2016 Statistics: .268/.330/.427, 8 HR, 55 RBI, 6 SB, 470 PA
2016 Level/Roster Status: Double-A/Triple-A/Non-40
The Yankees selected Jake Cave in the sixth round of the 2011 MLB Draft straight out of high school. Although he was a pitcher, the Yankees drafted him as an outfielder and he can play all three positions. His stint in the minors got off to a rocky start as he was injured in his very first Gulf Coast League game. A collision at home plate caused Cave to miss the entire 2012 season with a fractured kneecap.
From 2013 to 2014 he worked his way from Charleston up to Trenton slashing .294/.351/.414 in 2014. He spent the majority of the 2015 season in Double-A and his numbers dipped from the year before (two home runs in 2015 compared to seven in 2014). He was Rule 5 Draft eligible heading into the offseason and the Yankees chose not to protect him. The Reds actually selected Cave, and he was in their system until April 5th when they designated him for assignment. He was then offered back to the Yankees and started the season in Trenton once again.
Cave got off to a blazing hot start in Double-A, crushing three home runs, three triples, and eight doubles in 104 at-bats. Boasting a .510 slugging percentage with an .863 OPS, Cave was called up to Triple-A in early May. He wasn’t able to maintain the same level of production in Scranton, but Cave did finish the season with eight home runs, which is a career high for him. His strikeout percentage dropped slightly between Trenton and Scranton (22%), but so did his walk percentage (7.3%). Overall, he hit .268/.330/.427 between Double-A and Triple-A which isn’t too far off of his minor league average across all levels. Despite playing well, Cave did not join the team when rosters expanded in September.
Unfortunately for Cave, the Yankees have a bit of an outfield logjam, which is why he was selected in the Rule 5 Draft last year to begin with. Cave had to watch as the likes of Aaron Judge, Ben Gamel, and even the oft-injured Mason Williams were promoted to the big league level this year. The Yankees will once again have to decide if they want to protect him by adding him to the 40-man roster, or risk losing him in the Rule 5 Draft for a second time.
Apparently, if he is selected in the Rule 5 Draft again and doesn’t stick with that team, Cave would have the option to elect free agency rather than rejoin the Yankees. Cave will presumably start next season in Triple-A if he is still with the team during the spring. However, he has no clear path to the majors at this point. Unless the Yankees include a number of outfielders in trade packages during the offseason, Cave probably won’t be the team’s second or even third choice when it comes to calling up outfield help.