Feb 16, 2024: It has been almost one year since Cade Cavalli walked off the mound in Port St. Lucie during a Spring Training game against the Mets with a right elbow injury that would require Tommy John surgery and sidetrack his aspirations for his first full season in the Major Leagues. This week, the 25-year-old reported to Nationals camp optimistic with the progress he has made toward his return.
“Arm’s been responding well, so I’m very grateful,” Cavalli, ranked as the Nats’ No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline, said. “That’s all I can say, very grateful.”
Cavalli completed three bullpen sessions this week. The initial plan is to throw 20 pitches at higher intensity on Mondays and Fridays, and 15 pitches at lower intensity on Wednesdays.
“We have a great staff here that gives their opinion on things to be able to transfer into this rehab process, so that we can clean up some movements and just try to take a little stress off the arm,” he said. “And I feel like we’ve done a great job of that and are just going to continue to work that way.”
Cavalli had been an anticipated member of the Nationals’ rotation since the team drafted him 22nd overall out of the University of Oklahoma in 2020. He made his Major League debut on Aug. 26, 2022, and he was on track to be named the fifth starter for the ’23 season before the injury occurred on March 14.
Following surgery, Cavalli rehabbed at the Nationals’ training complex last year. He made trips throughout the season to join the club, an opportunity for Cavalli to continue building chemistry and for the staff to get eyes on him. He spent the offseason progressing in West Palm Beach, with time at home in Tulsa, Okla., for the holidays.
“I had been working with [assistant strength and conditioning coach] Tony [Rogowski] on the turf mound out there, so the slope wasn’t foreign to me, which was great,” Cavalli said following his second bullpen session. “I think that helped a lot in the transition of getting to the slope. It adds just four more degrees of stress to the elbow. So that night, I felt a little bit more sore than normal. And I woke up [after the first bullpen session] feeling great.”
The estimated recovery time for Cavalli’s injury is around 14 months, but he nor the team are getting caught up on specific dates.
“I think he’s on track,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “His progression has been great. He’s a diligent worker, and he’s a really good patient. He follows the protocol to the T, and our guys always know you’re going to have to pull him back a little bit. He follows them up to the edge, and we pull him back a little bit. That’s how I think we want our guys. We want them [champing] at the bit, and we want to pull them back and tell them to trust us enough to know what’s in your best interests." (J Camerato - MLB.com - Feb 16, 2024)
|Nationals #1 - 2020 - Out of Univ. of Oklahoma
In 2017, Cavalli graduated from Bixby High School in Oklahoma. Bixby is a Tulsa suburb.
Cade missed most of his senior season with a back injury. He hit .416 as a junior.
In 2017, the Braves chose Cavalli in the 29th round, but Cade chose the Univ. of Oklahoma. He majored in communications.
In the summer of 2018, Cade posted a 4.15 ERA and struck out 15 batters in 13 innings, pitching for the Wareham Gateman in the Cape Cod League.
Cade loves to play golf. He loves the outdoors and going duck hunting. He can often be seen bow hunting deer on weekends with a handful of Sooner buds and his brother, Tristian. He also knows his way around a set of nunchucks.
The 2018 Season: Cade joined Oklahoma as a 2-way player. He played in 62 games as a freshman, but struggled to hit as he struck out 94 times in 235 plate appearances and put up a .665 OPS.
He also pitched that season, mostly out of the bullpen where he made 9 appearances with 2 additional starts. The results weren’t good there, either. He threw 17.1 innings with a 6.75 ERA as he allowed 18 hits, walked 13 batters, hit three more, and struck out 18.
The regular season campaign was followed up with a trip to the Cape Cod League. In 13.0 innings he posted a 4.15 ERA, but walked 15 batters with 15 strikeouts.
2019 Season: Cavalli had a breakout year in 2019, starting 12 games for the Sooners and posting a 3.28 ERA in 60.1 IP, giving up 35 walks and striking out 59.
2020 Season: He was having a really strong start to the 2020 season before it was unceremoniously cut short, starting four games with a 4.18 ERA in 23.2 IP. Cavalli had 37 strikeouts to just five walks in those starts.
June 2020: The Nationals chose Cavalli in the first round (#22 overall), out of the Univ. of Oklahoma. Cade signed for $3,027,000, via scout Jerad Head.
June 2020: Here are 10 facts you should know about Cavalli:
–Along with playing baseball, Cavalli has a passion for cutting hair. In fact, Cavalli has an Instagram page (@cavz_cutz) dedicated to his craft, showing off the work he's done for teammates, friends and family. It's a hobby that started early for Cavalli, who buzzed his own hair as a kid before later buying a self-cut system that enabled him to cut and style his own hair with more detail. He's become the go-to barber for many current and former Oklahoma baseball players.
–When he's not cutting hair in his free time, Cavalli is also an avid outdoorsman who enjoys both duck hunting and bow hunting for deer with his teammates and his brother, Tristian.
–Cavalli's father, Brian, also played baseball at Oklahoma in 1990. Brian Cavalli was selected in the 50th round of the 1989 MLB Draft by the Cardinals, but instead chose to attend college and play for the Sooners. He later spent one season as a catcher for Class A Boise in the Angels' farm system.
–Similar to his father, Cade was drafted out of high school. He was taken in the 29th round of the 2017 Draft by the Braves, but he opted to play at Oklahoma.
–Cavalli, who also played basketball in high school, set the Bixby High School record for doubles and extra-base hits in a single season as a junior. Cavalli didn't take the mound until he was a sophomore at Bixby High and missed most of his senior season with back issues, but still emerged as Oklahoma's top prep pitching prospect in 2017.
–That back injury didn't stop Cavalli from contributing as a two-way star upon his arrival at Oklahoma. He played in 62 games (55 starts) as a freshman, hitting .202 with six home runs, while also striking out 18 batters over 17 1/3 innings in his 11 pitching appearances, including a pair of starts.
–Cavalli took his game to another level in 2019, starting 12 Friday games on the mound and appearing in another 19 games as a designated hitter. He went 5-3 with a 3.28 ERA over 60 1/3 innings, while posting a .319/.393/.611 hitting line across 72 at-bats. Cavalli's all-around contributions earned him First Team All-Big 12 honors as a utility player.
–His fastball sits at 92-96 mph and tops out at 98 mph with riding action. Cavalli can also make hitters look bad with a low-80s curveball that has both power and depth, and he has developed an upper-80s slider/cutter that is catching up to his curve, according to MLB Pipeline. He's shown the potential for an average changeup, though he'll need to start using that pitch more often.
–Cavalli was selected to play for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team last summer. He made one appearance for Team USA, allowing one run over 2 2/3 innings in his lone appearance against Cuba.
–Cavalli was off to an impressive start on the mound in 2020, racking up 37 strikeouts to just five walks over 23 2/3 innings in four starts before the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (P Casella - MLB.com - June 10, 2020)
While Fernando Abad and Wander Suero were doing their thing, providing top-notch haircuts in the Nationals' clubhouse, Cade had turned his kitchen into a makeshift barbershop as a student-athlete at Oklahoma. Only 21 years old, the right-hander estimates he already has given 500 haircuts to teammates, family and friends.
“It’s a good opportunity to get to know the guys,” Cavalli said. “Everyone was with each other all the time. You naturally get closer, you get to know people through that.”
Cavalli considers the fade to be his “trademark” haircut. He showcases his work on a dedicated Instagram page (@cavs_cutz) that features in-progress videos and before-and-after transformations. He’s posted over 30 cuts in 14 months.
“I’ve received probably close to a dozen haircuts from Cav,” said Brady Lindsly, Cade's college teammate (also was drafted by the Nationals). “They just keep getting better, so I keep going to him. He’s given me some really good haircuts. It’s just really awesome that he does that. I think it’s hilarious. He’s really talented at it, honestly.”
Like Nationals manager Davey Martinez's having his haircut by Suero and Abad, Sooners head coach Skip Johnson appreciated the team aspect of Cavalli’s work. “I think it adds to some camaraderie, for sure,” Johnson said. “He’s pretty talented. He has charisma. He’s a typical barber [laughs]. It’s never a dull moment with him, so it was pretty cool.”
With each snip of the scissors, a relationship grows. The clippers and capes become just as important as the bats and gloves as a way for the players to build chemistry off the field. Just as Abad and Suero’s operation grew from one to two chairs, there could be room for a third for Cavalli.
“MLB Barbershop,” Abad said. (Camerato - mlb.com - 6/17/2020)
Cavalli took advantage of being at the Nationals' alternate training site, in Fredericksburg, Virginia. in August, 2020 He would throw 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."
Cade is very likable guy. He is a gentleman and very polite.
In 2020, Cavalli logged more than 50 innings combined between the alternate training site in Fredericksburg, Va., and instructional league in Florida, so he should be ready to go in 2021.
Cade fit right into a spot in the club’s 60-man player pool and impressed the big leaguers with his performance in a simulated game at Nationals Park before the start of the delayed major league season. Cavalli had back issues in high school and a stress reaction in his arm in college, but he was healthy all summer while adjusting to pitching every sixth day instead of once a week.
In 2021, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Cavalli as the #1 prospect in the Nationals' organization. And he was at #2 in 2022, and he was 4th-best in both the spring of 2023 -- and again in 2024..
Cavalli has a strong work ethic and a desire to not just make the majors but to become a regular all-star.
July 11, 2021: Cavalli pitch in the All-Star Futures Game. He averaged 99.1 mph with his six fastballs.
Aug 26, 2022: Cade had been anticipating his Major League debut for a while. Not in the sense that he was getting anxious and impatient, but rather prepared through daily meditation and visualization.
“I put myself on that mound plenty of times before I got there,” Cavalli said. “So I felt like I had already been there. It was really cool.”
Cavalli, the Nationals’ No. 4 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, tossed 4 1/3 innings in the Nationals’ 7-3 loss to the Reds. The 24-year-old right-hander allowed seven runs, six hits and two walks, struck out six and hit three batters across 99 pitches.
“There was no panic,” Cavalli said. “I felt very composed. But I’ve got to execute more; it comes down to that. You’ve got to execute pitches, and I didn’t do that tonight. I didn’t put my team in a position to win a ballgame. I’ve got to be better.”
Cavalli’s debut had been highly anticipated since he excelled in the Minors last year—his first full season of pro ball since being drafted. He was with the team late into Spring Training and was expected to make it to the bigs this year, but the club didn’t want to rush him until they felt he was ready to stay in the starting rotation.
“It was talked about for a while,” Cavalli said of his debut. “That’s something that’s very hard to ignore as a player because it’s popping up and your teammates and everyone’s talking about it. But the biggest mental challenge for me was being able to just stay present—it was a blessing that I got to be able to do that mental exercise. Every single day, I had to wake up and just be like, ‘I’m going to be present here in Triple-A and get better so that if I do get the opportunity to get here, I want to make a statement.’ That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Following nearly two full seasons of accumulating Minor League accolades and tallying double-digit strikeouts, Cavalli earned the callup to start the series opener against the Reds after going 3-1 with a 1.47 ERA in his last seven starts with Rochester.
“It was very, very exciting,” Cavalli said. “I’ve been working my entire life. Whenever you get told that, it’s kind of like a shock at first. I was like, ‘Holy moly, this is really going on?’ I was about to call my pops, and all that emotion just hit me and flooded me. I walked out the locker room and I just broke down.”
A key for Cavalli was putting those emotions out of mind and zoning in on the zone. He landed 57 of his 99 pitches for strikes and delivered a mix of 40 percent four-seam fastballs (maxed at 97.8 mph), 36 percent curveballs, 13 percent changeups, eight percent sliders and two percent sinkers. Cavalli worked through some issues gripping the ball as well.
“He repeated his mechanics really well, which was really nice,” manager Dave Martinez said. “That’s something that when he left Spring Training, we wanted him to do. We added the changeup and he worked on it, and his changeup will play here. I mean, it really will. He threw some good ones, so that to me is exciting. Moving forward, I’m actually really excited to see him go out and compete again in five days.” Cavalli also made a strong impression on his first Major League opponent.
“He’s gonna be really good,” said Reds manager David Bell. “That’s an understatement. I know everybody here knows that. We were talking about that in the dugout. You can tell he’s got the stuff to be here, and probably will be for a long time. Even being on the other side, it’s fun to watch somebody like that in their debut.
It would be understandable for Cavalli to think far down the road after reaching a monumental milestone. But for him, it is another stepping-stone in a Major League career that is just beginning.
“You’re working hard because this is your dream,” Cavalli said. “When you’re down there and you’re doing your job, you’ve just got to stay present and try not to think about that too much. I’m honestly just glad that it happened. I had to get better and earn my way here.” (J Camerato - MLB.com - Aug 27, 2022)
- June 2020: The Nationals chose Cavalli in the first round (#22 overall), out of the Univ. of Oklahoma. Cade signed for $3,027,000, via scout Jerad Head.
Cavalli has a 95-101 mph FASTBALL with riding action and a 70 grade. He has a devastating 88-90 mph wipeout SLIDER with impressive tilt and some cutter action, and it has a 55 grade, getting swings and misses against both lefties and righties. He also has a mid-80s CURVE that grades 65 that has a harsh downward break. and a 55 grade CHANGEUP. He has a 50 grade on his control. (Savannah McCann - BAPH - Spring, 2024)
The 6-foot-4 right-hander sits 95-97 mph with his fastball and is capable of touching triple digits. The four-seamer relies more on velocity than movement, considering it can come in fairly straight, but that level of heat still makes it a promising pitch. His mid-80s curveball breaks sharply downward and has separated itself as Cavalli’s best breaker over his upper-80s slider that features late cutterish break. His upper-80s changeup has been a work in progress in pro ball but has developed enough fade to be a pitch to hold off lefties.
Though he usually avoids walks in large bunches, Cavalli struggled most in 2022 when he couldn’t find consistent fastball command. He was trending in the right direction before his injury with a 1.47 ERA in his final seven Rochester starts. The elbow procedure throws another wrench in that progress, but the rebuilding Nats have said they plan on Cavalli playing a prominent role in future MLB rotations after his return in '24. (BA - Spring 2023)
He also has a 83-85 mph power 12-to-6 downer CURVEBALL that makes hitters chase and look bad and gets a 65 grade with downer action that hitters don't see well. He has an 87-89 mph CHANGEUP that he can manipulate with diving action and either sink, or run, and is developing into a 60 grade.
Cade's velo has always been about 100 mph, but because of a lack of deception or standout movement or spin. In 2022, Cavalli began relying more on his promising secondaries. His go-to breaking ball is a hard, mid-80s hammer curveball with 12-to-6 shape. He throws the pitch for strikes less frequently than a firm, upper-80s slider, but the curveball is the better swing-and-miss pitch. Both breaking pitches flash plus. Cavalli worked hard to improve a firm, upper-80s changeup, and his ability to consistently command that pitch could help keep hitters off his fastball. Cavalli can be a solid strike-thrower, but he'll need to find a solid balance of aggression and precision with how he attacks the strike zone. (Joe Healy - Baseball America Prospect Handbook - Spring, 2023)
Cavalli, whose fastball sits in the 96-97 mph range and can touch triple digits, also features a curveball and a slider, and he has improved tremendously with his changeup, according to Martinez. The skipper said the club needed to see better command with Cavalli’s secondary pitches to give him the callup to The Show, and those stipulations have been satisfied.
“We talked a lot about him developing his changeup,” Martinez said. “He's done it. He's been throwing them 12, 15, 18 times a game now. He feels comfortable throwing them. So that was definitely a plus.” (D Miller - MLB,com - Aug 24, 2022)
Cavalli has added velocity and now sits around 96-97 mph with the heater. He’ll touch triple digits, as he did three times in last year’s All-Star Futures Game (the most of any participant). The 6-foot-4 hurler also can manipulate the ball well, with both his mid-80s curveball and upper-80s slider showing plus potential. The curve has more depth while the slider has some cutter action to it, and both were big pieces in driving Cavalli’s K rates.
An upper-80s sinking changeup is still a work in progress, but Washington was pleased with its growth.
Where Cavalli struggled in 2021 was in his ability to fill up the strike zone, especially against upper-level bats. Lower-level hitters were flummoxed by his velocity and movement, but those in Double-A and Triple-A were more patient, leading to a 13.2 percent walk rate. The Nationals are hopeful Cavalli can continue to refine his command and work on his pitch sequencing. If it all clicks, they could have the next big piece of their rebuild. (Spring 2022)
Cade might have better command working a few ticks down in his velocity range, and that he struggled most when approaching triple-digits. Most had his ceiling as a No. 1 or 2 starter if his command progresses.
“He’s the kind of guy who’s going to be a leader and dominant personality in the clubhouse,” Harrisburg manager Tripp Keister said late in the 2021 season. “He’s going to make sure things are done properly and we’re playing the game right. He’s got a great team concept. He’s a special kid. His parents have done a great job with him.”
Cade was a two-way player in college and is still polishing each of his pitches, especially the changeup.
“I tell people all the time when I was a hitter, I hated hitting changeups because they look like fastballs and they’re not,” Cavalli said. “It’s difficult if you don’t see it out of the hand very well, so being able to throw that pitch off a fastball, I think it helps a lot.”
Cade earns rave reviews for the polish he showed at the level, with one evaluator noting he wouldn’t look out of place in the big leagues right now, and he had no trouble throwing strikes consistently—a concern coming out of college.
Cavalli has all the ingredients needed to be a frontline starter and could sit atop the Nationals’ rotation by the start of the 2023 season. (Sept., 2021)
Despite being relatively new to pitching, Cavalli already has shown that he can both throw strikes and miss bats with his entire four-pitch mix. Cavalli knows how to use his powerful 6-foot-4 frame and lightning-quick right arm to generate easy velocity with his riding fastball.
Cavalli can make hitters look bad with his curveball, a plus pitch that he throws with power and depth, and he has developed a slider/cutter that has similar out-pitch potential. And the changeup that Cavalli throws with conviction gives him yet another weapon, and some within the organization think it could become the right-hander’s best secondary offering.
Cavalli has a track record of not staying healthy. In high school, he was bothered by a back issue and also missed three weeks with a stress reaction in his right arm as an Oklahoma sophomore. But the Nationals have done well developing big physical pitchers with good stuff in the past and believe Cavalli, whom the organization scouted extensively, has the physical tools, makeup and work ethic needed to reach his high ceiling. (Spring 2021)
Cade is a blend of power and pitchability. He has plenty of athleticism and good body control. He has a athletic delivery and a promising three-pitch mix.
Cavalli throws strikes but has been dinged for below-average deception and command, which will be his developmental focal points.
Physical and athletic with a good delivery and a dynamic four-pitch mix, the 22-year-old Oklahoma product has the look of a future No. 2 starter and could move quickly through the Minor Leagues.
Cavalli produced some of the easiest velocity in his Draft class, topping out in upper 90's with riding action while expending barely more effort than he would playing catch. He also can make hitters look bad with a spike curveball with power and depth, and he has developed a slider/cutter that is catching up to his curve. He shows the potential for an average changeup once he starts using the pitch more often.
While Cavalli has the upside of a frontline starter, he comes with concerns. Though he has a strong 6-foot-4 frame and clean mechanics, his lack of command and deception also means that his premium stuff gets hit harder than it should.
Besides his heater, Cavalli can also make hitters look bad with his curve that has both power and depth, and he has developed a slider/cutter that is catching up to his curve, according to MLB Pipeline. He's shown the potential for an average changeup, though he'll need to start using that pitch more often.
In 2019, Cavalli was selected to play for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team. He made one appearance for Team USA, allowing one run over 2 2/3 innings in his lone appearance against Cuba.
Cavalli was off to an impressive start on the mound in 2020, racking up 37 strikeouts to just five walks over 23 2/3 innings in four starts before the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (P Casella - MLB.com - June 10, 2020)
Cade is having to learn how to land his secondary offerings for strikes more consistently to keep hitters off of his fastball, but with his size, arm strength and ease of operation has a lot of raw tools to work with.
Cavalli has both excellent downhill plane and a strong lower half he uses to drive straight down the mound with efficiency and power.
Dec 31, 2020: Nationals: Cade Cavalli, RHP (No. 2)
The Nationals selected Cavalli with the No. 22 pick in the Draft because they believed in his untapped potential on the mound and overall high ceiling. He offered a glimpse of that during his first pro summer, pitching in the upper-90s with nasty secondary offerings, and the Nats might have even called him up to pitch out of the bullpen had they been in the playoff hunt. Cavalli could be in the mix for that type of role once again in 2021, despite being viewed as a no-doubt starting pitcher long term.
Jan 20, 2021: Cade thinks back to the thousands of swings he took in hopes of one day becoming a big league player. He's reached that goal, only now he's facing hitters from the mound, not the other way around.
“It’s crazy that I’m a pitcher now, because I’ll talk to my dad and I’ll be like, ‘Man, we spent hours in the cages every night for years on years, and I’m pitching now,’” Cavalli said during MLB’s Rookie Program. “We aren’t doing what we were working on, so it’s funny.”
It’s a good funny, that kind of “he became a Major League first-round Draft pick as a standout right-hander” kind of funny. When Cavalli was available at the 22nd pick in the Draft, the Nationals believed they had gotten a steal in the former two-way player out of Oklahoma.
“We couldn’t have been happier to have gotten him at 22,” GM Mike Rizzo said at the time. “We feel that he’s a good value there, and all the makeup work that we’ve done on him points to a guy that’s a high-character guy with really good stuff. We feel [he] is just on the cusp of really taking the next step and doing something big.”
Looking back on Cavalli’s accomplishments with the Sooners, it’s hard to imagine him doing anything other than pitching. In three seasons of collegiate ball, he posted an 8-7 record and a 4.09 ERA in 101 1/3 innings. Ahead of his junior year, Cavalli was selected to the 2020 Golden Spikes Award watch list for the top amateur player, and he was named to Baseball America’s preseason Third-Team All-American.
“Whenever I transitioned into fully pitching, it was more for my body’s sake,” Cavalli said. “I wanted to truly focus on that craft because … that’s where my career was headed. I miss hitting, I do. I loved being at the plate. And I loved playing defense.”
Cavalli spent the past season at the Nationals alternate training site in Fredericksburg, Va., where he impressed and rose to the team’s No. 2 prospect as ranked by MLB Pipeline. Still, the hard-throwing 22-year-old gets in swings when the opportunity presents itself.
“Any chance I’m with my buddies and I get a chance to take some BP or even throw some BP to them or take some ground balls, I’m on it,” he said. “I love that stuff. I miss it a lot. That’s legit what I grew up doing.”
Cavalli’s untapped potential is intriguing given the talents he has displayed so far. His power curveball ranged from 82-85 mph, and his fastball tracked at 95-98 mph.
“He’s able to throw his slider as a chase pitch, with control and consistency that improved during camp,” Nationals assistant GM of player development Mark Scialabba said at the end of the season. “His changeup might be his best pitch when he’s on; he’s really learned to tunnel it well.”
In addition to his physicality, he has demonstrated a strong cerebral approach to the game.
“I’m always doing visualization,” Cavalli said. “I do that while I’m lying down. That’s a really good thing. I try to put myself in spots [so] that whenever I do get there, it’s very comfortable to me and I’ve been there in my own head. So it feels a little better whenever I’m actually there on the mound.”
MLB Pipeline projects the 2023 season for Cavalli’s Major League arrival. Last year, the Nationals tapped into their system and saw the debuts of Top 30 prospects Luis García (second base), as well as pitchers Wil Crowe, Seth Romero and Ben Braymer. Given how quickly Cavalli developed since becoming a full-time pitcher, his path to the bigs will be a compelling one to watch.
“My career, it’s pretty fresh on the pitching side, which excites me a ton, because it means I’ve got a lot to learn, a lot to develop,” he said. “Where I’m at right now, I’m happy with it, but I’m not happy, if that makes sense. I’ve got a lot to go get better at. But also, I have a ton of confidence in my stuff and where I’m at right now. That’s what excites me, knowing that I can go get much better.” (J Camerato - MLB.com - Jan 20, 2021)
Cavalli talks about his change-up:
“In my opinion, the changeup is the hardest pitch to hit in baseball. I know that when I was a hitter, I didn’t like hitting changeups. And I didn’t have one going into college. Along with being hard to hit, it’s the hardest pitch to learn. So it took a little bit of time and effort, every single day, to get that feel and be able to command that pitch.
“My freshman year, I threw [17-and-a-third] innings and was basically just a fastball/slider guy. I barely ever threw my curveball, so that’s something I’ve developed, too. I’ll throw a slider, a spiked curveball, and a two-seam circle change. My sophomore year is when I really started throwing a changeup. I was challenging myself, throwing it in games — throwing it in a competitive mode, which is when it matters — and I developed it throughout the year. It became a big pitch for me.
“As far as learning it, I was reading stuff on my own, for sure. And I’m a very feel-oriented guy. I’m pretty blessed to be able to feel my body — how it moves — and then having video to back that up, I can learn a lot just by myself. At the same time, I had one of the greatest pitching minds in baseball in [University of Oklahoma Head Coach] Skip Johnson, as well as Jay Franklin and Sean Snedeker. I picked up things here and there, like arm speed, release point, how to grip it.
“I played with a lot of grips. I went from a two-seam to a four-seam, to off the lace. I was trying to figure out which movement profile I liked best, and which one I had the best feel with. I ended up going across seams.
“If you have the two seams and you turn them horizontal, where they’re perpendicular to each other, looking at you … I was just straight up over the top of those, in the middle of the ball with my ring finger and my middle finger. What I did was slide the ball clockwise about half an inch, so the ball isn’t straight up in my hand anymore. I’m kind of on the side of it. Honestly, I just throw the pitch as hard as possible, and the grip and spin will take care of itself. The more aggressive I am with my changeup, the better it usually is.
“The velocity will be anywhere from 88 to 91 [mph], and it fades. I want more depth on it than I want horizontal movement. There are times where it will hit midway to the plate and shoot off like a left-handed slider almost — it will be funky and fade arm-side — and there are also times where it will just have depth to it; it will stay straight, but then dive. In my opinion, it’s better when it’s staying straighter and has depth at the end. If it fades too much… sometimes hitters can see it fading sooner. Of course, I can’t control it once it gets midair.
“I think the spin is around 1,800 to 1,900, and maybe it will catch 2,000 [rpm] every once in a while. It’s not a super-low-spin changeup. It’s not like Devin Williams with the Brewers, who has that crazy-high spin rate. But I think if you can spin it on the right axis, and it’s spinning a lot, you’re going to get the movement profile you want. The grip takes care of the velocity. My fastball will be anywhere from 96 to 101, so with my changeup being 88 to 91, the speed differential is fine — especially if I can throw it with the same effort and have it look like a fastball until the very end. That’s what I try to do with that pitch.” (David Laurila - July 27, 2021)
- Aug 24, 2021: In his promotions to Triple-A Rochester, Cavalli will be tasked with working on his control to limit walks.
“He misses a lot glove-side, and that’s something that we’ve talked to him about,” manager Dave Martinez said. “Sometimes he gets a little quick with his mechanics, so we’re going to keep an eye on him. But his stuff is super electric, as we all know. So if we could get him in that strike zone and lower his walk rate, he’s going to help us win a lot of games here.” (J Camerato - MLB.com - Aug 24, 2021)
2021 Season: Cavalli, 23, led all of Minor League Baseball with 175 strikeouts, while his 3.36 ERA paced all full-season Nationals Minor Leaguers. In his first professional season, Cavalli went 7-9 with a 3.36 ERA, 175 strikeouts and 60 walks in 123.1 innings across 24 starts. He allowed just five home runs, and his 0.36 home runs allowed per 9.0 innings led all of Minor League Baseball (full-season). Cavalli led full-season Nationals Minor Leaguers with a .213 opponents’ batting average while his 1.26 walk and hits per innings pitched ranked third.
A member of Baseball America’s Minor League All-Star team in 2021, Cavalli opened the season with High-A Wilmington where he went 3-1 with a 1.77 ERA in seven starts. Following the season, Baseball America named him the top prospect in High-A. Cavalli was promoted to Double-A Harrisburg on June 15 and he would eventually make 11 starts – going 3-3 with a 2.79 ERA – before joining Triple-A Rochester on Aug. 24. In six starts with the Red Wings, Cavalli went 1-5 with a 7.30 ERA.
Cavalli was selected to represent the Washington Nationals in the 2021 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in addition to earning High-A East (June 13) and Double-A Northeast (Aug. 1) Pitcher of the Week honors.
2021 Nats Breakout Prospect: Cade Cavalli
The 2020 first-rounder entered the season as MLB Pipeline’s No. 86 overall prospect and ends the year at No. 39. That jump was aided by the fact that he led the Minors with 175 strikeouts over 123 1/3 innings across High-A, Double-A and Triple-A. The tall right-hander has four above-average pitches and can touch triple-digits with the heater. He has true ace potential if he can command that package slightly better. (Mayo, Dykstra - Boor - MLB.com - Dec 23, 2021)
- 2022 Season: Cavalli made 20 starts, and threw 97 total innings at Triple-A Rochester last summer, giving up 39 walks (3.62 BB/9), and striking out 104 (9.65 K/9), while holding opposing hitters to a .215 batting average on the year, with a 3.71 ERA and 3.24 FIP in his second full season in the Nats’ system.
He made his MLB debut on August 26th, giving up six hits, two walks, and seven earned runs in 4 1⁄3 IP, over which he threw 99 pitches, before the shoulder issue (inflammation) cropped up for Cavalli in between-starts work. (Patrick Reddington@federalbaseball Jan 31, 2023)
- 2023 Season: 12 starts: 4-5 record, 68 innings, 3.97 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 74 SO, 25 BB
The Nationals have a stud in the form of Cade Cavalli. The fourth-ranked prospect in the Nats' organization has a high powered fastball combined with a nasty slider. The now 25-year-old should return to the Nationals' rotation in June. Maintaining health is a priority for Cavalli. In 2022, Cade was called up in August and made one start before being placed on the injured list, ending his season. Cavalli cannot progress unless available to pitch. Cavalli is the highest-rated pitcher in the Nationals organization. The success of Cade is imperative to the Nationals due to the lack of pitching depth within the minor league system. (Reese Evans | Jan 21, 2024)
- Cade is a fine athlete who fields his position well.
2017: Cavalli suffered a back injury and missed the majority of his final season at Bixby High School.
“That senior year was tough on me,” Cavalli said. “I was looking forward to it and as a senior, I wanted to do something for the community of Bixby that’s never been done. Sitting there and watching was tough, but it was probably the biggest learning moment that I’ve had in the game of baseball. Just learning how to not play.
2019: Cade missed three weeks with a stress reaction in his arm, as a college sophomore
Aug 28-end of 2022 season: Cavalli was placed on the IL with right shoulder inflammation. Following his big league callup, Cavalli felt “abnormal soreness” when he woke up and thought it would subside. But when he played catch that afternoon, he experienced shoulder tightness after around 10 throws.
“It was something that I had never felt before, and it was not normal at all,” Cavalli recounted. “You’ve got to take care of your body. As much as I didn’t want to say anything, you have to.”
March 14, 2023: During the third inning of a game against the New York Mets, Cavalli sustained a right elbow injury. An MRI has revealed that he has a grade three sprain of his ulnar collateral ligament which will require Tommy John surgery.
Sep 19, 203: Cavalli completed 25 throws at a distance of 45 feet at Nationals Park marking the first time he has played catch since undergoing Tommy John surgery during 2023 Spring Training.
Feb 14, 2024: Cavalli, who is recovering from TJ Surgery, threw his first bullpen session on Feb. 12 and the second two days later. The initial plan is for Cavalli to throw 20 pitches on Mondays and Fridays at a higher intensity and 15 pitches at a lighter intensity on Wednesdays.
“It felt amazing,” Cavalli, the Nationals’ No. 4 prospect, said. “Arm’s been responding well, so I’m very grateful.”