Patrick Teale

Jake Cave is having a career season so far after coming back to the Yankees.

SCRANTON, PA -- To label the past few months as a rollercoaster for outfielder Jake Cave would be quite the understatement. Not only has he played for two different organizations in 2016 but at two different minor league levels as well and his strong start has him already on the path towards a career-year too.

Yankee prospect Jake Cave was almost a former Yankee prospect this spring when the Cincinnati Reds selected him in the Rule 5 Draft this past winter.

“It was cool to experience something from a different organization and to see the way they do things,” Cave said. “It’s good to hang out with other big league players I might not get a chance to [as well].  It was a fun experience.”

Initially lost to the Reds, Cave’s big league Spring Training didn’t go as planned as he hit just .255 and was sent back to the Yankees. Cave was disappointed not to make the Reds roster but coming back to the Yankee organization was comforting too.

“I know people here, I know the coaches, the coordinators, I have friends and teammates so it’s not a tough transition,” Cave said.” It’s not a big deal because you’re back where you were a few months ago.”

Last season Cave slashed .278/.339/.359 mostly with the Trenton Thunder but he did manage to get 24 at-bats in Scranton. Though they were not many at-bats, they helped Cave in the long run.

“It’s baseball and no matter what level you’re at you see some different caliber players but it’s still baseball, it helps,” Cave said.

The 23-year-old lefty started off the season in Trenton this year and posted .298/.357/553 in 104 at-bats. With Slade Heathcott going on the Triple-A disabled list [and eventually being released] Cave got the call up and has made the most of his opportunity, hitting .285 and posting an .824 OPS through his first month of Triple-A action.

“I feel good," he said.  "I’m playing well.  It’s all I can try to do and be consistent.”

Cave isn’t a top overall prospect but his numbers are hard to ignore.  He currently leads the Yankee farm system in total bases [114] and his play in Triple-A is one of the reasons why Heathcott was released. Cave joins an outfield of Ben Gamel and Aaron Judge, perhaps the best outfield in the International League.

First year RailRiders manager Al Pedrique has coached Cave before as manager of the Tampa Yankees and the Trenton Thunder.  Pedrique recalled working with Cave last year with facing left-handed pitching. 

“I’ve had Cave the last two years and every year he gets better facing lefties,” Pedrique said. “Last year in Trenton early he struggled a little bit but second half we made an adjustment keeping his front shoulder in and going the other way, and that’s what he [is doing].”

Cave is hitting a solid .281 off of lefties so far in Scranton but more importantly he's slugging .563 against them in the early going.

“I feel good off lefties, there’s some mechanical things I’m trying to work out,” Cave said. “Whenever I get a lefty on the mound it helps me because I can’t try to do too much, I only focus on squaring up the ball and I can’t focus on the other stuff I’m doing in the cage.”

Al Pedrique has also seen Cave mature this year mentally too.

“He’s starting to understand what type of player he can be,” Predrique spoke in his office after Cave delivered a game-winning hit earlier in the week. “He’s stronger driving the ball in the gaps.  Last year he hit a lot of ground balls but now the ball is coming off the bat harder and he has a lot of confidence and is using the whole field.”

Cave is using the whole field this year.  In fact, he has more hits to left field than he does center and right respectively. Still, over the weekend, Columbus shifted Cave like he was David Ortiz and it got his attention.

“Yeah I saw that they were shifting me,” Cave said in a rather surprised voice. “I don’t think I just pull the ball, so hopefully that backfires on them.”

It’s a long season and Cave, despite doing well and already on track towards a career-year, knows there’s room for improvement.

“I just want to get as consistent as possible with some stuff I'm working on in the cages mechanical-wise and stuff like that because I feel good right now,” Cave concluded.

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