Part of the process of getting ready for a draft is going through the list of players to see who looks like they might be enticing fantasy baseball sleepers. One of the names I’ve stumbled across is Junior Lake of the Chicago Cubs.
While Lake didn’t set the world on fire in his short time with the big club in 2013, he did give us a little bit of promise heading into 2014.
Junior Lake: 2013 MLB Stats
If we extrapolate those numbers into something that represents a full season’s worth of plate appearances, this is what we get.
Junior Lake: 2013 MLB Stats Extrapolated
It’s one of the reasons that extrapolating numbers is a little tricky. Even batting fifth in a fairly week National League order (as MLB Depth Charts is currently projecting), Lake would certainly drive in more than 41 runs if he hits 15 bombs.
To get a more accurate read on Junior Lake, we have to look at his Minor League career in addition to the brief Major League time. So, when doing that, what can we look for from Lake, and does he have any fantasy value in 2014?
What You’ll Get: Steals
Over the his last three years in the minors, Lake really came into his own as a stolen base guy.
Junior Lake, MiLB Steals: 2011-2013
To do some quick math for you, stealing one base in every plate appearances would translate to about 37 steals in a 550 plate appearance season. If he does that, we’re instantly looking at a guy like Leonys Martin. Guys who steal bases are obviously putting themselves in better position to score a lot of runs and you’re not going to believe this, but people who are in scoring position score more runs than people who aren’t.
When looking at potential fantasy value of unproven players, you want to have something that you can at least fall back on. If Lake can really get you 30-40 steals, you’ve got a positive to hang your hat on right there.
What You’ll Have to Overcome: Lack of Power
Junior Lake has never had more than one homer per every 40 plate appearances in a single season. I’ll grant that he’s shown more pop as he’s gotten a little older (remember, he’ll only be 24 on Opening Day), but he’s still got a ways to go before he becomes a real power threat.
Just to give you a sense of what we’re looking at, one homer per every 40 plate appearances would translate to about 14 homers over a full season, assuming 550 plate appearances works out to a full season. If he gets 600 plate appearances, it works out to 15 homers, while 650 would work out to 16, but you get the point. Junior Lake won’t be reminding any Cubs fans of Sammy Sosa in his prime.
When you combine the plus steals and negative power, it’s entirely possible that your steals and homers will work out to about 40, but you’ll likely get 10-30 as opposed to 20-20, so just be prepared to handle that.
Other things to note:
- Lake has been developing as a hitter over the last three years. Over 2011, 2012, and his time in the minors in 2013, Lake hit .281, while hitting .284 in his MLB run last year. You may expect some regression, especially with a troubling K rate, but his line drive rate in 2013 (27.8 per Fangraphs) and speed makes me think that he’ll be respectable in this regard. Don’t expect anything above .280 again, but don’t bet on a drop below .270, either. That’s not a bad average for a steals guy.
- The Cubs lineup does leave a little to be desired. Don’t expect great things in regards to runs, or RBI.
- The Cubs lineup can also be shuffled in a few different directions. Don’t be surprised to see Lake batting closer to the top, which is better for his skill-set.
Crunching some numbers, this is what I see from Junior Lake in 2014.
Junior Lake: 2014 Projections
You definitely don’t want to draft him thinking you’re getting a Mike Trout or Carlos Gonzalez type of player, or anything close to that. But guys like Michael Brantley, Angel Pagan, and Carl Crawford all have some fantasy value, too. Junior Lake isn’t that far from their level as a fantasy player.
He definitely has sleeper value heading into the drafts.