After seven years of grinding in the minor leagues, Jake Cave is in the show.
Cave, called up by the Twins after Joe Mauer went on the DL, started in center field in his big league debut Saturday, hitting a 2-run home run in his second at-bat.
Acquired from the Yankees in a mid-March trade after being DFA’d by New York, he’ll make his big league debut just two months after coming to the organization. For Cave, the DFA may have been a blessing in disguise, since the Yankees have a loaded outfield that includes Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.
“I knew there were teams trying to trade for me after the DFA,” he said earlier this month. “It was a shock, but it was cool coming over here. It’s a good opportunity.”
The Twins were interested in Cave after a breakout season last year. In 103 games across Double-A and Triple-A, he hit .305/.351/.542 with 20 home runs. Cave saw a significant uptick in his power in 2017—he hadn’t hit more than eight home runs in a season prior to last year.
“I got in a routine that I liked,” he said of his offensive outburst last year. “[My goal was] to stay in that routine, be aggressive, try to drive the ball a little bit more. Things just kind of clicked.”
Cave said this season he’s placing an increased emphasis on on base percentage, noting that while he hasn’t been a big walk guy in the past, becoming more selective at the plate will lead to more pitches he can drive. Cave had a walk rate of 6.1% in Triple-A last year. This year, he’s seen that walk rate climb to 11%, and as a result has an OBP 90 points higher than his batting average. On the year, he’s hitting .265/.355/.356 for the Red Wings.
“I’ve been walking more than I ever have,” he said. “I want to keep doing that. If I’m walking more that means I’m swinging at good pitches only.”
Like Ryan LaMarre and Zack Granite, Cave has defensive flexibility in the outfield. So far this season, he’s started 19 games in right, nine games in center, and six in left for Rochester.
“I feel like I can [play all three outfield spots],” he said. “I played center for a while [in the Yankees organization], left for a while, then started playing right a little bit towards the end of last year. I take pride in the fact that wherever they need me I’ll be able to play there.”
For Cave, his big season last year and solid start to this season led to his first trip to the show with the Twins. Now, he’ll have a chance to show what he can do in the Majors on a team looking for a jolt offensively. If he can provide that, he’ll give himself a chance to stick with the Twins.
“My ultimate goal is to make the big leagues, and stay in the big leagues,” he said