It seems like so long ago that Junior Lake was the "it" prospect to talk about in the Cubs clubhouse.
Since making his debut in July 2013, that "top prospect" label has fallen off Lake's resume and he's been replaced by Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and a host of other young players who are making an impact with the Cubs.
Lake has become a forgotten man, even after drawing comparisons to Alfonso Soriano less than two years ago.
But Lake is back in Chicago and earned a second straight start Friday against the Royals. He got the call in right field in place of Jorge Soler Wednesday, doubling off Max Scherzer - the best pitcher on the planet right now - and subsequently swiping third when the defense stopped paying attention to him on the basepaths.
When asked why he decided to give Lake another start Friday, Joe Maddon's response was simple: "Have you been watching him?"
"He's been outstanding," Maddon said. "I think he's a good baseball player. What's getting lost here is the fact that he's got a clue out on the field. He does some really smart things out there. That's what I've seen with him."
Maddon also admitted he opted for Lake over the left-handed-hitting Chris Coghlan against Edinson Volquez because the Royals starter is tougher on lefties (Volquez is allowing just a .177 average and .513 OPS to lefties, compared to a .218 average and a .574 OPS to right-handed hitters).
Lake has already been shuttled to and from Triple-A Iowa twice this year and the caveat always is that it's a small sample size (27 at-bats entering play Friday). But it's the approach that has Maddon encouraged right now.
For example, Lake's double Wednesday was only his fifth extra-base hit to the opposite field in his career, spanning more than 570 at-bats.
He's also not swinging at every pitch thrown within spitting distance of home plate, averaging 4.57 pitches per plate appearance, tops on the team among active players (injured Tommy La Stella saw 5 pitches per plate appearance in his six at-bats earlier this season).
"He's really good," Maddon said. "I got to see him in spring training. I saw him - I think - pinch-hit last year. And then with him in camp and I go to meetings and hear all these different things about Junior.
"A big part of it was he would pretty much swing at the rosin bag. But then this last offseason, he went to winter ball and I guess that stopped. Now, watching the guy run bases, play defense, his at-bats, his power, I don't know what there's not to like. I've not seen anything but good."
Lake is still only 25 and possesses an intriguing power-speed combo skillset. He can play all three outfield spots and came up through the Cubs system as an infielder, representing some versatility for Maddon off the bench.
Lake has shown flashes that he's the same player who hit .284 with a .760 OPS in 2013 and he's working to move past his 2014 struggles (.211 average, 110 strikeouts in 308 at-bats).
But at the end of the day, he's still not seen as a building block with this Cubs franchise.
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With Lake, it wasn't so much doubting his skillset, it was more about doubting whether it would all click and he would fulfill that potential.
He's got something of a fresh start now with Maddon in town.
"He's one of those guys, sometimes, I think you get in an organization long enough that people see him a certain way," Maddon said. "I'm coming in with some fresh looks right now and now I think everybody else is seeing the same thing.
"Junior's proven that he's made some adjustments, which is not easy to do at his particular point of development. I give him a lot of credit."