In this unique summer, 2020 first-round pick Cade Cavalli sees at least one advantage: He’s receiving prompt assessments on his pitches from opposing batters.
The 6-foot-4, 226-pound righthander is throwing five innings or 75 pitches every sixth day at the Nationals’ alternate training site in Fredericksburg, Va. The coronavirus pandemic wiped out the minor league season, but now the 22-year-old from Oklahoma is facing the most proven minor league hitters in the system.
“I get to be around a lot of guys who have lived it and done it,” Cavalli said. “There’s a lot of wisdom in camp. The game situations have gone smoothly, and the feedback from our hitters has been awesome.”
Cavalli, who struck out 37 and walked five in 23.2 innings for the Sooners this spring, is making small adjustments based on what he sees from Rapsodo readings and every video angle available. He’s also pitching more frequently than under the college workload.
“My arm and body have responded extremely well to pitching every sixth day,” Cavalli said. “I might even go to every fifth day, but I’ll need to have a conversation with (Nationals pitching coordinator Brad Holman) about that.”
Holman said Cavalli might move up to 90 pitches in September, but the team is keeping a close eye on every pitcher’s health. Cavalli had a back issue in high school and a stress reaction in his arm as a college sophomore, but he has impressed team officials with his smooth delivery.
To Holman, Cavalli’s 86-89 mph changeup is his best secondary pitch. His four-seamer and two-seamer are consistently in the 95-96 mph range. Cavalli has worked this summer on making his curveball more of a 12-to-6 offering, and he also throws an effective slider.
“I think what’s really stood out is how complete he is—mature beyond his years, a big fella who has really filled out and has a delivery that’s easy and repeatable,” Holman said. “All of his pitches are above average, and his changeup is outstanding. He’s a very likable person to boot—very gentlemanly and polite.”
— Righthander Dakota Bacus, 29, in the majors for the first time, did not give up a run in his first four appearances. He has been in pro ball since 2012 and in the Nationals organization since a 2013 trade that sent catcher Kurt Suzuki to the Athletics.
“It took me about seven years to realize who I was as a pitcher and kind of just go from there and keep to myself and control everything that I can control,” said Bacus, whose best pitch is his slider.
— Luis Garcia became the first player born in the 2000s to hit a home run in a major league game. Called up to replace injured second baseman Starlin Castro, the 20-year-old got off to a .357/.379/.500 start through 28 at-bats.
“He’s been the youngest player in every league he’s been in,” Nationals farm director Mark Scialabba said. “Starting the second half of last year (at Double-A Harrisburg), he became a little more aggressive but also more disciplined at the plate. He’s utilizing his lower half better and continuing to work on his plate discipline.”