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2020 MLB Draft: Washington Nationals draft Cade Cavalli with 22nd pick in first round...

GM Mike Rizzo, Assistant GM and VP of Scouting Ops Kris Kline, and pitcher Cade Cavalli talked last night after the right-hander was selected 22nd overall in the first round...

2020 Major League Baseball Draft Photo by MLB Photos via Getty Images

Oklahoma Sooners’ starter Cade Cavalli was ranked 22nd on MLB Pipeline’s list of the Top 200 prospects for the 2020 MLB Draft, and the 21-year-old right-hander went 22nd to the Washington Nationals last night.

Cavalli, a 6’4’’, 226 lb pitcher, was a 2017 29th Round pick by the Atlanta Braves, but he did not sign, obviously, opting to attend the University of Oklahoma, where he went (8-7) in 27 games (18 starts) over three seasons with the Sooners, posting a 4.18 ERA, 53 walks, and a total of 114 Ks in 101 13 innings pitched.

MLB Pipeline’s scouts said before the draft that Cavalli, “... has the upside of a frontline starter,” though they did note that, “he comes with concerns,” in terms of his injury history, after he dealt with a back injury in high school and had a “a stress reaction in his arm,” as a sophomore with the Sooners, when he was still a two-way player, before shifting his focus to his work on the mound.

In a Zoom call with reporters after Day 1 of the Draft, Nats’ Assistant GM and VP of Scouting Operations Kris Kline said that the injury issues were not a concern for the team when they made Cavalli their top pick.

“The lower back thing was something from way back in high school and more of a growth issue,” Kline explained, “and we’ve spent some time communicating with our doctors and everybody is good with it. The arm — right now he’s completely healthy, he’s got a really good delivery, almost textbook, and just clean arm action.

“Four-pitch mix. Big fastball with life down in the zone. Slider is a wipeout pitch.

“He shows you flashes of a plus-curveball and changeup that he commands really well, and just a solid overall package and just a wonderful kid, character, make-up type person.”

“He’s a big physical pitcher,” GM Mike Rizzo said, offering his own scouting report on the Nationals’ top 2020 selection.

“He’s got really good stuff,” Rizzo added.

“He comes from a really good baseball conference. We’ve got great history on him over the years. We’ve seen him pitch past summers and past seasons. We have a really good feel for his stuff, how much he’s improved over the years, his make-up and his character, and we couldn’t be happier to have gotten him at [No. 22]. We feel that he’s a good value there. And all of the make-up work that we’ve done on him points to a guy that’s a high-character guy, with really good stuff, and just we feel is on the cusp of really taking the next step and doing something big.”

Cavalli, in a separate call with reporters, said he was thrilled and emotional when he heard his name called last night, twenty-eight rounds earlier than he was drafted last time around.

“The emotions were unreal,” Cavalli admitted. “I just burst out into tears. I really didn’t think I was going to cry, but you know I heard my name, and all my parents and my family and all my friends that supported me — and it was just a flood of emotion and I just started crying.”

While he had played the field in his first two seasons as a Sooner, Cavalli made a decision to focus on pitching this year, and it appears to have paid off, even though he only started four times before the baseball world shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I just wanted to focus on pitching going into my Junior year,” the righty said.

“I hit my freshman and sophomore year, and I knew that pitching was what I wanted to do with the rest of my career.

“I had a conversation with [Head Coach] Skip [Johnson] and asked him — just put all of my eggs in one basket cause I was a little new to pitching. This is really my second year of just fully focusing on pitching.

“I just wanted to get the hitting out of the way. I felt like it was going to be a good transition for me not only physically, but mentally as well.

“I was doing a lot of two-way, which I love, because I love playing the game every single day, but I thought it was a really good transition for me physically and mentally to go focus on pitching.

“I got a lot better in that area, I had more time, and I think it paid off pretty well.”