Mike Rizzo did not bite when an intrepid reporter tried to get the Washington Nationals’ GM to talk about the state of the baseball world, while Rizzo spoke on a Zoom call following the conclusion of Day 1 of the 2020 MLB Draft earlier this month.
Rizzo was asked what his state of mind was at that point, having just heard Commissioner Rob Manfred’s pronouncement that he was 100% confident there would be a 2020 season, in spite of the contentious negotiations between MLB and the MLBPA and concerns about even trying to play a season amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
It was June 10th and there was no agreed-upon plan for a shortened season at that point (and there still isn’t one now, with the added issue of players across several teams testing positive for COVID-19 over the last few days making things even more tenuous, after weeks of tedious negotiations between MLB and the MLBPA), so was Rizzo antsy, frustrated, or hopeful?
What was his state of mind?
“My state of mind is June 10th, the biggest day of the baseball calendar is today,” Rizzo said, echoing sentiments he’s expressed often about the draft being his own Super Bowl.
“Today and tomorrow are the two biggest days that set up all championship seasons and all great teams and great franchises.
“We start building franchises through the draft and player development and today is a big day. We’re concentrating on that.”
“We couldn’t be happier to get [first round pick] Cade [Cavalli] in the fold,” Rizzo said.
“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.”
Cavalli, 21, ended up being the first of six selections by the Nationals in this year’s two-day, five round draft, (they got a comp pick after the second round for losing Anthony Rendon in free agency) and the righty out of the University of Oklahoma has now, officially, joined the defending World Series champions, who took him with the 22nd overall selection (slot value $3.027M).
“[Cavalli] fulfills a lot of what we look for in drafting pitchers over the course of my career with Arizona and with Washington,” Rizzo said after Day 1.
“He’s a big physical pitcher. He’s got really good stuff. 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; second-round pick Cole Henry (RHP, LSU); their comp pick, Sammy Infante (SS; Monsignor Pace HS, FL); third round pick Holden Powell (reliever, UCLA); fourth-rounder Brady Lindsly (catcher, Oklahoma); and fifth-round selection Mitchell Parker (LHP, San Jacinto College, TX), make up the 2020 Draft class, joined by a number of undrafted free agent signings who have already or will join the organization in coming weeks and months.
“All we’re about with the Washington Nationals is the name on the front of the jersey and we’re here to win. We’re a pitching-first organization. That’s how I believe you build world championships,” Rizzo told Cavalli on a Zoom call included in the Nats’ tweet on their top pick signing.
Cavalli, Infante, Powell, Lindsly, and Parker have reportedly signed, though not all the deals have been officially announced by the team, leaving only Henry unsigned out of the top six picks. Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office have also reportedly added free agent first baseball Jackson Coutts and infielder Gio Diaz from among the ranks of undrafted players.
“What a tremendous group,” Assistant GM and VP of Scouting Ops Kris Kline said of the 2020 Draft class after Day 2.
“I’m so excited and fired up to have all these kids in the system. This is a jackpot for me. We did great. Guys did a tremendous job.”