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Yankees 2014 Roster Report Card: Jake Cave

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An underrated name heading into the season, the 21-year-old played his way into the top prospect picture with an excellent 2014.

Jake Cave did not hit three homers for me like Greg Bird did for Tanya, but it was still cool to see him.
Jake Cave did not hit three homers for me like Greg Bird did for Tanya, but it was still cool to see him.

Grade: B+

2014 Statistics: .294/.351/.414, 28 doubles, 9 triples, 7 homers between High-A and Double-A

2014 Level/Roster Status: Double-A/Non-40

It's been a bit of crazy few years for outfielder Jake Cave, who was generally regarded as a fine sixth round pick when he was selected in the 2011 MLB Draft out of Kecoughtan High School in Virginia. Unfortunately, Cave got off to just about the worst start imaginable when he fractured his kneecap in his first game and didn't make a single other appearance over the next two seasons due to the required surgery and recovery. Thus, the lefty hitter was a somewhat forgotten man when he began 2013 with Low-A Charleston at age 20. He was quite productive that year, hitting .282/.347/.401 with 37 doubles and a 117 wRC+, quite nice numbers for someone in his first full season.

Buoyed by Cave's success, the Yankee started the centerfielder with High-A Tampa in 2014. He wasted no time in adjusting to the level, where he hit .304/.354/.395 with 18 doubles and a 116 wRC+. Cave had 117 hits in 90 games with some nice defense and speed to complement his overall production, and by mid-July, the Yankees were satisfied with what they saw. On July 17th, Cave was officially called up to Double-A Trenton, joining ace prospect Luis Severino on the journey north. Making the adjustment from the Florida State League to the much higher caliber Eastern League is not easy, but Cave appeared to pass with flying colors. In 42 games with the Thunder, he hit .273/.344/.455 with 19 extra-base hits and a 121 wRC+. Manager Tony Franklin was so impressed that he compared Cave favorably with Brett Gardner, who also passed through Trenton under his watch.

Cave's game has not been daunted by pitcher-friendly locales like Trenton's Arm & Hammer Park and Charleston's Riley Park; he has similar home and road splits, perhaps because power isn't a huge part of his game. Same-handed pitchers also struggled to do much better than righties until Cave reached Double-A, where he only hit .239/.308/.352 against southpaws. However, that was also only in 28 games, so that could just be the result of small sample size, though it's something to watch going forward. (He also needs to work on his 21.7% career strikeout rate, though his walk rate did jump to 9.1% in Trenton.) Additionally, while Cave has nice speed with 30 professional steals, he has also been caught 15 times for an unattractive 67% success rate. He'll probably never have the speed of Gardner, but if he's going to run, he needs to increase his efficacy. Despite all these caveats, MLB.com stated that scouts love the way he approaches the game and "plays with full effort on a daily basis." It often seems like perseverance is half the battle when grinding through the minors, so it's good to see that Cave has a positive disposition.

It's unclear how Cave will fare as he gets closer to the majors, as there are still some questions about whether or not he could actually become a big league regular. Nonetheless, his 2014 campaign offered several reasons to be optimistic about Cave's outlook, and that was reflected in MLB.com's midseason prospect rankings, where Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo put him 7th overall in the Yankees' system. There's a lot to like about Cave, so here's hoping he takes another step forward in 2015 and ends up in Triple-A Scranton by season's end.