Lake’s Breakthrough Leading to a Happy Problem
Ever since his call-up to the big leagues, Junior Lake has exceeded all expectations. Despite a recent regression, Lake is still hitting .300 for the season and has a .776 OPS. He got off to a historically hot start, collecting 15 hits over his first seven career games, the most for any Cub rookie in team history. Lake has dropped off a bit in August, hitting .288, but he is 1 for 14 in his last three games. He hit two home runs on August 1st, but since then has only driven in two runs.
While a regression like this could be a cause for concern, Lake is still getting some kinks in his game worked out and is still in the process of adjusting to major league pitching. His fielding has been suspect, but he can play all three outfield positions and both positions on the left side of the infield. One would figure that Lake will continue to grow and become better on both sides of the diamond than he already is. It is clear his talent is off the charts, something that may actually be an issue for the Cubs in the future.
The problem is that the Cubs don’t appear to have room for Lake after 2015. On their future depth chart, all positions are filled with players that have greater potential than Lake. However, potential is the key word here. If one or more of these prospects doesn’t pan out, Lake has enough versatility that he would be able to take over their role, granted that he himself doesn’t bust.
The Cubs had expectations for Lake when he first came into the league and he has outperformed said expectations. While in the rebuilding process, he is viewed as a placeholder for guys such as Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, Mike Olt and Javier Baez. Lake is quickly changing the minds of the Cubs front office, leading me to believe that either Lake or one of the five prospects mentioned above will be dealt within the next couple of years.