Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Cavalli elbow is a huge blow for Nats


Its been a busy month for me, and i’m only partially paying attention to Nats headlines. Earlier this week, I did notice/hear that Cade Cavalli had been pulled from a start with something related to an elbow, and while it didn’t register with me at the time, eventually the news came out.

Tommy John. Full tear. Out 12-18 months.


The Nationals’ starting pitching depth has really taken a beating in the last couple of years.

  • Strasburg: thirty IP in 3 years and zero faith that he’ll ever return.
  • Corbin has forgotten how to pitch.
  • Grey had an ERA > 5.00 and a FIP of nearly 6.00 in the majors.
  • Rutledge can’t get any one out in Low-A (and is laughably assigned to AA right now)
  • Henry had TOS, the same thing that may be ending Strasburg’s career.
  • Adon literally couldn’t get anyone out in the majors.
  • Carrillo couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn and is now a AA reliever.
  • Irvin is back after TJ but is no where near resembling the 2nd round form he exhibited in College.
  • Denaburg returned after lenghly absences and is no longer considered even a top 30 prospect
  • Cate forgot how to pitch and was outrighted.
  • Romero finally crossed the imaginary line keeping him employed with the team with his latest transgression (not that he was considered a prospect anymore…)
  • Lara got lit up in Low A while eating pizza and burgers (anyone believe his listed weight of 180?)
  • … and now Cafalli is out for a while.

That’s your 2020 1st rounder, 2020 2nd rounder, 2019 1st rounder, 2018 1st rounder, 2018 2nd rounder, 2017 1st rounder, $60M in payroll, and a couple of significant prospects for whom we dumped Scherzer and Turner. In other words, that’s nearly every top draft pick for four years running, a massive chunk of your current payroll, and every arm we got in return for dumping two franchise players two years ago.

What a debacle.

The Nats have almost zero Arms in the upper minors pipeline at this point who you’d look at as an up and coming replacement. Why? Because multiple years of futility drafting arms has badly caught up with this team. Who sounds promising? 2022 2nd rounder Bennett hasn’t done anything to embarrass or hurt himself yet. that’s good. Parker continues to get people out despite having very little “stuff” as the scouting reports claim. Theophile showed some promise last year before getting promoted. Maybe Susana can amount to something, or Aldo Ramirez. But that’s the entire system. anyone in FCL or DSL is 5 years from making an impact.

It could be a dark, or expensive, 5 years for this team. Consider how many top end offensive prospects we have. If those guys come up and start really cranking … they by themselves can power the team to a 500 record. Kinda like what happened to this team between 2010 and 2011. The team went from 59 wins in 2009 to 69 wins in 2010 to a .500 record in 2011. We all know what happened then. So, unless this team can find more arms somewhere, they may be buying them on the open market to support what could be a pretty good hitting team in a few years.

We havn’t talked much yet about the 2023 draft, but I’ll bet you $1 right now we got back to an all-pitcher draft like we used to do. And that’ll start at the top, where there’s a couple of big-time SEC arms likely for the taking in Chase Dollander and Paul Skenes. Dollander was a 1-1 guy last year, but hasn’t been quite as impressive as Skenes: in 4 starts this year he’s 4-0, 48-4 K/BB and has given up just 8 hits in 24 innings. Ok, so those starts were against Western Michigan, Kansas State, Butler, and Samford, so not that impressive, but still against D1 hitters.

For 2023, maybe we’ll find some gold like we’ve done with Meneses. But man we could use some good news on the pitching front.

Written by Todd Boss

March 17th, 2023 at 2:17 pm

6 Responses to 'Cavalli elbow is a huge blow for Nats'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Cavalli elbow is a huge blow for Nats'.

  1. Welcome back Todd.

    Mark L

    19 Mar 23 at 7:02 am

  2. Welcome back, Todd!

    As much of a general blow as the Cavalli TJ is, I don’t think it particularly sets back the time frame of the rebuild because it wasn’t going to be a quick one anyway. Yes, they were hoping that one of the pillars of the rebuild would be Cavalli/Gore/Gray. They’ve got a significant investment in all three. And as Todd notes, the cupboard behind them isn’t exactly full.

    For now, it looks like Chad Kuhl will be the anointed next starter. I’m intrigued by Rule 5 addition Thad Ward, who seems likely to stick but who they haven’t stretched out.

    Rutledge got some extra run with the big club this spring and was at least optioned to AA. Considering his struggles last year at A, that might be aggressive.

    I haven’t heard a thing one way or the other about Henry’s recovery.

    And yes, I think they’re going to be looking very hard at Skenes and Dollander.


    20 Mar 23 at 9:59 am

  3. I agree that Cavalli’s injury won’t materially affect the rebuild. The glass-half-full view: lots of scouts viewed Cavalli as a blowout risk (Keith Law, in particular, I think), which is a reason to think TJS was going to happen for him at some point. Better for that to happen in ’23 when the only thing the MLB club is competing for is draft position.

    Somebody official tweeted the other day that Cole Henry was up to 95+ in a bullpen session, which is a decent sign. My prior is that TOS turned him into a non-prospect – I would love to be wrong.

    Re Ruttledge, there were good reports on his stuff/velo in spring training. He’ll have to actually get hitters out in real games for his star to shine again. We’ll see, I guess.

    Just based on ordinary luck, you’d expect the organization to develop a useful pitcher or two out of nowhere (a la Tanner Roark a decade ago). I am not defending the FO’s drafting over the last decade, but I’ve got to think there is a diamond in the rough somewhere in the system.

    I am no scout, but jeez Paul Skenes looks incredible and has incredible stats. If he continues to put up start-after-start like this in the SEC, I can’t imagine Rizzo passing him at #2.


    20 Mar 23 at 12:12 pm

  4. That’s GREAT news on Henry. I’ve been high on him since he was drafted. He’s a more polished “pitcher” than most of the others.

    I’m hopeful that Jake Irvin can find another gear in his second year back from TJ. I think he still has some untapped ceiling. But that’s more hope than anything based on fact.

    That said, I think Thad Ward is better than Irvin.

    I hope they haven’t ruined Adon. What they did to him last season was criminal. He had barely pitched above A+ and they threw him into an MLB rotation. It was curious that he got almost no run with the MLB squad this spring despite the dire need for pitching.

    At the top level, Gore hasn’t been good this spring. Gore HAS to pan out. Gray has to improve on being just athletically mediocre.


    21 Mar 23 at 10:49 am

  5. Copied from a Zuckerman tweet: MacKenzie Gore vs. a Yankee lineup with several regulars (including Torres, Rizzo, Stanton): 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K, 81 pitches, 55 strikes.

    Pretty good. Agree that Gore HAS to be something in the #3-#2 range. If he’s not (or gets hurt), things look a lot more bleak.


    22 Mar 23 at 2:44 pm

  6. That’s a great outing from Gore, following a strong one by Gray on Tuesday. Fingers crossed. (And Corbin actually was good on Monday.)

    I think it’s fair to say that the first level of future hope is Gore, Gray, and Cavalli (when he recovers). Longer term, I’d put Susana in that group, as he sure looks to have ace potential. He’s probably the highest-ceiling guy in the whole system, if not in baseball. But he also still has a lot of risk of not making it.

    I still have a lot of hope for Henry, and a fair amount for Thad Ward, as guys who are close to contributing.


    22 Mar 23 at 3:41 pm

Leave a Reply