Cade Cavalli didn’t know what was going to happen. When would he be picked? How would he feel when he heard his name called? For all the scenarios he considered, they didn’t compare to the realness of the moment when the Nationals selected him with the 22nd overall pick in
Cade Cavalli didn’t know what was going to happen. When would he be picked? How would he feel when he heard his name called? For all the scenarios he considered, they didn’t compare to the realness of the moment when the Nationals selected him with the 22nd overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft on Wednesday.
“The emotions were unreal,” Cavalli said on a Zoom conference call. “I just burst out into tears. I really didn’t think I was going to cry.”
• 2020 Draft Central
The Nationals made their first pick as reigning World Series champions in Day 1 of the condensed, five-round Draft. They continued their trend of selecting righties, doing so for the third consecutive year.
“I describe myself as a blend of a power pitcher and a guy with a lot of pitch-ability,” Cavalli said. “I have a five-pitch mix -- four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, changeup, spike curveball and a slider, and I love to use all of them. I can use them pretty much in any count, and I have confidence with all of them. Also, I have the velocity of a power pitcher, and I just picture myself being a blend of those.”
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Cavalli pitched three seasons for the Sooners. The 21-year-old entered his junior year on the 2020 Golden Spikes Award watch list for the top amateur player, as well as a preseason Third-Team All-American by Baseball America. In his shortened final season, Cavalli, listed at 6-foot-4, 226 pounds, went 1-2 with a 4.18 ERA in four starts, fanning 37 while issuing just five walks. Overall, he posted an 8-7 record and 4.09 ERA in 101 1/3 innings of college baseball.
“He fulfills a lot of what we look for in drafting pitchers over the course of my career with Arizona and with Washington,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. “He’s a big physical pitcher, he’s got really good stuff, he comes from a really good baseball conference [Big 12]. …
“We couldn’t have been happier to have gotten him at 22. 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.”
For all he has accomplished to this point, Cavalli didn’t grow up on the mound. In fact, the former shortstop began his pitching career as a sophomore in high school. His father, Brian, was a catcher drafted by the Cardinals in the 50th round of the 1989 Draft who helped him with his years of receiving pitches. In spite of being sidelined during his senior year with a back issue, Cavalli was selected by the Braves in the 29th round of the 2017 Draft out of Bixby (Okla.) High School.
“The lower back thing was something from way back in high school and more of a growth issue,” said Kris Kline, Nationals assistant general manager and vice president of scouting operations. “We’ve spent some time communicating with our doctors, and everybody’s good with it. Right now, he’s completely healthy. He’s got a really good delivery, almost textbook.”
The Nationals had been doing their research on Cavalli for years. By the time the 2020 Draft was upon them, they had compiled eight scouting reports on the righty. Cavalli’s performance at Minute Maid Park in February made a lasting impression not long before the NCAA season was canceled.
“He was absolutely electric,” said Kline. “He’s got a great pitcher’s frame -- [a] strong, defined, durable look. A very nice delivery. It’s a clean arm action. It’s fast. It’s loose. It’s a big fastball. On this particular day, he held 96 [mph] for five innings, touching 98, 99. I think he’ll settle in at 94, 95 every fifth day when a pro load hits him.”
Cavalli has made a name for himself off the field, too -- as a barber. He displays his knack for what he describes as a hobby on its own Instagram page. Cavalli estimates he has given more than 500 haircuts, and he looks forward to sharing that talent with his new teammates.
“I ended up with the best organization out there,” he said. “I’m fired up I get to be a National.”
The Draft continues on today with Rounds 2-5. The MLB Network preview show begins at 4 p.m. ET, with live coverage on MLB Network and ESPN2 beginning at 5 p.m. ET. Go to MLB.com/Draft for complete coverage, including every pick on the Draft Tracker, coverage and analysis from MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, the complete order of selection and more. And follow @MLBDraft and @MLBDraftTracker on Twitter.
Jessica Camerato covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @jessicacamerato, Facebook and Instagram.