Cavalli was the Nats’ top selection in this summer’s First-Year Player Draft out of Oklahoma. He is listed on the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nationals roster heading into 2021.
Nats pitching coordinator Brad Holman said Cavalli played two positions in college until finally deciding to put focus on starting pitching.
“Cade really hadn’t been pitching that long,” Holman said. “He was a converted guy at the University of Oklahoma. He really gives his college coach, Skip (Johnson), there huge accolades. And then Cade came into the Fredericksburg environment just hungry for knowledge. He asked questions. He wants to know different characteristics of professional baseball. He wanted to learn, even to the point of the scouting reports that our major league players get. He wanted to go over that stuff. He’s got his eye on the prize. Obviously plenty talented enough to get there.”
Cavalli was at the alternate site in Fredericksburg, Va., and then was one of the few pitchers lucky enough to get an invite early on to pitch during workouts at Nationals Park against major league hitters. Although he didn’t get called up during the shortened 2020 season, this experience was very important for the 22-year-old’s development.
“Oh, for sure,” Holman said. “Obviously, the Cade Cavalli and Jackson Rutledge types didn’t get to do it in a game type environment with fans in the stands even in the intrasquad games or the preseason games they had. But they got to go up there and feature what they got. I think the major league staff and Mike Rizzo, the GM, those guys were impressed by what they saw. So it was a great opportunity for those guys to kind of showcase what they could do.”
Holman also noticed an eagerness to learn in watching third-round pick Holden Powell pitch at instructional league. The 21-year-old is a product of UCLA, where he was a two-time All-American and voted Stopper of the Year.
“Talking to Holden, you can tell there is a lot of clarity there,” Holman said. “He’s got an idea of what he is doing. He speaks very clearly and he passionate about what he does. He’s got a plan. So I am excited to see him face hitters and compete.”
Powell hits mid-90s with his fastball and touched 96 mph in this video. Holman reiterated how the Nationals want pitchers like Powell to be themselves early on before the coaches make any tweaks, if any, to his delivery. Powell has also been assigned to the GCL Nationals.
“Yeah, he’s a reliever type,” Holman said. “It’s what he did in college. He’s got a little bit of an unorthodox delivery that (gives) a different look to him. It’s one of those things right now that we are just going to watch. He’s got that proverbial funk (in his delivery) that can play up. I think right now with him and all those guys we are just kind of watching them pitch.”