Phillies 2024 Season Preview: OF Jake Cave

Projections don't give Jake Cave much playing time in 2024, so he'll need to make the most of his chances when he gets them.
Jake Cave 2024 season preview, Philadelphia Phillies
Jake Cave 2024 season preview, Philadelphia Phillies / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

The next player in our Philadelphia Phillies 2024 Season Preview Series is outfielder Jake Cave.

Previous season previews: José Alvarado, Andrew Bellatti, Alec Bohm, Connor Brogdon, Nick Castellanos, Rodolfo Castro, Kody Clemens

Let’s first dig into Cave’s 2023 season before we look at the projections for 2024 using the Steamer and ZiPS projection systems, which can be found on FanGraphs.

Jake Cave 2023 stats and 2024 projections

2023 Stats: 65 G, 203 PA, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 3 SB, .212/.272/.348, .620 OPS, -0.1 fWAR

2024 Steamer: 34 G, 135 PA, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 1 SB, .239/.308/.408, .716 OPS, 0.1 fWAR

2024 ZiPS: 445 PA, 14 HR, 61 RBI, 4 SB, .242/.311/.429, .740 OPS, 1.4 fWAR

*Editor's note: Current ZiPS projections aren't a playing-time predictor.

Jake Cave 2024 season preview

Jake Cave, 31, is being given another chance to prove that he can contribute at the major league level. Last season, he was seen as the defensive replacement for Kyle Schwarber and a lefty bat off the bench to provide some pop, but it didn’t work out that way.

He put together a strong August, hitting .275 with an .870 OPS and four home runs in 19 games, but struggled to find consistency in the remaining 46 games. The Phillies kept coming back to him because of his eye-popping Triple-A numbers. In Lehigh Valley, he slashed .346/.429/.684 with a staggering OPS of 1.113 and 16 home runs in 237 at-bats. It’s easy to imagine the "what ifs" when a player hits like that in the minors.

"I was feeling good, getting plenty of playing time [in Triple-A]," Cave told That Ball's Outta Here about his strong play after returning from Lehigh Valley. "And I kind of held that timing and everything well, for a little while, and then let myself fall out of it when I wasn't getting the consistent playing time, but that's no excuse."

Though Cave will ultimately be judged by his contributions at the plate, his glove has been valuable to the Phillies. He was able to provide relief for Schwarber in left field, Nick Castellanos in right field, and even spent time at first base when Rob Thomson had to get creative. His versatility is something that bodes well for Cave and can keep him around even longer.

"I want to keep a consistent approach," Cave said about his upcoming season. "I want to be ready for any position that I'm put in, whether it's coming off the bench, whether it's not playing for a while. Maybe it's starting, if something's happened, unfortunately. So I want to put myself in the best position."

Projections aren’t kind to Jake Cave in 2024

It's clear that Steamer isn’t confident that Cave will be with the major league team long, or at least be given many chances. The 2024 projections have him playing 34 games and hitting just .239 with four home runs and 16 RBI.

Although the projections are bearish about his opportunities, if correct, Cave will take advantage of those opportunities a little more often. Steamer predicts him to almost replicate his home run and RBI totals but in 47 percent fewer games, leading to a 92 wRC+, better than his 66 in 2023.

Cave's being given a vote of confidence that he should benefit from a higher BABIP of .309, better than his unlucky 2023 mark of .271. In Steamer's eyes, this will lead to not only a higher batting average at .239, up from .212, but a higher on-base percentage (.308) and slugging percentage (.408), up from .272 and .348 respectively — all three ratios closer to league average.

The ZiPS projections have similar, although slightly better, ratios. Because it's not a predictor of playing time, the counting stat totals are much higher for plate appearances, home runs, RBI, and stolen bases but in line with extrapolated Steamer totals.

The biggest problem for Cave in 2023 was that he didn’t take advantage of his limited opportunities. In 2023, he struck out at a 27.1 percent rate and walked at just a 7.4 percent rate. According to Baseball Savant, he barreled the ball 7.6 percent of the time, slightly below the 8.1 percent league average, and had a 34.8 percent hard-hit rate, also below the league average of 39.2 percent.

He's likely just behind Cristian Pache on the depth chart, with the team hoping that Johan Rojas, Brandon Marsh, and Nick Castellanos can handle the bulk of the work in the outfield.

Hopefully, Cave finds his swing early and builds momentum both at the plate and in the field. It appears he’s the type of player who performs better with consistent at-bats. Unfortunately, barring an injury, he likely won’t get that chance on this team. If he does, he'll be ready, though.

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