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MLB draft preview: Cade Cavalli

Since it looks like there will be a run on college players early in this draft, let’s look at one who might fall that has top 10 talent

If there is one thing that we can all agree on, it’s that the Phillies have struggled to develop pitching. If you do not include Spencer Howard, since he hasn’t made his debut yet, and Aaron Nola, who is the obvious choice, what pitcher is it that the Phillies have drafted, developed and had produce at the major league level since 1990? Cole Hamels is one easy answer. Brett Myers? Randy Wolf? Sure these guys were solid minor leaguers, but they aren’t the top of the rotation arms that one would expect from a high draft choice. Going back to 1990, this is a list of names the team has taken in the first round as a pitcher:

  • Tyler Green - 1991
  • Wayne Gomes - 1993
  • Carlton Loewer - 1994
  • David Coggin - 1995
  • Adam Eaton - 1996
  • Brett Myers - 1999
  • Gavin Floyd - 2001
  • Cole Hamels - 2002
  • Kyle Drabek - 2006
  • Joe Savery - 2007
  • Jesse Biddle - 2010
  • Aaron Nola - 2016

Not exactly the most inspiring theme developing here. There has been a certain “develop the bats, buy the arms” philosophy in the past few drafts, but with a new scouting director in charge of this draft, perhaps we see a change. So, let’s take a look at a pitcher that was recently mocked to the Phillies by CBS Sports.

Height: 6’4”
Weight: 225 lbs.
B/T: R/R
Age: 21

Cavalli is a big right-handed pitcher from Oklahoma University that was mostly used as a hitter when he first went to college. Here is the scouting report from Fangraphs:

A chiseled 6-foot-4, 225, Cavalli has a relatively short track record compared to other college pitchers because he was mostly a hitter as a freshman (he was coming off a back injury that kept him from pitching as a high school senior), missed time as a sophomore with a stress reaction, and had his junior season washed by the pandemic. In his four 2020 starts Cavalli was electric, routinely sitting in the mid-90s and touching above, locating a late-breaking, mid-80s slider, and even getting some chases on a hard, sinking changeup. He still spikes too many of those changeups but, again, Cavalli hasn’t pitched a whole lot so the cambio and other minutae could come later.

Eeeek. Some red flags jump out here, mostly from the fact that he’s already missed some time with two seperate injuries in college. On the plus side, it does mean that he hasn’t put a lot of mileage on that arm and if he’s sitting mid-90’s, that something that the team can build on. Here’s another report from MLB Pipeline:

Cavalli didn’t take the mound until he was a sophomore at Bixby High and missed most of his senior season with back issues, yet still emerged as Oklahoma’s top prep pitching prospect in 2017. His arm could have fit in the top three rounds if not for health and signability questions, and he turned down the Braves as a 29th-rounder to attend Oklahoma. After spending most of his freshman season at first base, he focused on pitching as a sophomore and established himself as a likely first-rounder for the 2020 Draft — though he also missed three weeks with a stress reaction in his arm.

Cavalli produces some of the easiest velocity in his Draft class, working at 92-96 mph and topping out at 98 with riding action while expending barely more effort than he would playing catch. He also can make hitters look bad with a low-80s curveball with power and depth, and he has developed an upper-80s slider/cutter that is catching up to his curve. He shows the potential for an average changeup once he starts using the pitch more often.

While Cavalli has the upside of a frontline starter, he comes with concerns. Though he has a strong 6-foot-4 frame and clean mechanics, he doesn’t have much track record of staying healthy or throwing strikes. His lack of command and deception also means that his premium stuff gets hit harder than it should.

More or less the same thing that you see from Fangraphs. Big dude that can throw hard, but needs some work on the mound. If you still need more, here’s some video of him throwing.

I mean, sure - I’m sold. Especially when you see that slider in action. Yessir.

It’ll be interesting to see how the team approaches this draft. Are they going to want to take a college player who at least got some gametime reps this year, or will they roll the dice on a top high school player with loud tools? We will soon get to find out.