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Jake Cave following in Brett Gardner's footsteps as leadoff man with split issues

Jake Cave rounds the bases after hitting a

Jake Cave rounds the bases after hitting a home run in the eighth inning of an exhibition spring training game on Saturday, March 7, 2015, in Kissimmee, Fla. Photo Credit: AP / DG

Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams already made their MLB debuts this season, but the Yankees' pipeline of centerfielder prospects still has some quality inventory left.

Jake Cave, 22, is two years younger than Heathcott and a year Williams' junior.

A sixth-round pick in the 2011 draft, Cave is hitting .297 with a .374 on-base percentage at Double-A and was 3-for-4 with two doubles and a walk in Trenton's 6-5 win over Reading on Wednesday. Trenton is 36-29, 2nd place in the Eastern League Eastern Division and 0.5 games back of first place.

Typically deployed as a top-of-the-lineup hitter, Cave has reached base via a hit or walk in 51 of 61 games this season. He has 22 multi-hit games and has struck out in just 15 percent of his plate appearance, 44 times overall.

Cave's main weakness so far is a susceptibility to lefthanded pitching. Cave, who bats from the left side, is a .311 hitter with a .393 OBP against righthanders in 2015. He hits .245 with a .305 OBP against lefthanders, and displayed similar splits last season.

Cave's situation parallels another recent Yankees leadoff hitter who batted lefthanded and battled issues with lefthanded pitching in the minors.

Brett Gardner had a .311 average and .415 OBP against righthanders and a .262 average and .289 OBP vs. lefthanders while playing as a 23-year-old centerfielder with Double-A Trenton in 2007. Gardner reached Triple-A later in the year and showed a similar deficiency. But he fixed the flaw the following season, was promoted to the Yankees and has been a key component of the team's lineup against either-handed pitching ever since.

Elsewhere in the minor leagues


(38-29, 1st place in International League North)

Rightfielder Ben Gamel was 2-for-5 with a double, shortstop Gregorio Petit went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk and third baseman Cole Figueroa was 2-for-4, but the RailRiders fell to Rochester, 7-1.


(32-34, 3rd place in Florida State League North, 5 games back)

Shortstop Tyler Wade homered, and rightfielder Mark Payton was 3-for-4 with a triple and a stolen base as Tampa beat Bradenton, 7-5.


(32-34, 4th place in South Atlantic League Southern, 3 games back)

Second baseman Vicente Conde was 3-for-4 with two doubles, and centerfielder Dustin Fowler was 2-for-4 with a double and a walk as the RiverDogs beat West Virginia, 6-5. Conde has doubled in each of his last four games, going 8-for-18 with five doubles during the stretch. Shortstop Jorge Mateo stole his 42nd base of the season. Mateo has been caught only 10 times, an 80.7 percent success rate.


(11-5, 1st place in DSL Boca Chica South)

Rightfielder Leobaldo Cabrera was 3-for-3 with a triple, leftfielder Greidy Encarnacion went 2-for-3 with a double and two walks and designated hitter Frederick Cuevas was 2-for-4 with a double and a walk as the Yankees beat the DSL Mariners, 14-6.


(6-10, 10th place in DSL Boca Chica North, 6 games back)

Second baseman Brailan Medina was 1-for-3 with a double and a walk, and righthander Carlos Espinal struck out four in five innings, allowing four hits and one run, but the Yankees fell to the DSL Brewers, 11-3.


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