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Jake Cave - 2019 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper

Bouncing around from the Yankees to the Reds before he found a home in Minnesota, Twins outfielder Jake Cave made his MLB debut in 2018. After a 2017 season where he had a .305/.351/.542 slash line in the minors with the Yankees, Cave was sent to Triple-A with the Twins after he was acquired, posting a .269/.352/.403 slash line. In 91 big league games, though, Cave showed more of the power that led to him hitting 20 home runs in Triple-A in 2017.

Cave had a .269 batting average in the majors as well, and a more disappointing .316 OBP, but he had 13 home runs and 32 extra-base hits in just 309 plate appearances. He got better as the season went on in the power department as well, hitting 10 home runs after over the last two-plus months. A .287 batting average in September/October shows reason for hope as well, as Cave slumped to a .231 batting average in August after posting a .314 BA in July.

With the opportunity for a full season in the big leagues, can Cave be one of the best deep sleepers leading in 2019?

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Where Did Cave's 2018 Performance Come From?

As stated above, Cave's 250 plate appearances in Triple-A were nothing special, as he had just 16 extra-base hits and 54 R+RBI. While this was uninspiring, remember that Cave had 94 extra base hits in 2016 and 2017 in the Yankees system and his .352 OBP in the minors in 2018 was the best mark of his career. While his plate discipline from the minors disappeared once he made it to the majors (18 walks and 102 strikeouts), Cave's power returned.

When looking at Cave's batted ball profile, his 8.6% soft hit ball rate sticks out. Considering that Cave had a 25.7% line drive rate and 37.6% hard hit ball rate as well, Cave showed that when he does make contact, it is solid contact. The issue, though, is making contact; Cave only had a 71.5% contact rate and 13.9% swinging strike rate while swinging at 31.7% of pitches outside of the zone. It is not surprising that he had a 33% K rate last season in the big leagues.


Is Cave Worth A Late Flier?

While his power is enticing, we also need to remember that Cave stole 47 bases from 2013-2014 and hit at least five triples in each season from 2013-2017. Many assume that there are a plentiful amount of players that have 20 home run/10 stolen base potential, but there were only 29 players that reached those benchmarks in 2018 and only 18 were outfielders. If Cave were to hit 25 home runs, there were only nine outfielders that hit both benchmarks in 2018.

The biggest factor here is that Cave is going 405th in drafts on average, basically making him unowned in standard leagues. This is not to say that you should run to draft a player whose ADP is between Danny Salazar and Matt Strahm, but it is to say that fantasy owners need to remember him as the season progresses. Considering that he will be widely available in most leagues, look to see if Cave's adjustments can make him a viable OF3 in deeper leagues.

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