Despite how monotonous the 2022 season has felt, Wednesday was a very interesting day for the Washington Nationals.
They announced that their top pitching prospect will be making his major debut later this week, announced that one of their best starters would be skipped in the rotation, and had big news in the hunt for a new owner of the franchise.
Cavalli is Coming
After spending a few more months in Triple-A Rochester than he probably needed to, No. 58 overall prospect Cade Cavalli has earned a promotion to the big leagues. His first start for the Nationals will come at home on Friday night against the Cincinnati Reds.
Ever since he was drafted in the first round in 2020, the spotlight has been on the right-handed flamethrower. Aside from the brief period when Josiah Gray first joined the team from the Dodgers, Cavalli has been Washington’s highest-touted pitching prospect, and for good reason.
Cavalli boasts three pitches in his arsenal that scouts consider significantly above average, topped off by a fastball that sits in the high-90s and touches triple digits.
Cavalli sped through the low ranks of the minor leagues, but struggled initially at the Triple-A level – as expressed in his 7.30 ERA for Rochester in six starts last season.
Things have turned around, though. In his last 13 starts, Cavalli has thrown to a 2.10 ERA and 77 strikeouts. Those metrics are even better over his last six starts, during which he’s recorded a 1.42 ERA with nearly four strikeouts per walk issued.
Ironically, as I have hinted at previously, the Nationals chose to promote Cavalli on the exact date on which his rookie eligibility for next season would be preserved. The Nationals will get a chance to see what they have in Cavalli, while still retaining the opportunity to gain draft pick compensation if he thrives next season and finishes in the top three in Rookie of the Year voting next season.
One Less Gray Day
On the flip side, the Nationals are opting to skip Josiah Gray this turn through the rotation, as his innings total this season rises towards a career high.
In some sense, it’s disappointing to see Gray pitch less frequently, but this was bound to happen. He’s already tossed more than 123 innings this season, blew by his total from last season a couple months ago, and seven more innings will take him past his total from 2019.
Rather than pushing Gray to his physical limit, Washington will take his development more gradually, likely capping him at around 150-160 innings. Also, skipping him now should allow him to get to the finish line this season instead of shutting him down with a few weeks left.
It’s best to play the long game this season. The training wheels can be taken off Gray next season, but taking things slow and steady this season limits the risk of an injury. That seems like what’s most valuable this year.
Leonsis is Lurking
There was a lot of local news on the ownership front over the last couple days. It seems that one of the finalists we discussed recently has emerged as the potential leader of the pack.
Shortly after it was announced that his company Monumental Sports & Entertainment would be acquiring 100 percent of NBC Sports Washington, D.C. sports czar Ted Leonsis officially threw his hat into the ring for the Nationals.
It was widely assumed that Leonsis – the owner of the Wizards and Capitals, among other local franchises – was an interested buyer, but no official word had been released until Tuesday.
A day later, Washington Business Journalreported that local billionaire David Rubenstein will join forces with Leonsis in a bid for the Nationals. We had suggested that Larry Lucchino could team up with Leonsis, but that option seems to be on the backburner at most.
On the surface, an ownership group led by non-baseball experts seems risky. However, the Monumental Sports angle adds a lot of intrigue – especially given the latest news for the company.
Any path towards getting out of the existing MASN television contract should be pursued aggressively, and Leonsis presents the most obvious escape route. The idea of a D.C. sports super-network is very compelling.
Some Odds and Ends
Recently acquired left-handed pitcher MacKenzie Gore threw off a mound for the first time since joining the organization early this month. It’s unclear whether he’ll return by the end of this season, but manager Dave Martinez has stated his hope to end 2022 with Gray, Cavalli and Gore all in the starting rotation.
As part of some roster shuffling, including the activation of Erick Fedde from the IL, relief pitcher and former fan favorite Tyler Clippard was designated for assignment. Clippard’s ERA sat at 7.20 through his first four appearances this season. There’s a chance he’ll return to Rochester, but this clearly wasn’t what the Nationals had in mind when they signed him this spring.
With the Florida Complex League season concluding this week, right-handed pitching prospect Jarlin Susana has been promoted to Low-A Fredericksburg. The youngest chip in the trade from the Padres debuted for Fredericksburg on Wednesday, allowing one run on six hits over 3.1 innings and maxing out at 103 miles per hour with his fastball and 95 MPH with his slider.