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Washington Nationals’ prospect Cade Cavalli made big strides in 2021; but there’s still work to do...

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Cade Cavalli rose from High-A to Triple-A in his first minor league season, and the 2020 1st Round pick is lined up to compete for a spot in the big league rotation in 2022...

2021 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Cade Cavalli put up a 1.77 ERA, 12 walks, and 71 Ks in seven starts and 40 23 innings pitched at High-A Wilmington in Washington’s system before the Nationals promoted their 2020 1st Round pick to Double-A Harrisburg in mid-June.

Cavalli, 23, made 11 starts at Double-A, with a 2.79 ERA, 35 walks, and 80 Ks in 58 IP, and in advance of his second promotion of the season, big league skipper Davey Martinez talked about the progress he’d seen from the right-hander, who spent the 2020 COVID campaign throwing at the club’s alternate training site with no minor league season.

“We’re keeping close eyes on Cade,” Martinez said in a mid-August interview with reporters.

“He’s doing well. 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 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, but we think that he’s got a bright future in this organization for a lot of years.”

While the pitcher was rising through the ranks quickly, Martinez said, the Nationals were still going to handle him carefully, and a jump from High-A to the majors in a couple months did not seem likely.

“There’s no timetable for when you’re going to see him here,” Martinez said, “but if he keeps continuing to grow the way he’s growing, who knows what could happen here in the future, but he obviously will be here if things keep going the way it’s going. I’m not saying this year, but fairly soon.”

One thing he needed to focus on, Martinez said, was his command, after Cavalli issued 2.66 BB/9 at High-A and 5.43 BB/9 at Double-A on the way up.

“Cade, obviously, he still needs to work a little bit on his control,” Martinez said when Cavalli moving up to Triple-A was announced.

“He’s still walking guys, but we wanted to give him an opportunity to go up and pitch in Rochester.”

“He misses a lot glove-side,” Martinez said, in explaining the high walk totals for Cavalli this season, “and that’s something that we talk to him [about]. Sometimes he gets a little quick with his mechanics, so we’re going to keep an eye on him, but his stuff is super-electric as we all know, so if we can get him in that strike zone and lower his walk rate, he’s going to help us win a lot of games here.”

Cavalli moved to Triple-A, and struggled at times at the highest level in the minors, putting up a 7.30 ERA, 13 walks (4.74 BB/9), and 24 Ks in six starts and 24 23 IP, finishing up his first competitive pro season with a combined 3.36 ERA, 60 walks (4.38 K/9), and 175 strikeouts (12.77 K/9) in 24 starts and 123 13 IP on the year.

How did the Nationals assess Cavalli’s work overall on the season?

“I’ve seen every start he had this whole season on video and my assessment is that he wore down at the end of the season,” GM Mike Rizzo said before the season finale for the Nats.

“Better competition, worn-down pitcher, but the developmental part of Cavalli could not have gone better. He made every start, he threw deep into games every time he pitched, his stuff was crisp.

“And it was good and he’s finishing the season with the same stuff that he started it with after a guy who did not pitch much last year.

“Obviously, in 2020 there was no [minor leagues], and he did not pitch much, so you’ve got yourself a good young arm, that’s a fresh arm, that got through a full season starting in A-ball and ending in Triple-A, it couldn’t have gone better for him.”

Did Cavalli set himself up to compete for a spot in the big league rotation in 2022?

“We’re going to take the best 26 players out of Spring Training next year,” Rizzo said, “and if he’s one of those, we’ve never been afraid to move young players or to start service clocks or that type of thing.

“We’re going to go with the best 26, and if he is one of the best five starters that we have, the plan is in place for to him start, we’ll certainly consider it.”