The youth movement was on full display against the Mets!
Over the last few seasons, Washington has had one of the worst farm systems in baseball, which should come as no surprise. Juan Soto, Victor Robles, and Carter Kieboom have all been promoted while the team had no problems trading away top prospects to win now. Lucas Giolito, Dane Dunning, and Jesus Luzardo are just a few who have been shipped out to new homes. While Washington’s farm system has become barren over the years, that does not mean it is void of any talent.
This was on full display during the team’s Spring Training game earlier today against the New York Mets. Cade Cavalli, Jackson Rutledge, Cole Henry, and Matt Cronin all made appearances, with successful results. Cade Cavalli and Jackson Rutledge, who the team took in the first round of 2020 and 2019 respectively, are the team’s top two prospects per Baseball America. Behind them is Cole Henry, who the team took in the second round of the 2020 draft, and is the team’s third-ranked prospect. Matt Cronin, the team’s ninth-ranked prospect rounds out the up-and-coming youth movement.
Cade Cavalli started it off, taking over in the bottom of the second inning. Nerves were definitely a factor early, with Cavalli walking James McCann on five pitches. He followed this up by getting Jonathan Villar to hit into a fielder’s choice, with McCann advancing to second on the throw. Luis Guillorme crushed the sixth pitch of his at-bat back to Cavalli, who knocked it down. Unfortunately, Cavalli threw the ball to first at full force, leading to the ball getting past Zimmerman. Runners on second and third one out. Usually, at this point, it wouldn’t be uncommon for a prospect to let the game get away from them, but Cavalli prevailed. After the mound visit, Cavalli settled down and showed why the Nationals made him their most recent first-round pick. Unrattled, Cavalli struck out Khalil Lee on three pitches, capped off by a nasty four-seamer that was clocked at 98 mph. Drew Ferguson was up next and struck out on four pitches. Against Ferguson, Cavalli only used his four-seamer which he was able to locate with ease.
Dave Martinez only let his pitchers throw an inning apiece, in order to see as many people as possible. Rutledge’s chance came in the third, allowing a lead-off single to Brandon Nimmo. Unfazed, Rutledge quickly picked off Nimmo and then struck out Jeff McNeil. After falling behind 3-0, Rutledge threw three straight four-seamers, topping out at 95 mph. Then came the most impressive at-bat of the inning. Dominic Smith and Rutledge engaged in an 11 pitch at-bat, with the Nats starter winning the duel. Smith missed on an 83 mph slider.
Both Cavalli and Rutledge had scoreless innings, with two strikeouts each. Cavalli had to dig himself out of a jam, but only improved as the inning progressed. Besides a leadoff single, Rutledge was dominant from the start. It is easy to understand why Mike Rizzo has made the two of them untouchable in trade talks.
Unfortunately, Cole Henry and Matt Cronin struggled in their respective outings. Henry recorded two outs, including a strikeout before giving up a grand slam to Pete Alonso. Cronin also recorded a strikeout, but left the game with two outs and the bases loaded. The two flashed glimpses, but were unable to put it all together.
Overall, Washington fans should be excited about the team’s top two prospects and while Cronin and Henry need some polishing, they both have some nasty stuff in their repertoires.