The Nationals promoted Cade Cavalli to Triple-A this week because they wanted to see how their top pitching prospect would handle more experienced hitters with a better sense of the strike zone. And in his debut Saturday night for Rochester, the young right-hander got a taste of what’s still in store for him before he’s ready to pitch in the big leagues.
Cavalli was pulled after giving up five runs, all with two outs, in the bottom of the third during what ended up a 5-3 loss to the Syracuse Mets. He totaled only 56 pitches, but 35 of those came in his final inning alone.
The organization’s 2020 first round pick, Cavalli began the season at Single-A Wilmington, where he dominated hitters to the tune of a 1.77 ERA and 71 strikeouts in only 40 2/3 innings. That earned him a promotion to Double-A Harrisburg, where he continued to have success (2.79 ERA, 80 strikeouts in 58 innings) but did see his walk rate double from 2.7 to 5.4 per nine innings.
As his first professional season inches toward its conclusion, Cavalli now faces a stiffer test in Triple-A hitters, many of them with big league experience. Among those he faced Saturday night were Luis Guillorme, Albert Almora Jr. and Wilfredo Tovar.
Working for the first time with recently acquired catching prospect Keibert Ruiz, Cavalli got off to a good start, retiring eight of the first nine batters he faced. But things quickly devolved with two outs in the third, when Cavalli gave up a single to Mark Payton on a 3-0 pitch, uncorked a wild pitch, issued his lone walk of the game, then hit Guillorme on an 0-2 pitch. Three more hits followed, including a bases-loaded double by Travis Blankenhorn, ultimately leading to five runs crossing the plate.
Cavalli finished with three strikeouts and only the one walk in the start.
This outing leaves Cavalli with 101 2/3 innings on the year. The Nationals are monitoring his workload closely but could let him finish out the Triple-A season and potentially pitch in October in the Arizona Fall League against fellow elite prospects.
Pitching in relief of Cavalli tonight were a couple of familiar faces. Wander Suero retired the side in the sixth, striking out a pair and throwing 10 of his 12 pitches for strikes. Gabe Klobosits also had two strikeouts during a perfect seventh, throwing eight of his 11 pitches for strikes.
Ruiz had an off-night at the plate, going 0-for-4 with a walk, but the young catcher has nonetheless impressed in his first 20 games for Rochester, compiling a .308 batting average, six doubles, five homers, 14 RBIs, a .365 on-base percentage and .942 OPS.