What to Expect from Cade Cavalli in 2024

The Nationals have had one of the worst starting pitching staffs in baseball over the past few seasons and are hoping some of their top prospects can get things back on track. Almost a year removed from Tommy John surgery, Cade Cavalli figures to be that prospect.

Aug 27, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Cade Cavalli
Aug 27, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Cade Cavalli / Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

There aren’t many top prospects around the league who have had worse luck than Cade Cavalli. It started back in 2020, when Cavalli missed the end of his junior season and his first season in the minors due to Covid. He eventually went on to make his debut during the 2022 season, but that would be his only appearance that season after dealing with a shoulder injury. After a promising spring training last season, Cavalli ended up needing Tommy John surgery, putting the Nationals fourth-ranked prospect’s career on standby once again…

All the news from spring training surrounding Cavalli has been positive. He’s thrown a couple bullpen sessions already, and the feedback has been great across the board. Cavalli still has a long road ahead of him in terms of finishing his rehab process, but the former first round pick has impressed early on this spring and is aiming for a June return to Major League action. 

People are forgetting that Cavalli looked great in his three outings last spring before once again getting hurt. The former Oklahoma Sooner racked up seven strikeouts and allowed only one run in three appearances. His debut back in 2022 might not have gone exactly as he’d hoped, but that was a long time ago now and Cavalli, while not having too much more game action, is nearly two years more experienced in being a Major League pitcher and working with the players and staff at that level. I was actually posted up at the Ultra Loft in centerfield at Nats Park for the youngster’s debut a few years ago. He had the stuff, but he struggled to locate as I’m sure he had some first-game jitters. 

There aren’t many players in baseball more eager to make their 2024 debut than the 25-year-old Cavalli. Unfortunately, the right-hander will probably have to wait until sometime this Summer for his second chance in the big leagues. He’s talked about the ups and downs of his rebab, but he’s been nothing but positive of late. He even changed his number to 9 for the upcoming season as part of his “rebirth” on the way back to the majors. 

As soon as the young starter is healthy, a spot in the rotation will open up for him. What should Nationals fans expect from the young right-hander? Well, Cavalli did lead the minor leagues with 175 strikeouts in 2021. His fastball sits up the upper 90’s and can touch triple-digits, and he’s got an above-average curveball. Cavalli is a power-pitcher who was an ace at a highly-respected Oklahoma program. If he lives up to his potential, Cavalli can be a piece at the top of the Nationals’ rotation with Josiah Gray and MacKenzie Gore for quite some time.

However, we do have to be patient with Cavalli as he is effectively a rookie when it comes to game experience. He is also coming off a major injury that has sidelined him for quite some time. There may be a few hiccups along the way that prevent Cavalli from looking like himself until late 2024 or even 2025. Regardless, the Nationals will welcome Cavalli when he is ready as their pitching staff has not been great in recent years and adding a huge upside arm like Cavalli is what they need.

I feel like there has not been enough hype surrounding Cavalli simply due to a lack of outings from the former first-round draft selection, but the youngster has to play the cards he’s been dealt. If Josiah Gray and MacKenzie Gore continue to improve, the Nationals could have an extremely underrated young core at the top of their rotation, but this relies heavily on Cavalli’s “boom or bust” potential. Will the hard-throwing righty live up to his first-round potential, or will the Nationals fall victim to another first-round bust? I guess we’ll have to wait until the summer, and possibly longer, to find out…