Toronto Blue Jays 2016 season preview: Junior Lake

Mar 10, 2015; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs base runner Junior Lake slides into second base against the Cleveland Indians during a spring training baseball game at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 10, 2015; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs base runner Junior Lake slides into second base against the Cleveland Indians during a spring training baseball game at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Possible pick-to-click Junior Lake looks to join the boom in the Blue Jays lineup.

Past Entries: Marco Estrada   Justin Smoak    Brett Cecil   Devon Travis
Darwin Barney    R.A. Dickey   J.A. Happ   Josh Donaldson   Ryan Goins
Michael Saunders   Aaron Sanchez   Ryan Tepera   Drew Hutchison   Drew Storen
Jesse Chavez   Roberto Osuna   Josh Thole   Aaron Loup   Dalton Pompey

After an impressive start to his career in the depths of the Chicago Cubs organization

Junior Lake has had issues maintaining success.  He has the makings of a solid player.  He is very athletic and quick.  His speed, quick hands, and throwing power are his best tools and many thought that it would have translated to success in the Majors.  hus far as a big leaguer, Lake has struggled.

Lake has performed as a minor league player so the talent level is there. In 170 games in Triple-A he is slashing .299 / .330 / .414 with 80 runs, 13 homers, 61 RBI, and 28 stolen bases.

2015 Performance Recap

This past season for Junior Lake was a mixed bag.  At first look it may seem like he had a rough season, but if you dive into his Triple-A numbers you can see why the Blue Jays were interested in him.  At the Major league level he had issues.  He played a total of 29 games in the Majors with 2 different teams.  In those 29 Major league games he batted a scary .200 with 1 homer, 4 runs, 5 RBI, and stole 4 bases.  Ye,s this sample size is small, but anyone batting around the Mendoza line tends to scare managers.

Lake spent the majority of his season in Triple-A where he thrived.  In the Pacific Coast League he played in 58 games for the Iowa Cubs.  Hitting in Iowa Lake must have found the Field of Dreams because he enjoyed a heap of success.  Lake would bat .315 / .404 / .472 with 7 homers, 37 runs, and 31 RBIs.  He was eventually traded as part of the Tommy Hunter trade to the Cubs.

Lake would play in 8 games for the Orioles and 15 games for their Triple-A Norfolk Tides.  Lake would bat .300 in those 15 games for the Tides.  He was designated for assignment in December where the Jays were waiting with open arms.  He was claimed off waivers on December 18th, 2015

2016 Role and Steamer Projections

More from Toronto Blue Jays News

The Steamer Projections are not expecting Junior Lake to make the team for the Blue Jays it appears.  They are showing that he will play in a mere 11 games.  In those 11 games he will allegedly bat .242 with one homer, five runs scored, five RBI, and a stolen base.  For a player that can be a possible breakout this could be a very underestimated projection.

Lake is in the running for a position in the Jays outfield this spring and many would think he could be the team’s 4th outfielder.  The competition for that reserve spot is on the same level as he is but Lake’s speed may make the job his for the taking.  If Dalton Pompey does not win the starting job this spring the Jays would most likely send him to Triple-A Buffalo for consistent at bats.  This would leave someone with a similar skill set like Lake to slide in as a 4th outfielder.  His speed allows him to play anywhere in the outfield and if he gets on base it will keep pitchers watching him.

What Could Go Wrong?

Lake continues to struggle and returns to the minors.  This could be a make-or-break year for Lake to prove that he is not just a Quadruple-A player.  If he struggles he will bounce back and forth from the minors to the majors.  Lake could be on the chopping block if the Jays need to make room for additional talent if he does not perform to an average level.  He has competition for the 4th outfield spot in Toronto and he needs to show he is hungry enough to fight for it.

What Could Go Right?

Lake could finally catch fire.  If he can get on base and bat in the .270’s the Jays would have a valuable weapon on their bench.  He could be a player to watch like Kevin Pillar was this past season.  He has the talent to hit for a high average as shown from a career .299 batting average in Triple-A in 127 games.  If he can get off to a hot spring he could easily be a valued option to bring north with the club.

Next: The Bringer of Rain arrives in camp

The Bottom Line

Lake needs to perform at the plate.  The rest of his game appears to be ready for the Majors but his bat has yet to show up in the show.  He has had the talent to hit in the minors and it is rather odd that it disappears as soon as he walks into a Major League batters box.  His speed makes him stand out but the issue for a player in his position is that you can not steal first base.

If he can prove to be a patient hitter and take some walks, the hits will come.  He strikes out nearly once per game and it will go a long way if he can cut that number down and swing at some good pitches.  Clearly contact is not an issue seeing he can swing a .300 batting average in the minors.  Look for Lake to feed off of the winning environment and his teammates to try some new things and improve his overall game.  Once he can figure out some of these refinements he can be a valuable player.