Javier Baez hit his first homer at Wrigley Field (and fourth total in his very young career) on Wednesday night off Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Kyle Lohse. And it landed on Waveland Avenue... as many of Javy's homers will in the future.

Here's video of the homer:


As impressive as that shot was, Javy can hit them much better than that, which is a scary thought. If someone hits one to a rooftop again Glenallen Hill style, it may be Mr. Baez. 

Oh, and Anthony Rizzo made it back-to-back home runs on the very next pitch, for his 27th homer on the season.

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Addison Russell, the super prospect (ranked No. 5 overall by Baseball America) that the Cubs acquired from the Oakland Athletics in the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade, provided a nice example Thursday night of why many evaluators think he could be the Cubs' long-term answer at shortstop.

Check out this incredible play from the 20-year-old in the Tennessee Smokies' 4-2 victory over the Mississippi Braves:


That is Rey Ordonez-esque stuff (and Russell can actually hit too!).

I've rolled my eyes at much of the "STARLIN CASTRO MUST BE MOVED OFF SHORTSTOP" talk over the last few years, mainly because there hasn't been a clearly-better long-term option there for the Cubs. But Addison Russell looks like he may be that guy, eventually.

Oh, and Russell wasn't the only highly regarded Cubs prospect flashing the leather for the Smokies in that game. Check out the plays made by pitcher Pierce Johnson, center fielder Albert Almora (in his first game at Double-A), and third baseman Christian Villanueva in the Smokies' win:


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At The Blogfines

Cubs Midseason Review- Cooper (@TheCubsWord; make sure to follow him on Twitter) with an outstanding comprehensive look at the Cubs' season to this point, looking at key stats, the trade outlook, second half expectations, revealing a new top-10 Cubs prospects list, and much more. Make sure to check it out.

Around The Web

Obstructed View's Cubs Top 10 Prospects- Myles at Obstructed View with his updated top 10 Cubs prospects, and he supplies some ceiling/floor comps for those players. (Myles; Obstructed View)

Cubs Den's Top-6 Cubs Prospects- John Arguello writes about his top six Cubs prospects and includes their ETAs. (John Arguello; Cubs Den)

Cooper also shared his current top 10 Cubs prospects here on The Blogfines earlier today. As for my own? Man, it's so tough... I think there's seriously about 20 guys that you could argue belong in the top-20. That's how loaded the Cubs' farm system is right now. But, I'll take a quick crack at it.

My Top 10 (Well, 11) Prospects:

1. Kris Bryant, 3B
2. Javier Baez, SS
3. Arismendy Alcantara, MIF/CF
4. Jorge Soler, RF
5. Kyle Schwarber, C/LF
6. Albert Almora, CF
7. CJ Edwards, SP
8. Pierce Johnson, SP
9. Jen-Ho Tseng, SP
10A. Armando Rivero, RP
10B. Arodys Vizcaino, RP

And my summary on that:

I love Baez as much as anyone, but his K-rate is pretty alarming this season (as Myles goes into in his article), currently sitting at 32.8%. Baez's ceiling is still as high as anyone's in the minors, but he needs to strike out less and show more patience at the plate (to his credit, he's doing that much more of late; his current BB % is at a career-best 7.5%) or else he could turn into an all or nothing type in the majors. With the crazy video game numbers Bryant is putting up at every level, and with his advanced plate approach that gives him a high floor, it's hard not to have him ahead of Baez at the moment.

With Almora and Soler a part of the coined "Core Four" Cubs prospects, and with Schwarber doing his Bryant thing at Boise and Kane County after being the fourth overall pick earlier in the month, many people wouldn't have Alcantara (pictured above) ranked at No. 3 on the Cubs prospect list as I do (and as Cooper also does). But here's the thing to me: Alcantara is putting up big-time all-around numbers at Triple-A, as a switch-hitting middle infielder/center fielder, while Almora has been pretty awful (.624 OPS) at High-A Daytona, Soler has been on the shelf most all of the season due to multiple hamstring injuries, and Schwarber is just a few weeks into his minor league career at the lower levels (we also don't know what position Schwarber will play/handle). I think you could make arguments for any of these guys to be ranked third, but for me at the moment, it's Alcantara.

Then we get to the pitchers, and get to a similar argument... except I currently have the reasoning backwards. Edwards and Johnson have missed most of the season with injuries, yet I have them ranked ahead of Tseng who has been excellent at Kane County. But that's low-A Kane County, and we're only talking 10 minor league starts with him still. The fact he's even being talked about as a top-10 prospect in this system already speaks volumes about how well he's pitching, but I'd like to see it a little more before I put him ahead of the more proven Edwards and Johnson. Pitching injuries always leave you very concerned though, and especially when it comes to Edwards, as the main concern about him has always been durability and his string-bean body being able to hold up.

And for my 10th guy, I couldn't make up my mind between Rivero and Vizcaino so I made them the co-10th prospect. They are both lights out right-handed relievers that got called up to Iowa on the same day in the last couple weeks. Many wouldn't have Rivero this high as he's 26 and you don't hear all that much about him on the Cubs prospect landscape, but he is absolutely filthy. Rivero put up a 1.56 ERA in 34 2/3 innings at Double-A this season, and hasn't allowed a run in his 4 1/3 innings so far at Triple-A. Here's the most incredible thing: Rivero has struck out 61 batters in his 39 combined innings between Tennesee and Iowa, after striking out 45 batters in 30 1/3 innings last year at Kane County.

Cubs' Beeler: Baez, Bryant Look Like 'Future Hall Of Famers'- Welp, that's not going to do anything to lower the hype on Javy Baez and Kris Bryant. (Tony Andracki; CSN Chicago)

Scouts Galore At Wrigley As Samardzija Countdown Begins- Bruce Levine spoke with scouts during Jeff Samardzija's start on Saturday night at Wrigley Field, in regards to Samardzija and Jason Hammel, as the two pitchers are likely to be traded by the July 31st deadline.

One source told me that the Cubs are asking for a top three organization prospect in exchange for Hammel from his club. 

“As you look at pitchers before the trade deadline, you only consider guys you project who can pitch in the first three games of the playoffs,” said one of the games top scouts. “I look at the Cubs, Hammel could start the third game, Samardzija the first game for any contending club. You have to believe these guys are better than your 4th and 5th starters or you have no businessmaking a deal. You can find four’s and five’s in your own system.”

The talent level of a top-three prospect can of course vary greatly by organization (the seventh-best prospect for the Cubs may be better than the third best prospect in other organizations, for example), but it's nice to hear the Cubs' asking price for Hammel is high. And after all, it should be, right? On the season, Hammel has a 2.98 ERA, 3.11 FIP, 3.0 bWAR and 2.1 fWAR. He's been a top-25 starting pitcher in baseball this year. (Bruce Levine; 670 The Score)

Blue Jays Reportedly Also Interested In Darwin Barney And Carlos Villanueva- Please, Blue Jays... please take Darwin. (Brett Taylor; Bleacher Nation)

Manny Is No Longer Being Manny- Manny Ramirez, the Iowa Cubs' new "player-coach", is a different man than the guy from his MLB playing days:

‘‘I think a lot of people won’t believe that,’’ he explained. ‘‘But it’s true. I have changed.”

‘‘I think before acting now because I know that everything you do, any decision you make, has consequences,’’ he said. ‘‘When you’re young, you don’t think about it. I know I can help these young guys with my experience — what I’ve been through, what to do, what not to do.’’

The Cubs' top prospects are excited about having the 42-year-old Ramirez around, and are already trying to learn all they can from the 12-time MLB All-Star:

‘‘It feels great to have him here,’’ said (Javy) Baez, a power-hitting infielder with every physical tool in the box. ‘‘Even before he got here, everyone was so excited for him to be here. And finally he’s here. A lot of guys are already asking him questions.’’ (Steve Greenberg; Chicago Sun-Times)

Cubs Vs. Red Sox: Theo Had 'No Choice' With Rebuild- With the Cubs in Boston to begin a three-game series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, the main storyline for the series is of course former Red Sox general manager and current Cubs President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein. (Patrick Mooney; CSN Chicago)

For Epstein, Connections With Boston Are Real- (Bruce Miles; Daily Herald)

Boston Success Informs, Fuels Epstein (Jesse Rogers; ESPN Chicago)

Facing Boston Red Sox Shows Cubs What Could Be (Evan Altman; Cubs Insider)

Theo Epstein Has Cubs Going In The Right Direction (Carlos Nazario; Da Windy City)

Arismendy Alcantara Named PCL Player Of The Week- Arismendy Alcantara is on fire. Iowa's middle infielder/center fielder racked up a ridiculous 15 hits and had a .517 average in the last week. And on Tuesday, it was announced his performance earned him Pacific Coast League Player of the Week honors.

It's only a matter of time before Alcantara gets an even bigger reward: A call-up to the big leagues. The 22-year-old switch-hitter is now batting .303, with 10 home runs, 42 extra-base hits, and has an .893 OPS. He's also 18-of-21 in stolen base attempts. Pretty awesome outstanding production from a guy that can play all three positions in the middle of the field. (@IowaCubs; Twitter)

Focus Remains On The Cubs' Minor League System (Neil; Chicago Cubs Online)

Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Brockmeyer Hits For The Cycle (John Arguello; Cubs Den)

Down On The Farm: Tsuyoshi Wada Leads Iowa Cubs To Win (Jacob R Misener; Cubbies Crib)

Cubs Have Scheduled Off Day In 82 Years- Were you wondering why the Cubs didn't play yesterday? The Cubs had their first scheduled Sunday off day in 82 freaking years, due to concerns over area traffic with the Pride Parade going on. The Cubs and Nationals of course made up for the Sunday off day by just playing a scheduled doubleheader on Saturday. (Fred Mitchell; Chicago Tribune)

Leaked: 10 Months Of The Houston Astros' Internal Trade Talks- This is awesome. (Barry Petchesky; Deadspin)


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The Chicago Cubs have played 80 games in 2014 and are approaching the midpoint of the season. In case you've missed anything, below is a comprehensive look back on the season so far, through the highs and the lows. 

Standings & Record

  • 34-46, .425 win pct, -14 run differential.
  • 15 games back and last in NL Central, 8.5 games back of Wild Card.
  • Would be drafting 3rd overall in 2015 if season ended today.
  • 7-13 in 1-run games, 3-6 in extra inning games.
  • Pythagorean 38-42 record, -4 Pythagorean Luck.
  • 2013 standings through 80 games: 35-45.

Team Statistics

Team Pitching

  • 3.54 team ERA (9th in MLB, 7th in NL).
  • .240 AVG against (7th in MLB, 3rd in NL).
  • .666 OPS against (5th in MLB, 3rd in NL).
  • 1.25 WHIP (10th in MLB, 8th in NL).
  • 8.36 K/9 (6th in MLB, 3rd in NL).
  • 10.5 fWAR (4th in MLB, 2nd in NL).
Team Batting

  • .232 AVG (29th in MLB, 14th in NL).
  • .293 OBP (29th in MLB, 14th in NL).
  • .370 SLG (25th in MLB, 11th in NL).
  • .663 OPS (29th in MLB, 14th in NL).
  • 4.3 fWAR (27th in MLB, 13th in NL).

Player Statistics

The Good

  • Anthony Rizzo: .282/.394/.512 .906 OPS, 13 2B, 17 HR, 14.3 BB%, 17.8 K%.
  • Starlin Castro: .283/.329/.469 .798 OPS, 24 2B, 11 HR, .186 ISO, .347 wOBA.
  • Luis Valbuena: .271/.361/.448 .809 OPS 20 2B, 5 HR, 12.3 BB%, 20.6 K%, .357 wOBA.
  • Jeff Samardzija: 2.83 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 3.07 FIP, 2.2 fWAR, 8.58 K/9.
  • Jason Hammel: 2.98 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 3.11 FIP, 2.1 fWAR, 1.84 BB/9.
  • Jake Arrieta: 2.05 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 2.10 FIP 2.0 fWAR, 10.11 K/9.
  • Neil Ramirez: 1.27 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 1.25 AVG, 3.75 K/BB.
The Bad

  • Junior Lake: .234/.280/.434 .675 OPS, 10 2B, 9 HR, 4.1 BB%, 33.2 K%.
  • Mike Olt: .142/.224/.346 .570 OPS, 2 3B, 10 HR, 8.7 BB%, 38.8 K%.
  • Nate Schierholtz: .200/.253/.298 .551 OPS, 9 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 5.6 BB%, 21.9 K%.
  • Jose Veras: 8.10 ERA, 13.1 IP, 12 ER, 11 BB (DFA'd by Cubs, now with Astros).

Trade Outlook

Good As Gone: Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel, Nate Schierholtz, Darwin Barney.

Obviously Samardzija and Hammel are the two most rumored trade pieces and I expect both to be gone, Hammel sooner than later. The Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays have been linked to both pitchers, but the latest news suggests the Blue Jays will focus on the rental Jason Hammel. The AL East has also shown interest in both pitchers.

Schierholtz could interest a team with an outfielder need like the Boston Red Sox and he is also an interesting option for a contender looking to platoon a current right-handed hitting outfielder. 

Barney has overstayed his visit but might interest a team like the Blue Jays who are looking to upgrade their middle infield defense. I don’t expect Schierholtz or Barney to warrant a notable return alone, but they could be part of a larger package.

Possible Departures: John Baker, Emilio Bonifacio, Justin Ruggiano, James Russell, Wesley Wright, Pedro Strop, Carlos Villanueva.


I could see Baker being moved with Hammel to a team who could use a backup catcher who displays leadership and can call a good game. Baker has been Hammel's personal catcher and while he isn't sexy, he's proven to be a pretty decent backup.

If Bonifacio can prove he’s healthy in July he could gain more serious consideration. He's a guy who can play MIF/CF and add speed, providing versatility teams seek at the deadline.

While Ruggiano hasn't gotten much credit, he's been a successful platoon hitter, posting an .848 OPS against left-handed pitching. If a team is looking to platoon a current outfielder or simply acquire a solid bench bat he could be moved.

Russell and Wright are nice lefty bullpen options although Wright has been utilized poorly on the Cubs; both these arms offer more value to a contender then to the Cubs. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim could be a team to watch here.

Strop has had control issues but is still a very intriguing arm. With the influx of arms approaching the bigs from Triple-A (namely Arodys Vizcaino and Armando Rivero), Strop could become expendable at 29 years old and would offer a contender late innings in addition to control through 2017.

Villanueva is a guy I would want if I were looking towards the playoffs because he can spot-start, work through trouble in the mid innings, and be a rescue guy in the bullpen. He has seen more playing time lately and has quietly been really impressive May-June in which his only tasks were from the bullpen. 

Unlikely To Be Traded: Luis Valbuena, Ryan Sweeney, Chris Coghlan, Edwin Jackson.

Valbuena has proven he can provide the future Cubs with solid on-base skills, the ability to work counts, and defensive versatility. I also don’t think he’d bring enough back in a deal that would force us to trade him. 

The front office likes Sweeney, Coghlan (and Ryan Kalish) and they seem to be their projects; I don’t see a contender taking a flier on any of them.  

Jackson could be a useful innings eater for a contender but his contract will be hard to move and he hasn’t been particularly great his year. He isn’t a guy you’d want starting in the playoffs even though he could help get you there. 


(My) Top 10 Prospects Update

1. Kris Bryant
2. Javier Baez
3. Arismendy Alcantara
4. Kyle Schwarber
5. Albert Almora
6. Jorge Soler
7. CJ Edwards
8. Dan Vogelbach
9. Jen-Ho Tseng
10. Arodys Vizcaino

Note: Almora's drop below Schwarber is a testament to Schwarber's fast start and advanced bat, not a result of Almora's struggles. I still remain very high on Almora despite the High-A learning curve.


Memorable Moments

  • Emilio Bonifacio 20 hits in first 10 games.
  • Chris Rusin no-hitter for Triple-A Iowa, May 7th.
  • Manny Ramirez announced as player-coach at Triple-A Iowa, May 25th.
  • Anthony Rizzo walk-off HR, June 6th.
  • Travis Wood pinch-hitting, game-winning double in the 13th inning, June 16th.
  • Kris Bryant’s wrath of AA Tennessee, promoted to AAA, June 18th.
  • Armando Rivero and Arodys Vizcaino promoted to AAA, June 18th.
  • Kyle Schwarber's torrid start, promoted to Kane County June 19th.
  • Jake Arrieta perfect game through 6 innings, June 24th.
  • Cael Brockmeyer Cycle For Single-A Kane County, June 29th.

Miscellaneous

Kris Bryant 2014 MiLB totals: 79 G .349/.449/.709 1.158 OPS 23 2B, 27 HR, 69 RBI.

Kyle Schwarber MiLB totals: 15 G .481/.554/1.056 1.609 OPS 5 2B, 3B, 8 HR, 8 BB, 9 K.

He’s only started 10 games, but Jake Arrieta’s 2.0 fWAR is better than Ian Kennedy, Mark Buehrle, Sonny Gray, Henderson Alvarez, Justin Verlander, Michael Wacha, Cliff Lee, Tim Hudson to name a few. Clayton Kershaw has been unbelievable in his 11 starts this year, but Arrieta matches and bests him in a number of categories. Sometimes it’s fun to look at small sample sizes.

Arismendy Alcantara is forcing the front office to make a move as he is hitting .305/.346/.547 .893 OPS, 22 2B, 10 3B, 10 HR, 18 SB this season. What is most intriguing to me is that he is showing big production from the right side of the plate (1.095 OPS), something he lacked last season.

Travis Wood can flat-out hit: 38 PA .250/.294/.500 .794 OPS 2 2B, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 0.7 fWAR

When Hammel and Samardzija are traded expect Tsuyoshi Wada, Dallas Beeler, Kyle Hendricks, and Chris Rusin all to be candidates to fill in the rotation (in order of likelihood). Also, if Carlos Villaneuva isn’t traded, he could certainly pick up starts every other week.


Second Half Expectations

The Cubs have had one of the best pitching staffs in baseball in the first half but after dismantling their rotation with the departures of Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija, we should expect the pitching production to fall considerably. Jake Arrieta will be one to watch in the second half and also any potential MLB-ready returns from future trades.

The offense has been miserable. This is mostly due to the lack of production from hitters other than Castro and Rizzo. Alcantara might get called up, but even then the offense won’t spark the team to many wins.

In 2015, the Cubs will likely draft in the top 1-3, meaning they will again finish among the MLB’s worst.

2014 will prove to be a very important year and a springboard to an exciting 2015 that will see the likes of some of the Cubs’ top prospects. Times won’t be pretty the rest of the year, but while you might occasionally pull your hair out, remember this:

“The pleasure of rooting for Goliath is that you can expect to win. The pleasure of rooting for David is that, while you don’t know what to expect, you stand at least a chance of being inspired.”
 –Michael Lewis

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24 year-old Anthony Rizzo is in the midst of a breakout year in what will be his second full season in the Majors. Rizzo has been in elite company this season in most categories, ranking among some of the top stars in the game today. Drawing comparisons isn't always easy in baseball, but the career path of Paul Goldschmidt is starting to look a lot like the route Rizzo is taking right now.

Goldschmidt, 26 years old, has entered the upper echelon of hitters in baseball putting up MVP numbers in 2013 (finished 2nd in NL MVP voting). His first full season was a success and he certainly toned aspects of his game from 2012-2013. Rizzo’s first full season was more of a disappointment to some, but overall was a solid foundation to build and learn from. While Rizzo struggled with his AVG, he displayed flashes of power and patience by finishing 5th in the NL in XBH and 6th in the NL in BB.

2012 Goldschmidt first full season: .286/.359/.490, .850 OPS, 43 2B, 20 HR, 10.2 BB%, 22.1 K%, .204 ISO.

2013 Rizzo first full season: .233/.323/.419, .742 OPS, 40 2B, 23 HR, 11.0 BB%, 18.4 K%, .186 ISO.

Goldschmidt’s first full season was quite similar to Rizzo’s. They both displayed XBH power and over 10% BB rates. Goldy’s AVG, SLG, and OPS were very impressive for a player in his first full season in the Bigs. Goldschmidt’s 2012 season was admittedly better than Rizzo’s 2013, but both players showed promise and had an offseason to build on their successes while patching their weakness.

After their first full years, both first basemen began their following year on an incredible start.

2013 Goldschmidt through 74 G: .306/.384/.572 .956 OPS, 17 2B, 19 HR, 36 BB, 66 K

2014 Rizzo through 74 G: .288/.404/.532, .936 OPS, 12 2B, 17 HR, 48 BB, 61 K

Goldschmidt’s follow-up season ended up in MVP-caliber fashion, but as you can see Rizzo isn’t far off from Goldschmidt’s 74 game production in 2013. Both of their successes have come with adjustments from the previous year. They both walked more, increased their ISO at impressive clips, cut down infield popups and turned their flyballs into far more home runs.

First full year +/- to second full year:

2013 Goldschmidt (160 G): BB% +3.7%, ISO +45, IFFB% -3.3%, HR/FB% +8.3%

2014 Rizzo (74 G): BB% +3.9%, ISO +57, IFFB% -8.5%, HR/FB% +10.7%

Rizzo’s .314 BABIP suggests it wouldn’t be surprising to see him sustain his current path. It also wouldn’t be surprising to see Rizzo finish the 2014 season just a few notches below Goldschmidt’s incredible 2013 season which ended with a .302/.401/.551 triple slash line, .952 OPS, 36 2B, 36 HR, 125 RBI, 13.9 BB%, 20.4 K%, and .249 ISO. In fact, Rizzo's current wOBA of .404 is exactly what Goldschmidt finished his 2013 season at.


It is apparent Anthony Rizzo is showing fantastic adjustments from his 2013 season and his 2014 production is no fluke. On top of their offensive success, both of these NL first basemen provide their teams with Gold Glove caliber defense and young leadership. Rizzo’s name is finally being mentioned in elite company and, like Goldschmidt, I expect it to stay there.

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Preventing the Pollution of Junior Lake

Posted by The Cubs Word | 6/14/2014 12:52:00 PM | , ,

Junior Lake is perhaps the most confusing young player we’ve seen in a long time. One day he looks like an All-Star, the next he looks like he barely belongs in the big leagues.

Lake made a name for himself when he debuted for the Cubs last year in mid-July, appearing in 64 games with a .284/.332/.428 slash line adding a .760 OPS, 16 2B, and 6 HR.

So far this year, Lake has been disappointing with a .242/.273/.434 line, .707 OPS, 10 2B, and 8 HR. The biggest problem with Lake is his overall inconsistency combined with his inability to avoid striking out. Lake is going to have his fair share of strikeouts (2013: SO 27%, 2014: SO 33%), but there are some changes he could make to cut these percentages down and get them closer to league average.

1. Pitch & Strike Zone Recognition

If you’ve watched even just a few Cubs games in the past, chances are you’ve seen Junior Lake swing and miss on an offspeed pitch. Typically these offspeed pitches are on the outer half of the plate and occasionally in the dirt.

This year, Lake’s O-Swing% (percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone) is nearly 40% and his SwStr% (percentage of total pitches a batter swings and misses on) is 21.3%. Both of those rates are about 15% worse than the MLB average. Pitchers have made adjustments and are throwing him sliders on the lower outer half, resulting in a -6.4 wSL (slider runs above average) while last year his wSL was 2.8.



Above is Junior Lake's 2014 heat map by Pitch%. As you can see, pitchers are attacking the lower outside part of the plate vs Lake more often than not. His inability to adjust and drive the ball to right field (something I'll cover in a second) suggests pitchers will continue to pepper the outside half.

Lake also falls into a pitcher’s count far too often. He has gotten to two strikes in 260 of his 464 career plate appearances (56% of the time). By comparison, Starlin Castro struck out 126 times last year but still kept the percentage he got to two strikes under 50%. Lake needs to hit fastballs and the best way to see more fastballs is to stay in a hitter’s count.

2. Opposite Field Hitting

If you follow me on Twitter, you might’ve seen me rant about Lake and his unwillingness to shorten his swing and drive a ball to right field. He has 115 MLB hits, but only 18 of those hits have gone to the opposite field. In fact, of the 300 times he has put the ball in play in his career, only 48 of those have gone to the right side.

You might ask, “how does one improve his opposite field hitting?” This is a fair question and can be answered a few ways.

For Lake, he has a tendency to pull pitches to the left side and the majority of his contact comes from barreling up pitches out in front of the plate. Lake almost has an unwillingness to let the ball travel; you’ll notice that a lot of his outs on outside pitches come because he has hit the ball on the end of the bat i.e. trying to pull an outside pitch. If he can drive the knob of the bat towards the pitcher and stand strong in the box on outside pitches, he’ll deliver a lot more balls to the opposite side and even get lucky with bloop hits.

Furthermore, if he can turn some of those strikeouts on outside offspeed into any kind of contact he’ll decrease his K% and could even get lucky with his BABIP. But to do this, in my opinion, it will need to come with a change of mechanics.

3. Hitting Mechanics

Junior is a natural athlete, there’s no doubting that. He has incredibly strong wrists, impressive bat speed, and the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark. What he does not have is fundamentally sound hitting mechanics. There are many holes in his swing and it will cause him to struggle with contact. The absolute first thing he needs to address is his base. Lake has a narrow, tall stance that gets him into trouble quite often. With a narrow stance, Lake is unable to properly utilize his legs and hips in his swing; this puts a large emphasis on his arms and wrists, which are so strong he can get away with it at times.

See the photo below. Lake's hands are just releasing, and his stance is narrow enough to restrict his hips from being fully used. With his straight up-and-down front leg angle, the leg is unable to stay sturdy and harness the energy that transfers from the back hip. This can often result in him being out in front of pitches and likely why we see him struggle to hit the ball to the right side.



Let’s compare it to a couple of my favorite hitters in the game right now.


Here’s Josh Donaldson of the Oakland A’s. Like Lake, his hands are just releasing. Again, notice his front leg. The slanted leg angle allows Donaldson to fire his back hip and is not restricting the transfer of any energy.



The same can be said for Giancarlo Stanton. Like the past two photos, this was taken just as the hands are releasing. He maintains a wide base and his front leg is out in front of his front hip on the proper angle, allowing the back hip to release and the hands to fire. Both Lake and Stanton are very tall hitters but Stanton succeeds is using his stature in his favor, where as Lake’s height becomes a disadvantage to him.

You may argue that Lake’s leg does take that sturdy angle once contact occurs. Sometimes this is true, although it is much harder to achieve when the front leg angle is straight up-and-down at the time of the release of his hands. Lake does make up for it at times but it can be very inconsistent.

Conclusion:

Junior Lake is a very talented ballplayer, but it remains to be seen what his future role will be with the Cubs. I really hope he works with some hitting coaches in the offseason and seriously considers revamping his stance, beginning with a wide base, a more quiet/compact hand-to-ball path, and a Soriano-like bend of the knees. Lake may never learn to lay off bad pitches, sometimes those things can’t be taught or fixed. What he does need to learn is to put outside pitches in play and pick up an occasional cheap hit to the right side.

Realistically, if Lake doesn’t make a change he will be a fringe roster player once the prospects arrive and the Cubs start to compete.

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