Cave Comfortable

TRENTON, NJ - Jake Cave led the Yankee farm system in hits for two straight seasons entering the 2015 campaign so it's very apparent he's been comfortable at the plate for some time. However, he seems to be getting better and better with each passing season and his current 19-game stretch of reaching base successfully is proof positive that he may indeed be the most comfortable he's ever been.

Jake Cave got off to a pretty good start to the season this year, collecting a .301 batting average and a .422 slugging percentage in his first 21 games while also hitting his only two home runs of the season in that span.

He then went through a mini slump for about a week and a half that saw his average drop to .255. But soon afterwards, he was able to get himself back on track and now his batting line is at .293/.382/.377 after 47 games this season with the Thunder, solid numbers across the board for Cave.

Trenton Thunder manager Al Pedrique thinks that he has been hitting his best since the end of last year, which coincides with right about the same time that he got promoted to Double-A.

“I would say his last year was the start of the process of everything clicking for him,” Pedrique said. “Once he realized what type of hitter he is, he’s matured a lot.

"Last year we started seeing a guy that started recognizing pitches better, start trusting in himself when there’s two strikes in the count, he didn’t panic. This year, we’re starting to see a kid that was getting more confidence; he’s taking what opposing pitchers are giving him, and understanding his swing and the strike zone better.”

Back on Media Day almost two months ago, Pedrique said that the two biggest things that Cave needed to work on were mainly his defense and not overexerting himself in preparation for a game. So far this season, he has been working on those things and Pedrique thinks it has translated to a good season.

“He’s been responding to both of those things right way," Pedrique commented. "There’s a lot of improvement and now when he goes out during practice, he doesn’t try to take too many swings and when he goes out and work on his defense, he’s not overcharging fly balls to catch.

"He’s starting to understand that he doesn’t need to focus so much on his strength, but more on his weakness and improve on those. This kid has a lot of energy and plays hard every day.”

He’s also been trying to be more patient at the plate and lowering his strikeout numbers. In his first 47 games this season, he’s struck out 34 times, an improvement over his numbers last year where he struck out 124 times in 132 games.

What’s even better for Cave is that his patience also means that he’s drawing more walks in a shorter period of time. It took him 38 games to draw 20 walks this season while it took him 64 games to reach that number last year. This newfound patience forces pitchers to throw onto Jake’s strengths which is hitting the fastball.

Although this year saw a decrease in slugging percentage compared to the 42 games he played with the Thunder last year [.377 this year versus .455 last year with the Thunder], no one is really concerned about Cave and believe that he’s playing his best baseball of his young career.

Thunder hitting coach P.J. Piliterre said that Cave’s been working on his approach at the plate and that he’s come a long way as a hitter.

“That’s one of the biggest things he’s improved on from a couple of years ago to this year,” Piliterre said, "he’s developed nicely when it comes to strike zone awareness and plate discipline, and being off those pitches that are outside of the strike zone much, much earlier and it’s noticeable. It’s a testament to him and to how much he’s learned, how much his baseball intelligence has grown in just two short years and you’re starting to see those results.”

It should come as no surprise that Cave has been hitting the ball well this season but he can still improve on some areas. He has the tools to be a very good baseball player that has a lot of passion and love for the game.

Cave still needs to work on his consistency at the plate. He will have slumps, just like any other ball player, but he needs to know how to minimize that inconsistency and keep being an aggressive hitter. He still doesn’t have the strength to be a home run power hitter just yet but he more than makes up for it with his ability to hit line drives all over the field.

When given a chance to be with the Yankees in Spring Training, Cave, who has now reached base safely in 19 straight games, did well and took advantage of the opportunity, showing the higher-ups of the Yankees organization that he can be a future member of the Major League team full-time. His feel for the game is about as good as any prospect in the organization and he attributes his success thanks in parts to that.

“I’ve been feeling more comfortable at the plate as of late,” Cave said. “When you’re comfortable, you hit better. Hitting is all about feel and if you’re feeling good hitting the ball, good things happen. I’m just trying to hit the ball hard.”

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