The Nationals certainly hope that some of their cache of left-handed starters can make their way to the big club over the next few seasons to help bolster the rotation. Seth Romero and Tim Cate - the Nats’ No. 6 prospect, according to Baseball America - come to mind.
The Nats took Cate in the second round of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft. The 21-year-old from Manchester, Conn. demonstrated his ability with solid performances for the University of Connecticut over a pair of seasons. Cate, who checks in at 6 feet, 185 pounds, underwent Tommy John surgery while in high school, so he is a few seasons removed from that. His signature pitch might be the “hammer curveball,” which defies at 77-83 mph.
Cate got into 13 games (12 starts) in his first summer with the Nats, going 2-6 with a 5.02 ERA over 52 innings with 45 strikeouts for short season Single-A Auburn and low Single-A Hagerstown.
Baseball America national writer Carlos Collazo said Cate has shown a unique athleticism since he faced serious injury in high school.
“Tim Cate is another guy that I got to see this year out of the 2018 draft,” Collazo said. “He had one of the better breaking balls of the entire class. His curveball is a true plus pitch. A lot of scouts won’t hesitate to put a 70-grade offering on that pitch. Cate is a college guy, but I think there is definitely some risk with him as well, similar to (Mason) Denaberg. Not in the same way. He is a smaller guy. He doesn’t have a huge frame. He’s had some injuries previously. He actually was a Tommy John guy out of high school. It was funny, he had Tommy John in high school and the Connecticut coaches saw he was playing. He is ambidextrous to where he can throw with his right hand, play the outfield and still hit for his high school team.
“So, he kind of has some freak athleticism, as well, to carry onto the mound. But he is a guy that is not going to blow you away with his fastball, but he has gotten into the mid-90s mph before when he’s healthy, which is more than enough to hold his own when you pair it with that exceptional breaking ball that he has.”
Collazo sees the southpaw as a middle-of-the-rotation arm down the line. Cate is just getting started and will build pro innings this upcoming season. But will he make it to the big leagues as a reliever sooner? Collazo believes the Nats would not have used such a valuable draft pick on an arm slated for the bullpen right out of the draft. They want to see if Cate can be that starter.
“I think the Nationals have pretty much shown that they are willing to run guys out that have reliever risk as starters and kind of ride them in that capacity as long as they will take themselves,” Collazo said. “Cate is a guy that had success in college as a starter. The bullpen will definitely be an option because he has the stuff.
“I think he could serve in a one-inning role moving forward, but I think he is a guy you just run out to kind of see (whether) he can hold the workload necessary to pitch every fifth day in pro ball. See if he can handle that, and if he can I think you have a chance to see a middle-of-the-rotation or back-of-the-rotation left-handed starter.”