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Washington Nationals top prospect Cade Cavalli shines in latest start, makes case for MLB debut

Matt Johnson
Cade Cavalli
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

One of the best skills great baseball players have is the ability to make adjustments. Following his latest start, Washington Nationals pitching prospect Cade Cavalli is demonstrating that ability on the doorstep of the majors.

Cavalli, the consensus top prospect in the Nationals’ farm system, entered 2022 with plenty of buzz. He dominated at the lower levels of the minors a year prior, compiling a 2.37 ERA with a .179 batting average allowed and a 37.7% strikeout rate across 82.2 innings.

Washington eventually promoted him to Triple-A Rochester. He struggled in six starts, demonstrated by a 7.30 ERA, a 10.7% walk rate and a .317 batting average allowed. The Nationals knew he needed more time at the level, so they assigned him to the Red Wings to begin the 2022 season.

Related: Why the Washington Nationals shut down Cade Cavali in June

On the surface, Cavalli’s lack of success at Triple-A seems like a red flag. He’s now thrown more than 90 innings at the highest level of the minor leagues and the results aren’t promising. However, his latest start highlights how things might be changing for the better.

Facing the Lehigh Valley IronPigs on Wednesday, the Triple-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, Cavalli flashed some of his best stuff and command this season.

The 6-foot-4 righty allowed just two hits across 22 batters faced, sending down seven on punchouts. While the fastball was electric, as always, the offspeed pitches especially stood out. It’s a

It’s a positive sign for Cavalli and the Nationals. However, the reason for optimism goes beyond a single outing on Wednesday.

Cade Cavalli’s 2022 progressions hint at chance for MLB debut

MLB: Washington Nationals at New York Mets
Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball is a game of adjustments. Hitters and pitchers each have scouting reports on one another, going back and forth at times on who has the edge. When one starts to find a weakness to exploit, it’s attacked until the counterpart makes adjustments.

When Cavalli reported to Triple-A at the start of the year, opponents had no trouble attacking him in the same way they did late in the 2021 season. It took some time before the 23-year-old made the necessary adjustments.

2022 Triple-A season splitsIPERABAAK%BB%WHIPFIP
Cade Cavalli stats (First 7 starts)28.17.62.26820.8%10.8%1.553.96
Cade Cavalli stats (Last 6 starts)322.81.19827%10.3%1.093.59

Until July 6, Cavalli wasn’t necessarily reducing his walk rate. However, he allowed considerably weaker contact and the balls that went into play found gloves far more regularly. Pair that with the spike in strikeout rate and the progress is evident.

We’re still likely weeks away from the Nationals calling up Cavalli for his MLB debut. They should want to see if his ability to limit the free baserunners continues. If he maintains that and builds off his latest start, we should see Cade Cavalli in Washington’s rotation not long after the MLB trade deadline.