The Rule 5 draft is always kind exciting to me because of its all-or-nothing nature. Trading for prospects can be anti-climactic if they’re far away from the majors, but taking a player in the Rule 5 draft means that he has to stay on the big league roster for the entire season, or be returned to the team that he was drafted from.

The Reds selected Yankee’s minor league outfielder Jake Cave with the second pick in this year’s Rule 5 draft, and I think he has a good chance at sticking with the team as a bench player.

The Basics

Jake is a lefty and he’s 22 years old. He’s not particularly big (6’0” tall) and not particularly small (200 LBs). He was drafted out of high school in the 6th round of the 2011 draft, and decided he liked the sound of starting his career and an $800k signing bonus more than playing college ball at LSU. He got right to it that year in the Gulf Coast rookie league, but sadly he broke his knee cap in his first professional game and missed the rest of the rookie league season.

He didn’t end up starting his pro career in earnest until 2013 because his knee didn’t heal well, and he missed the entire 2012 season too. In the 2013, 2014, and 2015 seasons he played across all three levels of the minors and put together a pretty solid .285/.346/.391 career line. However, 2015 was a bit of a down year for him, and his .269/.330/.345 line in AA probably played a large part in the Yankees leaving him exposed to the Rule 5 draft at all.  He’s struck out in 19.6 percent of his plate appearances so far, which is probably too high for him to ever have a ton of success with his level of power. He does have a decent 7.7 percent walk rate though, which certainly makes him a viable bench guy.

The Eyeball Test

There are lots of videos of Cave out there (here’s a good one), and I went through a fair amount of them today. What I see is a guy who’s pretty good at a lot of things, and great at none. His swing isn’t pretty, but it’s short, and he makes solid contact with the ball. Unless something dramatic changes, he will never hit many home runs (He’s got 11 total in 380 games, so I’d project him for maybe 5 in a full season), but he’s also not a pure slap hitter, and has had 33 or more extra-base hits in each of his 3 full minor league seasons.

He has played mostly center field thus far, but he doesn’t look like a natural there. The Yankees apparently had to have a talk with him about laying out for balls he had not chance at catching, and for taking terrible routes to the ball. He’s gotten better at that, and he’s got decent enough speed to cover center field adequately, but I imagine the Reds see him as a guy that will play all three outfield spots. He’s got a very strong arm, and was seen by some teams as a better pitcher in high school than position player (topping out at 94 MPH his senior year).

Future Prospects

Every single article I’ve read about Jake Cave today mentioned his great attitude. I think teams, and especially the Reds, can make too much of a player’s attitude and make up, but for a player like Cave I think it can make a difference. He doesn’t really have the physical gifts or natural talent to be an everyday big league player, but he’s not that far off. A bench role probably makes sense for him, and bench guys need to be ready to go at a moment’s notice, but not upset if they don’t play for a month. It’s a tough gig, and I imagine it takes a really good attitude to do it well.

You never know, maybe something clicks with his swing mechanics and he develops more power, or Votto gets in his ear and he becomes an on-base machine. I doubt it, but given the Reds’ bench the last few years, a guy that can capably cover the outfield, carry a .330 OBP, and chip in the occasional double would be a welcome addition, and certainly not a risk to lose his job. The Reds have all six years of team control, so hopefully we’ll be watching him man the outfield at GABP for some time.

Welcome to the team kid!

47 Responses

    • Tom Diesman

      I think it is worse news for Tyler Holt. As of right now, one of Duvall or Rodriguez is the starting LF and the other one is the RH PH with pop off the bench. The Reds still need a LH bat with pop on the bench and a starting LF. When those two guys are found, it will be bad news for two of Duvall, Rodriguez, and DeJesus.

      • CP

        I’m not sure about that. Duvall & Yorman are out of options, and Cave has to stay on the 25 man roster. If they like Cave, seems like they’d look to move someone to avoid the pain in the butt it would be to have 3 part time guys blocking all roster flexibility.

        I know the Reds are notorious ’round here for playing with short rosters, but if a relief pitcher or a starting middle infielder gets one of those nagging-type injuries that may or may not require a DL stint, the GM is going to have to decide whether keeping Yorman is worth playing short. Ugh.

      • CP

        Doh. I totally misread your comment. Please disregard. I agree with you completely.

  1. Ryan Lykins (@ryan_lykins)

    If hr can get on base at just a league average clip he would be a big upgrade to the bench.

    • Tom Diesman

      I think he’ll be really hard pressed to put up a ML average OBP (.317). Think more like Skip Schumaker numbers at a price you can stomach. Schumaker Steamer projection is .249/.309/.330/.639. Cave’s Steamer projection is .253/.300/.354/.654. The bright side is that Cave will play better OF defense.

      • jdx19

        Good point, Tom. Also with Cave, he still has SOME theoretical upside. He could possibly improve, where as a Skip Schumaker has a 0% chance of getting better.

        That was always the worst part about aging vets on the bench. They cost 4-5 times more than league minimum, usually, and didn’t perform any better than AAAA sort of players…plus, they had absolutely zero upside! I, for one, will be glad someone like Cave is on the bench. If he’s no good, oh well, they tried!

      • Jeremy Conley

        Having gone through a lot of his videos, I think those projects are too low. Remember, this is a kid who is 22, but only played 3 years of pro ball with no college. I think he will be able to be a better than league average hitter in the end.

      • Hotto4Votto

        I also think it’s important to note that his platoon split is .304/.366/.402 against right-handed pitchers last year. He should see the majority of his time against right-handers, meaning that we can reasonably expect that he’ll project better than his overall numbers might otherwise suggest.

  2. The next Janish

    He’s got a very strong arm, and was seen by some teams as a better pitcher in high school than position player.

    Did anyone else think “uh oh don’t tell Walt that”? Haha

    • ohiojimw

      Yep. That explains why they drafted a guy the rest of us thought was a position player 😉

  3. Hotto4Votto

    His splits against RH pitching vs LH pitching are significant. As the Reds have a projected OF next year of almost exclusively RH hitters. Cave’s platoon ability really stands out and offers the Reds something they didn’t have in their system already. He’ll be a useful addition in my opinion, and in the Rule V that’s about as much as you can hope for.

  4. WVRedlegs

    He is also a potential trade chip that can sweeten any Frazier, Bruce, Chapman, BP trade initatives. Though that is probably not the route the Reds will necessarily take with him.
    Nice pick up for the Reds. So was the LH pitcher they got, Chris O’Grady. He looks like a good candidate to take the spot Manny Parra held down the last couple of years.

  5. VaRedsFan

    IMO, a wasted 25 man roster spot. With his best possible performance, he won’t even approach Chris Heisey success.

    • jdx19

      He’s a young guy without vast experience… you don’t even know what his “best possible performance” is…

      Sure, he’ll probably not be very good, but a majority of MLB regulars never appeared on a top prospect list at any point in their careers. Good players can come from nowhere… much better to try and find one (perhaps Cave) than sit aging, worthless (literally) vets on the bench like Schumaker.

    • brmreturns

      VA –
      Not real sure what everyone’s fascination with Heisey is. Yes, he was a serviceable outfielder (defensively, and a little pop). However, he’s a career .300OBP’er and he never hit more than .265 in a season. If he were to reach his steamer projections (.253/.300/.354/.654 ), he would be right at Heisey’s career line.. with a little less pop.

      Even if he only hits .225 and plays AVERAGE defense, he’s already an upgrade over Schu, Boesch, Taveras, Soto, and just about every other ‘extra’ outfielder the Reds have given OF playing time to over the past 10 years.

    • Jeremy Conley

      How is it wasted? He’s a young prospect, as good as pretty much anyone we have besides Winker. His minor league numbers look a lot like Heisey’s actually, and Heisey never lived up to those in the big leagues, putting up a .245/.301/.418.

      He will also make the league minimum this year, and can be cut for $25K, so in MLB terms, he’s basically free. If you think that’s a waste, I’d hate to imagine what you think about the rest of the roster.

      • Big56dog

        Too much logic, I personally would rather have Wayne Krenchicki, Glenn Braggs, or Jerome Walton

    • Grand Salami

      Steve should toss his Nation hat into the ring.

      • WVRedlegs

        Steve, Chad, and a couple of others on here are good enough. They would blow the Enquirer readers minds with the charts, spray charts, etc. they use in their articles.

  6. redbonebuck

    I always thought Fay struggled to produce quality content. I would even question how much the guy enjoyed the game. There’s no question in my mind several here could do a better job.

    • Brian Dunn (@surrfinTexas)

      You’re wrong about Fay. Smart guy, dry, glib, but worked hard. Watched him spring training last year chasing stories after a game. Spring training, really? That’s what the job description asked for.

  7. redbonebuck

    Not on topic but, Cueto in a Cardinals jersey makes me half sick.

      • Matt

        How would Chris Carpenter explain that to his son?

      • Big56dog

        I cannot believe almost an hour passed before someone replied this, never gets old

  8. jdx19

    For folks who care about projections and such, the article about the Reds 2016 ZiPS projections was just posted.

    A few interesting takeaways:

    – Votto and Frazier and projected to be good.
    – Phillips, Cozart, Bruce, Hamilton are projected to be about league-average.
    – Adam Duvall (!) is projected to also be about league-average (1.7 WAR)
    – Adam Duvall’s closest comp is the recently-retired Mike Hessman, the MiLB HR King.
    – The rotation is not projected to be a train-wreck, but it isn’t projected to be great either.
    – ZiPS thinks Jesse Winker could slash .261/.333/.422 if he made the jump from AA
    – Assuming they are bullpen arms, Finnegan, Reed, and Cingrani are projected to be the best relievers not named Aroldis Chapman.
    – The haul for Cueto (Lamb, Reed, Finnegan) are projected to put up a combined 4.2 WAR in 377 IP. That’s pretty good a year after the Cueto trade. If they achieve that, we should all be happy and optimistic about the future of those guys.

    • earmbrister

      The author at fangraphs seemingly has omitted Homer Bailey from his 2016 projections, while including Cozart and Mesoraco. Oversight?

      • Steve Mancuso

        Fourth pitcher listed. Estimated 149 IP. 1.9 zWAR.

      • earmbrister

        Bailey’s not mentioned in his discussion of the pitchers, while he goes on to say that Cueto’s 4 wins have been replaced by Lorenzen’s 0 wins. The depth chart in his article shows these 5 pitchers, with their zWAR’s (not Bailey’s):


        Bailey is buried in a chart at the bottom of the article.

    • Carl Sayre

      I like someone else feels the way I do about the piching. What I saw from the youngsters last year made me optimistic for the future. I think they still get knocked around in 16.I am holding out hope that Lorenzen developes into a starter but I am thinking bullpen is more likely. The bullpen can use all the help it can get so Lorenzen to the pen want be to big of a blow.

  9. WVRedlegs

    Dusty Baker, Rizzo and the Nats making a big push for Aroldis Chapman. Let it be so. Turner-SS or Giolito-SP would be excellent return.

    • WVRedlegs

      Maybe take Drew Storen off of the Nats hands and with a nice prospect. Storen is a FA after 2016, like Chapman. But Storen made $5.7M in 2015 and would be projected around a $8-9M salary for 2016. That would save $4-5M over Chapman’s $13M. And get a nice prospect to boot. Then the Reds could consider trading Storen possibly again this winter or before the July deadline if needed and recoup some more prospects.

    • Jeremy Conley

      I think the idea of taking Storen off their hands and a prospect is a good one. Also, remember they still have to get rid of Papelbon. If the Reds took Papelbon and gave them Chapman, they might actually be able to get Giolito or Turner.

      • Hotto4Votto

        Especially if the Reds could then flip Storen at the trade deadline.

      • CP

        I hate Papelbon, but the Reds need bullpen help and should have plenty of payroll provided they trade Frazier & Chapman. I think taking him on would be reasonable given the Reds position.

      • Jeremy Conley

        Yeah, I hate him too, but the Nats are desperate to get rid of him and there aren’t that many teams that will want him after last year. So I’m thinking, the Reds trade Chapman for Papelbon and a top prospect, let Papelbon try to get his act together, and if he’s pitching well, flip him at the deadline for another good prospect.

        May be the best the Reds can get for Chapman at this point.

      • Steve Mancuso

        This is a creative idea. The Reds should ask for two prospects along with Papelbon. If the trade gets done in the off-season, the Nats could get a compensation pick for Chapman at the end of 2016.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Although I’d settle for one really good one.

  10. JB WV

    At 22 and basically 2 years of non-action (making him more like 20), he might have more ceiling than you think. What the hey, good gamble.

  11. DavidTurner49

    The description of Cave reminds me of what I’ve read about Steve Selsky. But Selsky is .296/.380/.457 over his MiLB career, considerably better than Cave (.285/.346/.391). Is Cave better defensively? Do they think Cave has more potential?