Name: Jake Cave
DOB: December 4, 1992
Batting and Power. Cave's approach is emblematic of the term 'controlled aggression'. He is actually very patient at the plate despite the rather low walks totals throughout his career. He is constantly ooking for his most desired pitch to drive. So while he has the plate discipline and pitch recognition to be a high walks guy if he so chose -- and it's not a priority in his offensive approach right now -- the fact is he tends to find a pitch to his liking earlier in counts. The bat speed is above average too and he shows a real willingness and proclivity for going center to opposite field when he hits too, and all of it spells potential .300-plus hitter if things break right in a given year. However, until the walks become a bit more of a priority the majority of his on-base abilities are in fact tied to his batting averages. Like the walks, the power in his game has not yet blossomed the way it could and perhaps should. He hit a career-high eight home runs last season and the ones he does hit go extremely far, suggesting that perhaps a bit more of the average power potential he does have might get closer to the surface the older he gets. Until that in-game home run production increases though he profiles better as a high doubles hitter with modest occasional home run power.
Base Running and Speed. Cave was one of the more aggressive and tenacious base runners in his earlier days and his higher stolen base totals [than they should have been] helped disguise what was actually more average than anything natural running speed, perhaps a tick above average. However, the older he has gotten the more laid back he has gotten too and now, like his hitting, his base running can be termed best as 'controlled aggression'. Still a great station to station runner, the stolen base opportunities have been [and should continue to be] declining as he gets older. His impact is far greater running around the bases than swiping them.
Defense. Again, with speed that is more a tick above average than plus, Cave's natural range in centerfield shouldn't be as good as it is but the fact is his all-out hustle style of play combined with ever-increasing game intelligence have almost willed him into becoming one of the more reliable defensive centerfielders around. He is quite exceptional reading the ball off of the bat, has the solid make-up speed to get to most balls, and his borderline plus arm strength allows him to make most throws too. He does pale in comparison to some elite defensive centerfielders but not by much and it's because his tenacity alone allows him to make a number of highlight-reel plays.
Projection. With above average defensive skills at all three outfield spots, average power, average speed, and a real ability to swing the bat, Cave has everything in place to safely project as an eventual big league reserve outfielder. And while those rather average physical tools do profile him better coming off of the bench, what allows his game to play a whole level higher and what gives him a legitimate starting outfielder ceiling is his through-the-roof mental makeup. Few can match his desire and willingness to do what is necessary to win. In fact, it's that inner-fire and all-out hustle style of play of 'Rudy' Ruettiger from the famed movie 'Rudy' that allows his game to play at a completely higher level. He may need to make taking walks a bit of a higher priority and tap a bit more of the raw average power to reach that starting ceiling, but both are absolutely plausible. He's a reserve outfielder short-term with starting potential long-term if he continues to develop.
ETA. 2017. Cave should open up right where he left off, back in Triple-A Scranton as one of the starting outfielders. Not far off from big league ready already, he should be on the short list of potential in-house outfield candidates at the big league level should the need arise this upcoming season.