On a day that the Nationals farm system was restocked and reloaded, it was the club’s original top prospect that put on his own show Friday.
The 12 punchouts, all but three of which were on offspeed pitches, represented a new Double-A high for Cavalli in his seventh start at the level. They were three shy of his career high of 15, set on June 12 this season while with High-A Wilmington.
The 22-year-old right-hander looked more and more comfortable as Friday night wore on, retiring 16 straight Curve batters (11 via the K) in a stretch from the second inning through to the seventh. A nine-pitch walk of Brendt Citta broke up that incredible run and also ended Cavalli’s night at 97 pitches, 67 of which were for strikes including 15 swings-and-misses.
With the performance, the 6-foot-4 hurler grabbed the Minor League lead with 125 strikeouts, nine more than Giants prospect Ryan Murphy has at Low-A San Jose. He combines that with a 2.96 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and only 18 walks over 76 innings between Wilmington and Harrisburg in his first full season.
The Nationals selected Cavalli with the 22nd overall pick out of the University of Oklahoma last year after he showed improved stuff in a brief move to become a full-time pitcher as a junior. That improved arsenal carried over to Washington’s alternate training site and instructional league, and as a result, Cavalli now throws four above-average to plus pitches. His fastball (which touched 99 on Friday) and curveball receive the strongest reviews, but he’ll mix in a good slider and changeup as well. Cavalli’s ability to pound the zone, as he did in his latest gem, make everything play up and keep hitters from ever getting comfortable against him in the box.
This latest strikeout-filled outing couldn’t have been better-timed for Nationals fans who will now spend a lot more time focused on the organization’s Minor League ranks.
Washington traded Major Leaguers Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber, Yan Gomes, Josh Harrison, Jon Lester, Daniel Hudson and Brad Hand this week alone, picking up several new prospects in the process including 10 ranked among MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 list. As much as players like Keibert Ruiz and Josiah Gray give the Nats system newfound depth and ceiling, Cavalli proved Friday that his potential is as great as anyone’s in the new-look Washington farm.
Harrisburg first baseman K.J. Harrison homered twice and plated four to drive the Senators’ offense in the win.