There are a lot of great things about the Soriano trade. We save a couple million, we get another arm, we don’t have to watch him butcher routine fly balls anymore… the list goes on. One thing that’s particularly good though is we essentially created an audition for Junior Lake over the remaining two months of the season. At this point, there’s really no secret that Junior Lake is doing things for the Cubs no one expected, and he’s going to make this transition from Soriano easier on the club. The question that we need to answer now is whether or not he can stick. Let’s get started.
Overview: Lake was signed back in 07 with Starlin Castro out of the Dominican Republic. Originally a shortstop, Lake moved to the outfield this spring to take advantage of (a) his athleticism (2) the Cubs lack of OF depth and (D) his canon of an arm – rated strongest position player arm in the Cubs organization the last 4 years. He’s slowly progressed through the system, but ultimately earned an invite to big league spring training camp this year. A mid March stress fracture in his ribcage forced him to the DL and put him back in AAA. Lake returned to action in early June with AAA Iowa to play 40 games where he put up a .295/.341/.462 slash with 4 bombs and 14 swipes in 19 tries. Since his call up, Lake has posted a .484/.500/.774. Very solid numbers. As always though, there’s more to a player than numbers so please allow me to fire off some observations and miscellaneous information.
1. He’s not Yasiel Puig. Not even close so everyone just shut the fuck up about that already. The similarities begin and end with them having big dicks and being dark-skinned, strong-armed outfielders from poor countries. That’s it. Puig’s a far better player and I’m not wasting my time substantiating the point.
2. He’s also not smart. In fact, he’s downright stupid. So stupid that we almost moved him to the mound this past offseason because he intellectually could not handle the responsibility of playing defense, which is actually kind of impressive. For context, please keep in mind that the we never had a “maybe we should move him to the bullpen” moment with Starlin Castro, and that guy has fuckin rocks in his head. So yeah, expect to have a lot of “you have GOT to be fucking KIDDING ME” moments with him. There will be plenty.
3. He’s not that patient. He’s averaging 3.31 pitches per plate appearance through his first 7 games. The lowest P/PA rate of all qualified players is 3.35 and belongs to Alexi Ramirez (again, fuck you WhiteSoxDave). That’s not good, and it will likely only get worse over time. On one hand, you kind of value his aggressiveness because you know he’s confident and will consistently try to make something happen. On the other hand, you know he’ll rarely put a quality at bat together, which can and will be very frustrating.
4. Fuck patience, this guy is exciting. Let’s be honest, he’s the most exciting player on the team right now and it’s not even close. Don’t get me wrong, I loved watching Soriano mail it in on a day to day basis in left field, and Barney can ground out to second base with the best of them, but sooner or later that shit gets old. Which is why you have to love the fact that Lake can blast one to center one at bat and then lay one down the thirdbase line the next. Going back to the point above, he’s going to try and make something happen every time he takes the field. Play to win, not make mistakes.
5. And he knows how to big league a long ball.
If you’re a rookie and you hit a homerun, it’s pretty well established that you put your head down and run around the bases. Not J.R. though. J.R. doesn’t give a fuck. You cook one down the middle that’s your fault. Granted, he’ll probably be singing a different tune after a few heaters to the ribcage but that’s not the point. The point is this guy has some swag and arrogance and we need that shit and we needed it yesterday.
6. But most importantly, he’s the tip of the prospect iceberg – “Yo carl no one gives a FUCK about these loser minor leaguers because they’re all fags!! HAHA #YOLO” Fine don’t care. That’s cool. Just know that this guy didn’t even crack the top 10 of our organizational prospects this past year, and that was before the draft, international signings, and mid-season trades. Just let that marinate. This guy’s making an impact right now, and he’s on like our jv squad.
Whether or not he sticks obviously remains to be seen, but he’s off to a great start. Pretty sure at this point, that’s all we can ask.
PS – The stare down a homerun thing made me think of a video that needs to be shared. It’s a compilation of the best homerun bat flips and stare downs the last few years. Top three moves are Jay Buhner at :32, Tony Pena at 1:14, and Big Papi at 1:25. Enjoy.