Cubs' Lake Looks To Catch Up With Old Friend

CHICAGO—Remember me?

A few years ago, Junior Lake and Starlin Castro were being developed side by side, almost in lockstep. They rotated back and forth between shortstop and second base, and created debate with the Cubs organization about which player was the better prospect.

For the 2009 season, Castro was sent to high Class A Daytona and Lake to low Class A Peoria so that both could play shortstop. It was essentially a coin flip to see who got the better assignment, as the players were valued equally. Castro shot ahead of Lake that season, and hasn't looked back since.

While Castro has played 283 big league games the last two seasons, Lake has continued a step-by-step development. But his play in the Arizona Fall League shows he's closing ground to once again share a clubhouse with his old friend.

"I shouldn't call it a coming-out season because I haven't been here to see his development, but he impressed a lot of people," new Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "Even when I was in San Diego, he was a guy who our scouts would see and talk about. People have been impressed with this guy for a long time."

Lake, who like Castro is 21, is a similarly oversized infielder with a strong throwing arm, rated by most as better than Castro's. He split 2011 between Daytona and Double-A Tennessee, batting .279 with 12 home runs and 38 stolen bases.  He added to that with a strong showing in the AFL, where he was hitting .296/.352/.548 with 5 homers and 21 RBIs in 28 games. He was 18-for-18 in stolen base attempts.

His development will depend largely on making more contact and drawing more walks. He may also soon outgrow shortstop, as he's listed at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, and some scouts felt he was even heavier in the Fall League.

It's not clear who would move off shortstop if Castro and Lake were both with the Cubs. Castro has been prone to making errors in his two big-league seasons (29 in 2011, 27 in 2010), and some scouts think Lake would be more reliable.

"I hope we have to make that decision some day," Hoyer said. "That's a problem that tells you it's a good organization⎯too many center fielders, too many shortstops. I hope we have that problem."


• The Cubs hired Joe Bohringer from Arizona as director of pro scouting. He had worked for the Diamondbacks for five years after serving as an area scouting supervisor for the Mariners for five seasons (2002-06).

• Lake was added to the 40-man roster, along with lefthander Jeff Beliveau, outfielder Matt Szczur and third baseman Josh Vitters.