Hitters with poor plate discipline rarely make for productive Fantasy options. Outliers are interesting, not to mention useful, as Jose Abreu was proving prior to going on the disabled list. Now we may have to add Junior Lake to the list of players who can help Fantasy owners despite poor plate discipline.
One could argue that Lake has the majors' worst plate discipline. No one with at least 150 plate appearances has a lower contact rate on pitches outside the strike zone (39.0 percent, according to FanGraphs.com), and Lake also has the unfortunate distinction of swinging at pitches out of the zone at the 12th-highest rate (39.4 percent). So to sum up, Lake swings frequently at pitches with which he has extremely little chance of connecting.
Yet, here Lake is with a .271 batting average to go with six home runs, 18 RBI and six steals in just 154 plate appearances. Those stats look entirely unsustainable, given that he is striking out in 36 percent of his at-bats, yet he may not regress all that much. Lake has been helped by a .333 batting average on grounders that looks fluky, even for someone with speed. Then again, he hit .359 last season on ground balls, as he notched 18 infield hits in only 236 at-bats. At that rate, Lake could have challenged Jean Segura for the infield hit title with a full season's worth of playing time.
Lake has only three infield hits this season, but he has already shown he is capable of using his speed to get frequent hits on balls in play. His poor strikeout and walk rates still make him someone to avoid in points leagues or Roto formats that use OBP instead of batting average. Lake, however, is a top 50 outfielder in standard Roto formats, and now that he is playing more regularly, he could rise even higher.
For Roto owners, this alone could be useful information. Lake is also showing that, while poor plate discipline is a cause for skepticism, it isn't necessarily a harbinger of Fantasy doom.