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Grading the 2020 Twins: Jake Cave

Did speedy No. 60 cross the finish line, or wipe out on the turn?

Cincinnati Reds v Minnesota Twins
Back to the Jake Cave for offseason hibernation.
Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

As we did last offseason, Twinkie Town writers are grading player who appeared in a game for the 2020 Minnesota Twins. (Last year’s grades can be found here, this year’s here.) Players will be graded individually on an A-F scale based on their hitting, fielding, and whatever else the author wants to consider.

One of the more memetic members of the Minnesota Twins to grace this website, Jake Cave entered the 2020 season as the team’s fourth outfielder. Due to injuries, he might be considered the third.

Over the course of 60 regular season games, Cave saw action in 42 of them, trailing only Eddie Rosario (57) and Max Kepler (48) among outfielders and topping the immaculately talented but oft-injured Byron Buxton (39) by three. While not near the elite levels of Buxton, Cave, at minimum, held down the open spot in the outfield.

He did more than the minimum, but with his bat, not much.

After a decent but lighter-hitting 2019 season where Cave slashed .258/.351/.455 with eight homers, his numbers dropped in 2020, his slash line reading .221/.285/.389 with just a quartet of moonballs swatted into the seats. Cave’s strikeout rate, already approaching one-third, popped over that milestone, escalating to 35.8 percent from his 2019 rate of 31.1 percent. His walk rate was slashed by more than half, dropping from 9.2 percent to 4.1 percent, while exactly half of the balls Cave put in play were classified as grounders, the remaining half split perfectly between liners and flies — in line with his 2019 rates.

However, the lightness of Cave’s bat was countered by a glove smoother than in seasons past. In 268 innings, Cave committed no errors, putting forth not only a positive UZR for the first time in his career but leaping from minus-1.5 UZR to 2.5. Fangraphs’ WAR ratings demonstrate the gap between Cave’s 2020 bat and glove, grading his offense at minus-2.8 fWAR and his glove at 2.0.

Additionally, despite Cave’s light bat, he did have a few moments of pummeling the ball. Notably, although he went homerless through 16 games in August, Cave put forth a surprise showing on September 23, socking a pair of longballs to lead Minnesota to a 7-6 win over Detroit. Of course, one game does not a season override, but such moments are always reassuring that a player’s talent level is not necessarily what they are at their worst.

Were grades dependent fully on the bat, Cave would be in the D range. As it is, his glove bumps him up. I make no projections as to his role in 2021.

Grade: C-


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