Cade Cavalli’s first year as a professional baseball player was anything but normal. It was, however, a positive one.
After spending the summer in the Washington Nationals’ auxiliary camp in Fredericksburg, Va., the former Pittsfield Sun was named the Nationals’ top prospect by Baseball America.
Cavalli, the Nationals’ first-round pick in the 2020 First Year Player Draft, said that being in the auxiliary camp with players who were a phone call away from the Majors was a big help and could pay dividends in the long run.
“I think I possibly got more out of” this season, than a normal minor league first year, Cavalli said in a Zoom call with Washington reporters before breaking camp.
“I got to be around veteran guys, the best coaches and we were with each other every day putting in work,” he said. “It was awesome. I’ve talked about this before, the feedback you get from hitters because normally you’re throwing against another team so you don’t get that opportunity to talk to them after and say ‘How did this look?’ I could talk to them about how I felt, how they were hitting. We help each other out that way.”
Cavalli was the 22nd player selected in the draft. He was the first Pittsfield Suns player to be drafted in the first round by an MLB team. He was the second Futures League player taken in the first round, following in the footsteps of Chris Shaw. The former Nashua Silver Knight and Boston College player, was taken 31st overall in the 2015 draft.
A third first-round pick was Grant Lavigne, who was taken 42nd overall by Colorado. The Wake Forest commit never made it onto a Futures League diamond, electing to sign with the Rockies instead.
“Cavalli logged more than 50 innings combined between the alternate training site in Fredericksburg, Va., and instructional league in Florida,” Baseball America wrote, “so he should be ready to go in 2021. Health and control will dictate how fast he moves through the system.”
At Oklahoma in 2020, Cavalli was the Sooners’ Friday night starter. He made four starts and went 1-2. He struck out 37 hitters and walked only five in 23 1/3 innings. Those numbers were part of what attracted the Nationals to the 6-foot-4 right-hander from Bixby, Okla.
Cavalli had been a pitcher and a designated hitter/infielder during his first two years, before going straight pitching in 2020.
“Coming down here, I wanted to see what my stuff was going to do against people that have been doing it for a long time and have a lot of experience,” Cavalli said. “I was very pleased. I think that trusting my stuff and letting it play, and not trying to do too much here. I came in with the mindset of just go be yourself, and that’s what I tried to do.
“I think it played out pretty well.”
Cavalli, who played for the 2017 Pittsfield Suns, was asked if he feels more big-league ready after spending the summer in Virginia.
“I think that’s for sure a possibility,” he said. “I’ve been down here facing big-league hitters. Like I said, they’ve been giving me great feedback. I’m just trying to be down here, learn and grow, and whenever they think I’m ready. I know, mentally in college preparing for that. I feel like I prepared every single day and in my head, I’m working to become the best I can be.
“I want to be elite in the big leagues. I don’t just want to make it, I want to be elite.”