The Washington Nationals traded their face of the franchise with Juan Soto leaving town. This season won’t be a competitive battle the rest of the way, but that doesn’t mean small victories won’t still happen.
For rebuilding teams who have no shot at the playoffs, it’s all about finding the pieces that can grow into a bigger role to start the next season. The Nationals have several new prospects they acquired at the trade deadline to go along with many athletes already vying for a call to the big leagues currently within their minor league organization.
So who might fans get to see for the first time with the major league club later this fall? We highlight three Nationals prospects who could reasonably make their debut before the end of the regular season.
Cade Cavalli, right-handed pitcher
Prior to Robert Hassell III joining the team in the Soto trade, Cade Cavalli was the Nationals’ top-ranked prospect in their organization. Hassell has since moved past him, according to MLB.com, but Cavalli’s still ranked as the 44th-best prospect on their top-100 list.
Cavalli’s currently in Triple-A, with the Rochester Red Wings, but it’s not out of the question for the 23-year-old pitcher to make his major league debut before the year is done. It may not happen until September, but Cavalli’s a good bet to begin the 2023 season with the big league club.
One factor that could prevent Cavalli from hitting the majors yet this season is that he’s already up to 80 innings pitched, and his career-high is 123.1 IP, which came last season. The Nats may prefer to play it safe and not push Cavalli too much in a wasted year. Yet if they want to see how he handles major league hitters before they make their offseason plans, a Cavalli call-up shouldn’t be ruled out.
Matt Cronin, left-handed pitcher
Left-handed pitcher Matt Cronin isn’t the top prospect like Cavalli is, but few are. At 24, Cronin appears nearly pro-ready. Operating out of the bullpen in AAA, Cronin has struggled with an ERA of 4.91, but it’s come in just 18.1 innings pitched. Five of the 10 Cronin’s allowed came in his third and fourth appearance after his promotion from AA, where he wasn’t charged with any earned runs allowed in 16.1 innings.
If the Nats want to add another piece to their bullpen, getting an early look at their 15th-ranked prospect, calling up Cronin is a good idea before the year is done. Yet, like the others on this list, it may not happen until September when rosters expand.
Israel Pineda, catcher
Should an injury occur to either Kelbert Ruiz and Riley Adams, Israel Pineda likely would be in line to make his major league debut. This 22-year-old Venezuelan has been a quick riser in the Nationals system, and his bat continues to improve.
For now, Pineda’s best asset is his ability to throw runners out from behind the plate, but he still needs to work on his defense otherwise. But Pineda’s recent pop is encouraging. While he’s just the 26th-ranked prospect in the organization, he could be on the rise when the next rankings update comes out, thanks to his performances as of late. Pineda’s hit .290 with five home runs in just ten games in AA.
Any leap to the major leagues would be massive. But the Nats could want another catcher on hand in September. In that case, Pineda might be able to provide the biggest boost to the clubhouse.