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2020 MLB Draft Scouting Report: University of Oklahoma RHP Cade Cavalli

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Cavalli presents a lot of upside in a draft deep with college arms that project to be MLB starters.

Image rights belong to University of Oklahoma Athletics

The Diamondbacks farm system has plenty of depth when it comes down to arms in full season ranks, but there is also a lot of volatility between those guys. Since Hazen has taken over, the team has taken almost equally as many prep arms as college arms. This year’s draft is very deep in the latter, especially for those who profile as #2-4 starters in an MLB rotation. One of the routes the team could take to improve the upside of arms in their system is target a high upside prep arm like Jared Kelley, Mick Abel, and Nick Bitsko.

Depending on how the draft unfolds, they may be lucky enough to get one of the top college arms to fall out of the Top 15. One such arm could come in the form of Cade Cavalli, who was slated to be Oklahoma’s Friday night starter until COVID-19 outbreak ended the college season.

Name: Cade Cavalli

DOB: 8/14/1998

Size: 6’4” 226

Position: Pitcher

Rankings: Baseball America (22nd), MLB Pipeline (22nd)

Expected Draft Range: Top 20

Projected Tools: Fastball 60, Curveball 60, Slider 55, Change-Up 50, Command 50

Cavalli has the talent and athleticism to be a #1 starter in a playoff rotation, but there are a lot of warts to work out in his game. There isn’t much a track record of success as a starter, although I think had there been a full college season, it would be somewhat answered. Cavalli’s bread and butter is a mid 90s fastball with a lot of riding action at the top of the zone and a big hammer curve. That two-pitch combination led to a lot of swinging strikes as a junior and a punchout rate of almost 40%.

He also throws a slider that’s rapidly progressing towards being a plus offering itself and has a feel for a change-up that could complete his arsenal. With the combination of three potential plus pitches and an above-average 4th pitch, I could see him becoming a #1 starter under the right conditions.

Cavalli has very clean mechanics and a repeatable delivery, which portends well for projecting above-average command in the future. However it also comes with very little deception, which has led to him giving up more hits than the stuff would suggest. I believe a few tweaks and changing the angle of where his pitches are coming from would benefit him greatly.

Why the D-backs might draft him?

Even with the warts, the D-backs have shown that they are willing to take gambles. Cavalli gives the team a chance at a #1 starter with the prototypical build and arsenal you’re looking for. With the right instructors, I believe the team could develop him into that type of pitcher. If he can grasp the mental part of pitching, specifically staying on an even keel and learn how to more effectively sequence pitches, I like the possibilities.

Why the D-backs might not draft him?

The two obvious reasons would be he gets picked before 18 or one of the top-3 prep arms (Nick Bitsko, Jared Kelley, Mick Abel) also makes it to 18. Personally I prefer Bitsko over Cavalli, although would be ecstatic if the team landed either guy. The two major flags in Cavalli’s profile, injuries and lack of track record, could potentially give the team a pause.

Signability?

As a college junior who stands to make at least $3MM in the draft, I don’t think he’ll be a tough sign. Cavalli could benefit from having a strong year starting in the summer and in the spring. However, I think doing it in the pros will improve his overall stock as a pitcher long term than opting to try again in the draft. If Cavalli is there at 18, he probably won’t command more than the slot value of $3.4MM and could possibly sign for less.

ETA: August 2023

Cavalli probably won’t be challenged in the minors until reaching High A, with my estimation being sometime in the second half of the 2021 season. I believe once he establishes himself in High A, it will be less than two calendar years before he’d be pitching in the D-backs rotation. He could initially come up as a late-season bullpen arm as early as 2022 if the team needs to make a playoff push, but realistically I see him being a permanent fixture in the rotation in late ‘23 or early ‘24.