Cave Growing

There's a prevailing premise in sports that the only way to get better is to face better competition. Trenton outfielder Jake Cave is learning that first-hand at the Double-A level these days and he's growing as a player as a result of the mounting experience.

He began his season hitting .304 for the Tampa Yankees with 117 hits in just 90 games, earning not only mid-season Florida State League All Star honors but making such a lasting impression that he also was named the lone Tampa representative for the season-ending FSL All Star team too despite being promoted to Double-A back on July 17th.

"I did everything I wanted to do," Cave said of his time in Tampa. "I felt I got better in some offensive and defensive aspects. One of my goals [entering the season] was to make the All Star team and I did that. One of my other goals was to get promoted and I did that so I think it went really well."

While he isn't hitting over .300 like he did in the Florida State League, he's done an admirable job with the Trenton Thunder thus far, hitting a solid .287 with two home runs through his first 22 Eastern League games.

"I think things are going good," he said. "I've come up here and seen some different pitching, some better competition, and I think when you put that all together I think I've done pretty well."

Outside the numbers, however, Cave has made an immediately strong impression among his coaches with his style of play.

"Jake's a gamer," Trenton hitting coach Marcus Thames said. "He battles every at-bat. He doesn't give in that often. I'm still trying to see him some more but I like what I see so far. He comes to work, he has his plan, and I've been happy with what I've seen so far."

"He comes with a lot of energy and that's a good thing, particularly at this part of the year when the season is coming to an end," Trenton manager Tony Franklin added. "We don't know where we're going to end up but there's always something to play for and you have to put forth a great effort, and that's Jake.

"Jake is one of those guys who is going to stand out on a baseball field just because of his style of play. There's a lot of energy there plus he's a pretty talented kid."

That energetic style of play is truly palpable when watching Cave play, just as is his rather aggressive approach at the plate. Not an overly patient hitter, Cave, while enjoying some early Double-A success, is still trying to find his way at the upper levels.

"I don't know if it's an adjustment necessarily but you just see better pitching," Cave noted of the difference in Double-A. "It's one of those things, the more better pitching you see the better you get. And I've seen a lot of really good pitching; a lot of lefties, a lot of good lefties, a lot of tough guys out of the pen with good splitters and that type of thing.

"I don't know if it's more of an adjustment but just trying to stay consistent against really consistent pitching, and getting closer to seeing these guys who are going to be pitching in the 'Bigs' so you have to go out every day and stay consistent."

While some would like to see him have a more patient approach at the plate, not only for the sake of drawing more walks but perhaps just seeing some more pitches, Cave and his coaches believe he should stick with the approach that has given him a lot of success over the past two seasons.

"That will come once he starts learning these pitchers [more]," Thames said. "Once he starts learning what guys are trying to do to him I think that [aggressiveness] will calm down a little bit but you don't want to take it away from him.

"You want him to be aggressive but smart because you don't want him to be too passive and that's what he's doing. He has an idea. He's seeing what guys are doing to him and he's figuring that out. He's doing a good job."

"He's probably not hitting as well as he would like but his batting average is pretty good right now," Franklin added. "This is probably the first time he's had to face a multitude of left-handers on a daily basis. We've had a lot of left-handed pitching thrown at us and I think Jake has handled it well.

"There's been some good days, there's been some bad days, but again he's a young guy figuring out how lefties are pitching him consistently and once he gets a good idea of how that's going to happen I think he'll be just fine. I think he's a good offensive player.

"I think you have to give yourself an opportunity to grow here," Franklin continued. "This is a level where you begin to figure out where you stack up and where you fit. It's a little bit different than your A-[ball] clubs -- you have pitchers who have a lot more ability to command their fastballs and they're going to throw it where they want to.

"You have to figure out what pitches you can hit and you can not hit, how pitchers are getting you out, and if they got you out one way are they going to do it again, and if they do it again do you make the adjustment to lay off of that pitch, and I think that's where Jake is."

As solid as he has been for the Thunder thus far, the bottom line is he's still figuring all of that stuff out at one of the game's highest levels and that means there's still some significant growing up to do, and with some significant ceiling left in his game too.

"I'm not too worried about that," Cave said. "To me when I'm going well and when my timing is right I do walk some. I'm not a big walk guy, I'm up there to hit. I've never been a really big walks guy and there are some guys who are, but the way I see it is if you have a good on-base percentage and you're not walking, you're still doing something right.

"It's all about getting on base. If I can get on base with hits then I'll get on base with hits. When you're not feeling too good up there and still squeeze out some knocks, and squeeze out some quality at-bats when you're not feeling good, that's what I'm happy about and that's what I'm trying to do up there," he concluded.


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