Monday, August 27, 2018

Even a 'Caveman' can do it

Jake Cave, who wore "Caveman" as his uniform nickname during Players' Weekend. did something unusual Sunday: He walked three times. This increased his walk total by 33 percent on the no-longer-young season and gave him 12 on the year.

Cave has gotten fairly consistent playing time against right-handed pitching for about two and a half months while Byron Buxton languishes on the disabled list/minor league rehab. Cave has shown genuine power at the plate -- slugging percentage .452 (all nunbers entering Sunday's play) -- and some significant flaws.

The relative lack of walks is a signficant one. Cave's batting average (around .265) is acceptable; his on-base percentage (.303) is not. He has had a few TOOTBLANs -- Thrown Out On The Bases Like A Nincompoop -- which is hardly unique on this club. And his defense in centerfield was poor enough that in recent weeks he's played right field, with Max Kepler getting center field chores.

One positive in the field: Cave picked up a pair of outfield assists Saturday and another on Sunday, giving him five on the season, four in his limited time playing right field.

The flaws make him a reserve outfielder who is currently getting too much playing time. Other than being a left-handed hitter, it's not the typical profile for a fourth outfielder, who are generally expected to be better in center than Cave has been. But the Twins have regulars in the corners capable of playing center (Kepler and Eddie Rosario).

Buxton on Sunday played in his third straight day for the Twins Triple-A affiliate, which suggests he's about ready to return. It's possible that they'll wait until the rosters expand to bring him back. When he does, Cave's playing time will probably pretty much vanish. He's not a better hitter than Rosario and Kepler, and this team really needs Buxton's defense and basrunning prowess.

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