went 0-for-1 in a pitch-hit appearance for Estrella de Oriente. And Antigua came on in relief Monday for Toros del Este, surrendering a solo home run in 2/3 of an inning.
Tennessee Smokies infielder Logan Watkins was named the organization’s 2012 Minor League Player of the Year. (Photo by Rodger Wood)
Today we continue our tour around the Cubs farm system, taking a level-by-level look at performances the organization hopes to build on in 2013. The Double-A Tennessee Smokies are next in the spotlight.
For all the talent we’ve written about in the lower levels of the Cubs system, it was the Tennessee Smokies who featured two full seasons from the organization’s Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year.
Two nights ago, infielder Logan Watkins and right-hander Nick Struck were honored by Jason McLeod and farm director Brandon Hyde in a pre-game ceremony at Wrigley Field. Watkins was a 21st-round pick out of high school in the 2008 draft, and he’s shown a consistent ability to get on base throughout his minor league career. This year, he hit for a .281/.383/.422 slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) and collected 76 walks in 588 plate appearances. His 13 percent walk rate was three percentage points higher than his already lofty career standards, and his slugging percentage was nearly 50 points higher despite having roughly the same batting average. In other words, it was a career year.
Of course, Watkins’ skill set is broader than just patience. He has versatility in the field—spotting at shortstop and center field in addition to second base—and the speed to rack up double-digit triples and stolen bases. He bats left-handed too. A 23-year-old sleeper to track as he likely moves to Iowa next year.
Struck also is turning out to be a late-round sleeper. A 2009 39th-round pick out of an Oregon community college, Struck emerged as the Smokies’ ace a season after he split time between three levels (A, AA and AAA). His 155 innings led the team, and he finished with a 3.18 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. Just as importantly, his hits and walks allowed ticked down from a year ago, while his strikeouts climbed to just over seven per nine innings.
Struck isn’t a high-ceiling type—in other words, someone with a high-90s fastball or a wipeout breaking ball—but he’s succeeded with poise, pitch ability and a versatile four-pitch mix. He turns 23 this month and also is likely to wind up in Iowa next season.
First Half / 35-35, tie-second place, 7.0 GB
Second Half / 37-33, tie-second place, 4.0 GB
Storylines: This is a team that the Cubs front office hopes will develop some future contributors in Chicago. Matt Szczur struggled in his first taste of Double-A, but he has the toolset to hit for average and use his speed on the basepaths and in the outfield alongside Brett Jackson. Right-hander Trey McNutt has had mixed success since his breakout campaign two years ago, but this summer, the Cubs found a new home for his plus fastball and power breaking ball in the bullpen. Shortstop Junior Lake also is smoothing out rough edges, but he has a ceiling that few prospects in the higher levels can match. Outfielder Jae-Hoon Ha deserves special mention after a successful all-around campaign including a home run in the Futures Game.
MESA, Ariz.–The first Cubs game of the season is in the books, and the youngest Cubs made a big early statement. The Blue team, led by top prospects Brett Jackson, Matt Szczur, Junior Lake and Anthony Rizzo, took down the White team, which consisted of most of the projected Opening Day lineup, 10-4 in an intrasquad matchup at HoHoKam Park.
Top prospect Jackson got the Blue team off to a good start when he blasted a leadoff home run off starter Travis Wood.
“I just got a good pitch to hit,” said Jackson, who who went two-for-two with two walks. “It feels good to get underway and get that feel of playing innings instead of facing pitchers with the [cage] over you. It’s a good start all around. I think it was a productive day for everyone.”
Although many of the prospects impressed, Matt Szczur, a former football standout at Villanova University, was the real star of the game, hitting a grand slam, a two-run double and scoring from second on a sacrifice fly. Designated hitter Tony Campana also collected three hits and scored three runs in the game.
Wood, a left-hander who is in the mix for one of the final two rotation spots, struggled over three innings, giving up six runs on six hits, including two home runs. Randy Wells started for the Blue team and gave up three runs and four hits in three innings of work.
The Daytona Cubs, the Chicago Cubs’ high Class-A affiliate, haven’t just started well this season—they’re pacing all of baseball in several categories through two months. With 34 wins in 46 games, the team has baseball’s best record and just played to its second consecutive four-game sweep.
First baseman Justin Bour, who turns 23 on Saturday, leads the team with 39 RBIs, 12 home runs and 60 hits. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound Bour has slugged .626 and shown a good approach at the plate.
Junior Lake, the athletic 21-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic, has paced the Florida State League with 18 stolen bases and is currently on a ten-game hitting streak. He’s hitting well—boasting a .314 AVG/.337 OBP/.481 SLG line—but is walking less and striking out more in his second go-around with Daytona.
Here’s what our Minor League Prospectus, issued in Vine Line every February, had to say about Lake:
“Lake continues improving in the minors. His physical talent is a given, but refining his baseball skills remains paramount. He made huge strides at the plate, cutting down on his strikeouts from 138 in 2009 to 99 in 2010 and increasing his walks from 18 to 35. He possesses the strongest infield arm in the organization and, with added power, might eventually fit best at third base instead of shortstop.”