When Junior Lake was called up last July, he wasn’t greeted with the fanfare associated with Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara. Lake, to too many Cubs fans, was simply another body. However, after an impressive tryout, which saw him hit .284, with 6 home runs, and 4 stolen bases, many across the league felt that Lake had done enough to earn a spot into the core group of Cubs players. It was anticipated that Lake would continue to impress in 2014, but to the dismay of some, Lake hasn’t contributed as many expected.
So far in 2014, Lake has been disappointing. While his power numbers are similar (roughly averaging a homerun every 10 games) , his batting average is down considerably. Last year, he hit .284, in contrast, in 2014, he has hit .216. His walk rate is down 1.8%, and his strikeout rate is up 6.6%. Conversely, his BABIP has fallen from an unsustainable .377 clip, to a more average .297. Whenever BABIP is that high, players are bound for a drop, and this year, Lake fell back to the level of mere mortals. He was simply the benefactor of an incredibly lucky stretch of at-bats.
What is likely contributing to the decline, is the fact that the league is adjusting to Lake. Time and time again we see rookies getting out to hot starts, but once the league gets a full view at the player, they start picking out the flaws in their playing style. Indeed, the league has picked out the flaws in Lake’s play, and they have exploited them. In baseball, as in nature, the mantra is “adapt or die”, and Junior Lake must learn to adapt to the changes the league has made, or fall by the wayside.
Moreover, that’s why Lake was sent down to Iowa. Whether we’ll see Lake again in 2014 is still uncertain. While it would come as a surprise if he didn’t see Wrigley before season’s end, The Cubs’ brass aren’t going to waste everyone’s time if they don’t feel he’s necessarily ready.
When Junior Lake turned heads in 2013, the Cubs faithful jumped on his bandwagon like they have with nearly every prospect who has shown progress. However, 2013 wasn’t a true reading of Lake’s talents. While 2014 isn’t either, 2013 was abnormal for Lake. His incredibly high BABIP gave him inflated stats, and because of that, 2014 looks all the more disappointing in comparison. Lake’s season last year was a paper lion, it looked great, but there was no real substance to it. 2015 should give us the best look at Lake’s talents.