WASHINGTON - Aaron Barrett is back (again), Cade Cavalli is “on the fast track” and Mario Sanchez is “a sleeper” at Double-A Harrisburg.
That’s the skinny from Brad Holman, the pitching coordinator in player development for the Nationals.
There is so much more, of course, when it comes to pitchers in Washington’s system.
Holman discussed just a few of the pitchers in a phone interview after he arrived Monday in West Palm Beach, FL after earlier stops this minor league season at Triple-A Rochester, High Single-A Wilmington and Low Single-A Fredericksburg.
Barrett, on the Rochester roster, threw a rehab outing of one inning while giving up two earned runs on Saturday for Fredericksburg. He pitched in the majors for the Nationals in 2014, 2015, 2019 and 2020 while dealing with several injuries along the way, including a knee injury this year.
“Before he hurt his knee, he was tremendous,” Holman told Federal Baseball. “Now he is back pitching. I have not laid eyes on him since spring.”
Rochester has several pitchers with Major League experience, including lefty reliever T.J. McFarland, who had an ERA of 4.66 in his first 16 outings out of the bullpen for the Red Wings.
“He is okay – he has been hit and miss,” Holman said of the former Baltimore reliever. “He is a guy that is going to pitch to contact – he is a left-handed sinkerballer. As a result, sometimes you run into hits and runs and that is kind of what he is dealing with. He knows how to compete; he throws strikes. It is just a matter of him stringing together some good outings.”
Sterling Sharp, signed by the Nationals out of college, made his Major League debut with the Marlins in 2020 then was returned to the Washington system after being a Rule 5 pick by Miami. He is 1-1, 2.70 in eight starts at two levels this year.
“He has done well. He is a great story – he had a labrum issue. He was at the alternate site last year and we had to shut him down,” Holman of the Division II Drury product. “He spent all winter rehabbing that. He was doing really well at Double-A as a starter and that is the reason we promoted him to Triple-A. He is a sinkerballer and a strike-thrower. He is usually right at guys and gets sinkers and grounders. His secondary stuff plays; he knows to pitch, he knows how to use his stuff.”
Kyle Lobstein, another Major League veteran, is a lefty reliever with Rochester who posted an ERA of 2.00 in his first 14 appearances this year.
“He is kind of a mixed bag. He has stretched out to three innings at times,” Holman said. “He is a journeyman who knows how to pitch. He is not going to wow you with velocity but he knows how to pitch” three-quarters with his arm slot.
Virginia native Nick Wells had an ERA of 2.79 in his first 11 bullpen outings this year, with nine coming for Harrisburg and two with Rochester. “It has been a good season so far,” Holman said of Wells, drafted by Seattle in the fourth round in 2013 out of a Virginia high school.
Cavalli and Matt Cronin were promoted from Wilmington to Harrisburg last week.
Cavalli, a 2020 first-round pick, was 3-1, 1.77 in seven starts for Wilmington and had 71 strikeouts in 40.2 innings pitched.
In his first Double-A start, he gave up two earned runs in six innings Friday in a loss to Reading.
“Cade, he is just a consummate professional,” said Holman, who pitched in the majors for Seattle. “He doesn’t talk a lot. He is a fun-loving person, he never has a bad day. At the same time, he has this competitive edge. He is a four-pitching guy and has been a breath of fresh air. He is on the fast track. Right now, stuff-wise, he is good enough to be in the big leagues. It is a matter of him understanding pitch sequencing. He is just a sponge; he is a super student of the game and he wants information. That is half the battle you know from an instructor’s standpoint.”
Cronin was drafted in the fourth round in 2019 out of Arkansas by the Nationals. He is 2-0, 1.53 with four saves this year at two stops.
“He has elite max spin with his fastball,” Holman said. “It is just hard to hit; it looks like it is going to be at one place and ends up a little bit higher. He spins an above-average curveball and is a good competitor. As long as he is throwing the ball over the plate he is going to get good results.”
Holman has been around to nearly every affiliate and has been impressed with Mario Sanchez, who is 1-4, 3.55 but has a WHIP of 1.07 for Harrisburg.
“There are some sleepers. Mario Sanchez is a right-handed starter; he has probably has got arguably the best fastball command in our organization,” Holman said Monday night. “He is a guy you don’t want to count out. Andrew Lee at Double-A has shown well. We have moved him into the rotation. I am excited to see him down the stretch and how he fares out of the starting rotation.”
Lee has pitched in seven games, with two starts, at Harrisburg and has an ERA of 1.25.