Soon after Jake Cave was promoted from Class-A Advanced Tampa to Double-A Trenton, as he was taking batting practice, a scout from a National League team stopped to talk in the ARM&Hammer Park press box.
“I really like Cave,’’ said the scout. “He really reminds me of Brett Gardner when he first came to Trenton in 2006. He might even be a bit ahead of that.’’
Cave, who just turned 22 Dec, 4, and a sixth-round pick by the Yankees in 2011, kind of smiled when told of the evaluation by the scout, who has had the Eastern League in his territory for many years.
“That’s nice to hear,’’ said the native of Hampton, Va., “but I know how much work I have to do, and how much better I need to be.’’
Cave, considered a bit of a steal in the sixth round, kind of got lost in the shuffle after suffering a knee injury that cost him the 2012 season. But he earned notice quickly by rebounding with a strong 2013 season Class-A Charleston, hitting .282 (131-for-464) with 37 doubles, two homers, 31 RBIs and 18 stolen bases.
He split 2014 between Class-A Advanced Tampa, hitting .294 (165-for-561) with 28 doubles, nine triples, seven homers and 42 RBIs. He stole 12 bases in 132 games.
In the Trenton outfield, where he displaced Mason Williams in center for the last six weeks of the season, he looked a lot like the 2006-07 Gardner, making catches in the gap, pivoting with strong throws and covering a lot of ground..
At the plate, even though Gardner was a slap hitter several years ago in Double-A, there is one major difference with Cave. It is what the younger prospect needs to work on.
Cave struck out 124 times last season. Gardner, even in 2006-07, rarely struck out. In 1,026 minor-league at-bats, Cave has fanned 234 times and drawn only 87 walks. To his credit, his career average is .288. Gardner’s walks and strikeouts were about even at that point in his career.
Scouts like the way Cave hustles and gets “down and dirty’’ when he has to. Many also talk about those strikeouts.
Given he only played 42 games at Trenton in 2014, look for Cave to return to Trenton in 2015 and work on his plate management. If he can cut down in his strikeouts, that comparison to a young Gardner might be pretty accurate.