Why Washington Nationals top prospect Cade Cavalli is on verge of MLB debut

Washington Nationals’ top prospect Cade Cavalli has seemingly been on the doorstep of making his debut for months. Finally, the unforgettable moment could soon be imminent for the ultra-talented starting pitcher.

Cavalli, the 22nd pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, opened the season at Triple-A Rochester. Washington saw enough during his dominance against Double-A competition in 2021 and this spring that it felt confident to assign him to the highest level in the minor leagues.

Facing so many players with years of MLB experience, the assignment was always going to be tough. However, the Nationals wanted to see how the 6-foot-4 righty would handle it and to determine how long it took him to make adjustments.

Related: Cade Cavalli makes case for MLB debut

It proved to be a challenge immediately. Cavalli posted a 7.62 ERA with a .268 batting average allowed and a 1.55 WHIP across his first 28.1 innings. Command proved to be the biggest issue, highlighted by a 10.8% walk rate (FanGraphs)

Following a disastrous outing on May 17 – Cavalli allowed five earned runs in 0.2 innings – we saw a different version of the talented righty. Over his next four starts, Cavalli lowered his ERA to 2.17 and opponents posted a .192 batting average against him. After a brief shutdown, planned out by the organization, he has looked even more dominant.

  • Cade Cavalli stats (2022): 3.71 ERA, 3.23 FIP, 25.9% strikeout rate, 9.7% walk rate, .212 BAA

Why Cade Cavalli will likely soon join Nationals’ rotation

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals at St. Louis Cardinals
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

It should come as no surprise that MLB teams heavily factor service time into when they will promote a top prospect. The Washington Nationals aren’t competing this year, creating more incentive to have a better set-up when they are a contender.

That’s why the timing of the MLB schedule matters. There are fewer than 44 games left in the season, which means any player called up won’t meet the threshold for rookie eligibility this season and will instead meet it in 2023.

Related: 3 Washington Nationals prospects who should debut in September

It’s a major incentive for the Nationals, especially at a time when the club needs pitching. Washington already promoted C.J. Abrams, so it is clearly using the remainder of the schedule to evaluate young talent. Furthermore, Cavalli has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues.

Cavalli has been implementing the changes the Nationals’ organization wants to see from its most promising starting pitcher. It’s something manager Davey Martinez touched on this week, hinting at an MLB debut potentially being imminent.

“He’s throwing a lot more changeups now so that’s awesome. His breaking ball, he’s laying it for strikes. We get him up there where he can throw six-plus innings, then we will deem he probably can come up there and help us.”

Washington Nationals manager Davey Martinez on Cade Cavalli (via Byron Kerr)

Washington eased Cavalli back from his rest period with a three-inning stint. He followed it with a seven-inning gem, but then never covered more than five innings through his next four appearances. However, Cavalli did retire 21-of-25 batters faced in a brilliant seven-inning start on Aug. 13 with 11 strikeouts.

Cade Cavalli stats Innings ERA K% BAA K-BB%
Last 8 starts 39.2 2.04 29.8% .183 21.1%

There is the ability to cover six-plus innings in a start, but there might be some wonder if he can do it in back-to-back outings. However, roster expansion in September and a six-man rotation mean that shouldn’t be a problem. Expect to see Cavalli taking the mound at Nationals Park very soon and that will provide a spark moving forward.

This article was originally published on Sportsnaut.com and is republished here with permission.

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