Some - maybe not much, but some - was made a little over a week ago when the Nationals did not have a single prospect land in Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list. They were the only major league team to not have at least one prospect ranked by the publication.
But on Thursday night, another highly regarded source for baseball prospect news came out with its own top 100 rankings, and this time, the Nationals were not shut out.
Right-hander Cade Cavalli found himself as the 99th overall prospect in MLBPipeline.com’s first release of its top 100 prospects list in 2021. He is the only Nationals prospect on the list of upcoming stars.
Last year’s first-round pick out of the University of Oklahoma ended the year as the Nationals’ second overall prospect, per MLB Pipeline, behind only fellow right-hander Jackson Rutledge, who was left off the initial top 100 list. In a pitcher-heavy draft, the Nationals considered themselves lucky that the junior fell to them at No. 22.
Cavalli entered the draft featuring a strong fastball, spike curveball and consistent slider. MLB Pipeline has his fastball and curveball rated 60 on the 20-80 scale, while his slider is rated 55. His 6-foot-4 and 226-lb. build perfectly embodies the big power pitchers that general manager Mike Rizzo likes to target.
MLB Pipeline profiles Cavalli as having the upside of a frontline starter with an ETA to the majors in 2022, saying he “produced some of the easiest velocity in his Draft class, working at 92-96 mph and topping out at 98 with riding action while expending barely more effort than he would playing catch.”
In three seasons with the Sooners, Cavalli went 8-5 with a 4.08 ERA in 23 games, including 14 starts. He also brings a two-way player profile to the Nationals system, having played first base in college, and was invited to work out at last season’s alternate training site in Fredericksburg and to the fall instructional league in West Palm Beach.
Cavalli is going into his first full season as a professional ballplayer, and he and Rutledge headline a Nationals farm system that was ranked dead last (30th out of 30) by MLB Pipeline in September. After the graduations of Carter Kieboom and Luis García at the conclusion of the 2020 season and the trading of right-hander Wil Crowe to acquire Josh Bell from the Pirates on Christmas Eve, Cavalli and Rutledge figure to be the only Nats prospects found in such rankings throughout the course of this year.
But Rizzo prefers not to pay attention to such rankings. He trusts his own eyes, his own scouts and the players he drafted who are now developing in the system. He sees Cavalli and Rutledge as the next wave of great Nationals starting pitchers, which is why he has not budged on trade offers for the young hurlers this offseason.
And even though Rizzo might not have batted an eye at Cavalli cracking the top 100 on Thursday, it is fun for reporters and fans alike to discuss and think of what the future may hold.