Scouting Yankees Prospect #13: Jake Cave

The Yankees selected outfielder Jake Cave in the sixth round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of Kecoughtan High School in Virginia. He missed the first two years dealing with a nagging knee injury but has seen his game continually improving over the ensuing two seasons to the point where he's now considered one of the better prospects in the organization.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Jake Cave
Position: Outfield
DOB: December 4, 1992
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 198
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

Batting and Power. Since his selection out of high school Cave has always shown the requisite tools to be a high-average hitter, including more patience and pitch selection than his modest walk totals have suggested, excellent strike zone discipline, above average bat speed with very quick hands, and a willingness to use the whole field, and he then proceeded to chip in with a career-high .304 average in high-A Tampa last season. Knocked by critics for his lack of walks, however, the fact is he's always been a patient hitter but yet aggressive at the same time, only willing to swing at his pitches. He has the innate ability to a high-walks, high on-base guy too. Just like his ability to draw walks, Cave's modest power production thus far helps disguise what could be an average or better big league tool when it's all said and done. He generates a lot of backspin and torque in his swing, and when he connects to the pull-side in particular some of the home runs can be prodigious in nature, and the whole tool package could produce some surprising long-term power potential.

Base Running and Speed. Cave is not a burner by any means, grading out more a tick above average than anything speed-wise, but it plays a level higher in spurts because of his aggressive style of play and all-out tenacity. When he gets on base he's there to force the issue and make opposing defenses earn their keep, often times turning would-be singles into doubles by busting it out of the batter's box. Sometimes his aggressive style backfires with the occasional base running gaffe but for the most part he's an elite station to station runner and a solid 15-20 stolen base threat annually.

Defense. Just like his base running, Cave's natural range is more above average than plus in centerfield but it plays a level higher with his run-through-a-wall mentality. He simply wills himself to make most plays, gets excellent jumps on balls and reads off of the bat, and he's about as heady as they come defensively. He also shows above average to borderline plus arm strength. The natural speed suggests he's perhaps better suited for the corner outfield spots but the mental makeup and inner drive grade him out a level higher. He has the ability to not only be an everyday big league centerfielder but one who will make standout defensive plays on pure hustle alone.

Projection. Physically Cave doesn't have a plus tool in his game; they all grade out as average or above average at best, including his power and speed, and in that regard the tools suggest he should be a big league reserve outfielder. However, possessing the inner-fire and all-out hustle of 'Rudy' Ruettiger from the famed movie 'Rudy', his intangibles are so strong and evident that it allows his game to play at a completely higher level; nobody tries harder and no one wants to win more than Cave. His tools are also a bit underrated too, including his developing power and ability to draw walks, and therefore has the ceiling of a big league starting outfielder, one that should be an above average defender or better in any of the three outfield spots and one who could be a dynamic and consistent offensive run producer. How he fits into a big league lineup will depend on how much further the power develops but his high-energy style of play is something most big league managers will want in an everyday capacity.

ETA. 2016. Though he missed his first two professional seasons Cave is having a considerable meteoric rise through the minor leagues. Though the power may take a little more time to develop, he is big league ready in nearly every other capacity.

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