Key to the Nationals’ future, Cade Cavalli is finding his identity in AA

Key to the Nats’ future, Cavalli is finding his identity in AA originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Not even one full season into his career as a professional pitcher, Nationals prospect Cade Cavalli has shown he has the potential to be a future ace in the majors.

The 2020 first-round pick has enjoyed a breakout year this summer. Washington promoted Cavalli to Double-A Harrisburg in June and his success at that level has helped him soar into the upper half of various top 100 prospect lists. Entering play Monday, he ranks second among all minor-leaguers with 147 strikeouts thanks to a fastball that touches triple digits and a deep repertoire of breaking balls.

“Sometimes, it’s easy to forget with a guy like him that this is his first full season,” Harrisburg Senators manager Tripp Keister told NBC Sports Washington. “He was drafted last year, he missed most of the season last year from a standpoint of college he didn’t have much [because of COVID] and then the alternate site, while it was great, is not a baseball season.

“This first year is so vital for him learning the routine that has to happen in between starts, how to take care of your body, prioritizing sleep, prioritizing nutrition, your workouts…being available for his next start. And that’s really, him getting used to that is a big deal.”

So far, Cavalli has missed only one start, and that was because he was selected to pitch in the MLB Futures Game at Coors Field during the All-Star Break.

As impressive as he has been, the one big issue for Cavalli this season has been walks. The right-hander has given a free pass to 4.3 batters per nine innings, a number that ballooned a bit after he walked six in his last outing. He attributes those struggles to his competitive nature, which sometimes takes over when he’s pitching in a game setting.

“The walks have been an issue a little bit and I’m trying to clean that up,” Cavalli said. “I feel like that’s not me as a pitcher. I feel like if anyone were to go watch my bullpens on the side, I feel like I can go command the ball when I want, where I want. And I think that in game, I get into this very big compete mode because that’s who I am as a person and I will start overthrowing. I just have to find that good effort level and realize my stuff will play.”

His stuff certainly plays, and it’s something the Nationals have taken notice of in D.C. After the team made the decision to tear down its roster at the trade deadline, President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo said in a press conference that the players they had just acquired as well as those that they had drafted in recent years like Cavalli would “be the core of this next championship-caliber club.”

The Nationals haven’t yet given a timetable for when Cavalli will be joining them in Washington — he still needs to be promoted to Triple-A first before he’s eligible to make that leap — citing the need for him to continue finding his identity as a pitcher and working on pitch sequencing.

“We’re keeping close eyes on Cade,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said in his pregame press conference Tuesday. “He’s done well in Double-A. I think there’s going to be a point where he does get moved up to Triple-A here fairly soon but we don’t have any timetable on him. We want him to continue to grow. He’s starting to learn a lot about himself and the strike zone and his mix of pitches.

“We think that he’s got a bright future in this organization for a lot of years so there’s no timetable of when you’re gonna see him here but if he keeps continuing to grow the way he’s growing, who knows what could happen here in the future. He obviously will be here if things keep going the way it’s going. I’m not saying this year but fairly soon.”

Whether it’s this season, next season or beyond, Cavalli hopes to join a major-league club that’s aiming to compete. Rizzo has expressed his desire to get the club back to the playoffs sooner rather than later, shutting down any talks of an extended rebuild. That’s good news for Cavalli, who isn’t looking to be part of a ball club that’s trying to lose.

“I’m hungry,” Cavalli said. “I was hungry before the trade deadline. I believe that even if those guys are still there, I’m gonna approach my work the exact same. I’m gonna try to go win. That’s all that matters up there. They say ‘rebuilding,’ all this now, I want to be on a team that’s gonna go win. I don’t want to be on a team that thinks we’re rebuilding.”

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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