During the 2022 season, I’ll have occasional reports on games I’ve attended of the Rochester Red Wings, the AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals.
Cade Cavalli is the top pitching prospect of the Washington Nationals. Some lists have him as top prospect for the Nationals overall. For four innings on Thursday, he showed why. Working in the high 90s with off-speeds in the 80s, Cavalli struck out seven Buffalo Bisons while walking only one and giving up an earned run on four hits.
That Cavalli would rack up K’s (including three in the 3rd) isn’t surprising. He led the Minors in 2021 with 175 across three different levels while also being chosen for the Futures Game. However, he has struggled in AAA and didn’t have a good spring with the Nationals this year, including one game where he gave up 10 earned runs to the Cardinals.
The Cavalli of the first four innings on Thursday appeared to have put that behind him. The problem for Cavalli, though, is that he didn’t stop pitching in the 4th inning. He also came out in the 5th. There, the Bisons jumped on him for four straight hits. He was taken from the game after 82 pitches. A few batters later, Samad Taylor hit a grand slam off Jace Fry to put Buffalo up for good. Cavalli’s final line: 4+ IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 7 SO, season ERA after two starts: 9.00. The final score would ultimately be 10-1 Buffalo as the Wings fell to .500 on the year.
Despite how the game ended, however, Thursday spoke well of Cavalli and his future. He’s only had a small sample size of two starts this year, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio has improved (last season across three levels: 2.92 strikeouts for every walk, this season so far: 5.50 strikeouts for every walk). Plus, he certainly seemed more comfortable and less “raw” on the mound, although admittedly that is an intangible thing that is in the eye of the beholder. Doubtless he and the Nationals are hoping that he’ll be MLB-ready by mid-year. Until then, though, he’ll be in Rochester.
The Red Wings continue their series with Buffalo through the weekend.