Cade Cavalli made four starts for the University of Oklahoma Sooners this season before the coronavirus pandemic brought an end to his junior year.
In those four starts and 23 2⁄3 innings pitched, the 21-year-old right-hander, who was drafted 22nd overall in the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft by the Washington Nationals last night, walked five (1.90 BB/9) and struck out 37 of the 96 batters he faced (14.07 K/9).
Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo and Assistant GM and VP of Scouting Operations Kris Kline said they’d seen enough of Cavalli over the years to feel comfortable making the pitcher their top pick.
“We’ve got great history on him over the years,” Rizzo told reporters in a Zoom call after the completion of Day 1 of the Draft.
“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.
Cade Cavalli faced 96 batters in 2020.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 11, 2020
Cade Cavalli struck out 37 batters in 2020.
Cade Cavalli only walked 5 batters in 2020.
That's...really good.#MLBDraft // #NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/8r69OsPi8h
“We couldn’t be happier to have gotten him at [No. 22]. We feel that he’s a good value there.
“We had eight scouting reports on Cade,” the General Manager added, “... so we felt really good about where we were at with the amount of reports that we had.”
“When we saw him early at the Minute Maid tournament, it was absolutely electric,” Kline said of a February 28th outing against the University of Arkansas in Houston, TX in which Cavalli struck out 11 batters in five innings of work on the mound in the Astros’ home.
“He’s got a great pitcher’s frame,” Kline went on. “Strong, defined, durable look. A very nice delivery. It’s a clean arm action. It’s fast. It’s loose. It’s a big fastball.
“On this particular day he held 96 [MPH] for five innings, touching 98-99. I think he’ll settle in at 94-95 every fifth day when a pro load hits him.”
Kline also talked about the righty more generally when he was asked for a detailed scouting report.
“It’s a four-pitch mix,” he said. “He’s got an above-average major league slider now that he commands. The curveball is probably the fourth pitch in the mix. There’s flashes of a solid-average pitch. It will be a nice weapon for him as maybe a get-over type to get ahead in the count at times, and then the changeup — he has an above-average feel for that as well.
“And he’ll need to start incorporating that more into his mix as he gets out into pro ball.
“He’s got three pitches that he can put hitters away with and the ability to command them and he’s really turned the corner.
“Skip Johnson, who’s the head coach [in Oklahoma] now, does a wonderful job with pitchers and did some fine-tuning with [Cavalli’s] mechanics and his delivery, and he’s definitely arrow-up.
“He is going in the right direction, and I’m really excited he’s part of our group.”
How does Cavalli describe himself as a pitcher? It’s something that every draft pick is asked when they talk to reporters covering their new teams for the first time.
“I describe myself as a blend of a power pitcher and a guy with a lot of pitchability,” Cavalli said. He listed five pitches that he has to work with on the mound, noting that he throws two- and four-seam fastballs.
“I have a five-pitch mix: four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, changeup, spiked curveball, and a slider, and I love to use all of them. I can use them pretty much in any count, and I have confidence with all of them.
“I have the velocity of a power pitcher, and I just picture myself being a blend of those, and I’m going to go pitch with them.
“I’ve been a hitter, and I know it’s very uncomfortable when a guy is bringing some heat and he’s also got 3-4 other pitches he can go land. It’s an uncomfortable AB and that’s what I try to deliver to the batters.”
“We couldn’t be happier to get Cade in the fold,” Rizzo said of the first of six picks the Nats will make during the two days of this year’s five-round draft, which was cut down from the usual 40 rounds by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as part of the deal Major League Baseball and the MLBPA made back in March, with a free-for-all period to follow in which eligible, undrafted players can sign with any team for a maximum of $20,000.
“Another big powerful right-handed pitcher in the system, and we’re hopeful that he brings us another trophy in another couple years when he’s on the club,” Rizzo continued.
Cavalli was equally excited about the organization he landed with this time around, after he was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 29th Round of the 2017 Draft before deciding to go to college.
“I’m crazy excited for the opportunity,” Cavalli said. “I’m going to go prove myself. They’re World Series champions and that’s something I’ve dreamed of since the day I was little.
“Not only to get to the big leagues, but to help the organization win a World Series.”
Cavalli made the decision to focus on pitching this season, after having played first base as a freshman and sophomore with the Sooners.
Though he didn’t get to play a full junior season, the righty said he and his teammates got the fact that it was bigger than them, and bigger than baseball, and he believes he got in enough action to show scouts what he had to offer.
“I felt like I had four chances to go show the scouts what I have,” he explained, “... and I felt like I did a really good job of that. I was building upon each start. It doesn’t matter. I ended up with the best organization out there and I’m fired up that I got to be a National.”