The "Lake Show," as some have turned to calling the hot start of Cubs outfielder Junior Lake, had its most action-packed episode of the season last night. And like any good TV drama, it had people buzzing at the office the next day.
Friday, though, the discussion involved evaluation of the 23-year-old. His two home runs in Thursday night’s loss to the Dodgers cued curiosity over where the youngster might project in a batting order.
He’s quick, which would stereotypically put him near the top. But he’s already belted four homers in his first 15 games in the big leagues, so is he more of a middle-of-the-lineup guy?
“Right now, I like him where he’s been. He’s doing just fine,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said before Friday afternoon’s tilt against the Dodgers. “Those kind of things you project once they’ve got a lot of at-bats in and see where they are. A lot of things dictate, the rest of the personnel on the team. So it’s hard to sometimes just say he’s this, he’s that and you don’t have really a three or a two. You can go on about that till it’s all said and done.”
As for his performance in the field, Lake made the highlight reels with his ninth-inning catch while crashing into the brick wall down the right-field line. Sveum had nothing but positives to describe Lake’s performance as an outfielder so far in his brief big league career.
“He’s done fine,” Sveum said. “Knock on wood, I don’t think he’s even made a mistake besides trying to throw a guy out at home and launched it over everybody’s head. As far as routes and getting to balls, he’s done a great job so far.”
Does Dale Sveum have Puig-mania?
The answer is probably not.
After all, Dodgers rookie outfielder Yasiel Puig did quite a bit of damage against the Cubs on Thursday, going 2-for-4 with a walk, a double, a solo home run and two runs scored.
But the Cubs manager and his team got the opportunity to see Puig in person for the first time Thursday night, allowing evaluation of the player that’s been the talk of the 2013 season.
“You can tell it’s hard to walk him, even though we did,” Sveum said. “If you make mistake, like we did with that two-strike slider when you’re trying to bounce it, that’s what’s going to happen because he’s got the ability. When that ball’s in the strike zone, he’s going to hit it. He does a lot of damage with it. But he’s still at that stage, obviously, that when you make your good pitches, strike to balls, keep the ball out of the middle of the plate, he can be vulnerable. But those kind of players with that kind of electricity don’t come around all the time.”
[RELATED: Marmol happy to be back ... in first place]
Sveum was asked to compare the immediate success of a prospect like Puig and the more deliberate development of the Cubs’ top prospects, players like Jorge Soler and Javier Baez, who are still in the lower levels of the system.
“People have to develop,” Sveum said. “Obviously (Puig) took the bull by the horns, and you couldn’t do anything with him but leave him here. Those things happen. You want those things to happen. But development is still the key to the success of mostly every player there is.”
Rizzo in another hot streak
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo insists he hasn’t been feeling any different at the plate over the past week, but the numbers would indicate he at least must feel happier after leaving the plate.
In his past six games, Rizzo is 9-for-20 with five walks, two doubles, three homers, four RBIs and four runs scored. Most recently, Rizzo smacked a pair of homers in Thursday’s loss to the Dodgers.
Though former Cub Alfonso Soriano was the one most typically associated with the bouts of production, Rizzo has shown his ability to get hot for certain stretches, too. Sveum said, though, that’s just a power-hitter thing.
“Ninety percent of hitters in this league are streaky -- I’m talking about guys that have power and home runs and all that -- and the rest of them are all in the Hall of Fame and had completely consistent careers,” Sveum said. “It’s just kind of the nature of the beast as far as ups and downs and streaks and home runs come in bunches. And that’s kind of the way it is for a lot of people in this game.”