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Washington Nationals’ Cade Cavalli on the rise; promoted to Double-A after dominant start to 2021 season...

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The top prospect in the Nationals’ system on most lists is making the prospect rankers look smart...

MLB: Washington Nationals-Workouts Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

Cade Cavalli, the Washington Nationals’ 22-year-old, 2020 1st Round pick (No. 22 overall) earned a promotion from High-A Wilmington to Double-A Harrisburg this week after a 15-strikeout performance over seven no-hit innings in his latest start, which left the right-hander with a 1.77 ERA, a 0.885 WHIP, 12 walks (2.66 BB/9), and 71 Ks (15.71 K/9) over seven starts and 40 23 innings pitched for the Blue Rocks this season.

Cavalli spent the 2020 campaign throwing at the club’s Alternate Training Site down in Fredericksburg, VA, but this season he’s been dominating the competition at High-A ball in his first exposure to pro baseball.

“Cavalli just got bumped up to Double-A, he’s throwing the ball really well, so he’s well on his way. We’ll see how he handles Double-A,” Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez said this week.

Martinez was asked where Cavalli fell on the organizational depth chart right now.

“He’s a guy,” the manager said, which is not the generic term it seems to be, but more, he’s “a guy” they have high hopes for in the future. “I watched the game he pitched the other day and he threw the ball really well. I don’t know if you saw his line, but he threw a no-hitter for seven, 15 strikeouts, and he’s slowly but surely really adjusting to playing baseball professionally. So, we just want to continue to develop him and for him to continue to grow, and then we’ll go from there.”

Martinez got a good look at the top pitching prospect in the organization this spring, when the Nationals brought Cavalli and others to big league camp.

How has he developed since then?

“He’s been really, really good,” Martinez said.

“We spend a lot of time with him in Spring Training. He’s a bright young man. He’s very mature. He understands the game, he understands what he wants to do, now he’s just got to apply it every five days when he goes out. And you’re seeing that. You’re starting to see him get better. We talked a lot about him controlling the strike zone with all his pitches. He’s getting better at that, so once he understands how to attack hitters. and how to attack the strike zone, the sky is the limit for him.”

Cavalli, and the rest of the minor leaguers in the organization, didn’t get the regular level of development they normally would have last season though, so the Nationals are taking it all slowly with everyone this year.

“We always look back, we were talking about how our minor leagues, for example, we were talking about how our hitters were starting really slow. You got to remember, these guys didn’t play for a long time, so it’s definitely an adjustment, the pitchers always have an advantage when that happens. And some of the pitchers have started off really slow as well, and all of a sudden now they’re picking it up. So, this year is big for our minor league system to watch these guys and how they develop, I mean it’s huge because they missed so much time, that all of a sudden now you look down and guys starting to swing the bats better, they’re starting to pitch better, location has been better, so it’s just a matter of continuing to play.

“We don’t want to rush these guys to get here, because they haven’t played in so long. We want them to continue to develop so that when they get here it’s to stay here.

“We want them here and we want them here for a long time, so we’re going to take our time to develop these guys and then we deem they’re ready to come up hopefully they’re here and they stay here.”

GM Mike Rizzo, talking to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday, echoed the manager’s sentiments when he was asked about Cavalli’s development.

“The only issue with Cade is we didn’t have a minor league season last year,” Rizzo told the Junkies. “That is something that has kind of hurt each and every guy’s progress.

“Cade was drafted and we sent him to the alternative site, but there’s no competition.

“You’re not playing under the lights, you’re not throwing a full nine innings and stuff like that.”

“I was a farm director with the Arizona Diamondbacks,” Rizzo added, “... so I know how to develop players and how to develop pitchers and timelines and that type of thing, and I think the easiest way to kind of put is when they’ve mastered a level they move to the next level I think that’s the simplest way of putting it.

“Some of these elite players like the Sotos and the Harpers and the Rendons, those guys accelerated through the process very, very quickly. but I think when you’ve mastered a level, you move to the next level until you get to the ultimate level, and that’s kind of the way our development program works.”