The Nationals’ draft brand is hard throwing college pitchers with upside, and they nabbed exactly that with their first two picks. They’re also usually one to bite early on college relievers, and they did that in the third round with Holden Powell. In all, this draft class had a distinctly Nationals feel to it with four college arms in six picks, and I think they could get some interesting value out of it. My personal favorite pick of the draft was second rounder Cole Henry, though I could see compensation pick Sammy Infante being a real sleeper in this class.
1.22: RHP Cade Cavalli – Oklahoma
21 Years Old – Bat: R – Throw: R – 6’4″ – 225 lbs. – ETA: 2022
|55 / 60||55 / 60||50 / 60||45 / 50||45 / 55||60|
This is about as on-brand as it gets between a player and a drafting team. Cade Cavalli was a well-known draft prospect at Bixby High School in the Tulsa area in 2017, but he wound up down the road at Oklahoma instead, where he’s had a bit of a bumpy ride. Watch him throw a bullpen, though, and you’d be convinced you were seeing a top ten arm. Cavalli has a premium pitcher’s body at 6’4″, and an exceptionally clean, repeatable delivery. From there, he fires mid 90’s fastballs that can climb as high as 98, and he adds two potentially plus breaking balls in a power slider and a downer curveball. He rounds his arsenal off with a solid changeup, and he throws strikes with all four pitches.
So how was he available for the Nationals at pick #22? Through three years at Oklahoma, he’s an unimpressive 9-7 with a 4.09 ERA, a 1.47 WHIP, and a 114/53 strikeout to walk ratio over 101.1 innings. He’s consistently been hit harder than his stuff says he should be – earlier in his college career, that was because he tended to fall behind in the count and his stuff played down in hitter’s counts. As he’s progressed, he’s filled up the zone more, but his control (ability to throw strikes) remains ahead of his command (ability to hit spots within the zone), and that’s led to some too-hittable pitches over the plate.
He’s trending in the right direction with his command, and that shot him up boards this spring (he struck out 37 to just five walks in 23.2 innings against a tough schedule), but questions still remain about how his stuff will play in pro ball. He doesn’t get much deception in that clean delivery, and his fastball can be almost too true, with better hitters being able to square up velocity when it’s that straight. The Nationals will have to work with Cavalli to help keep hitters more off balance, but the upside here is tremendous with a full arsenal of deadly weapons to use against hitters coming from a very durable frame (though he has missed time with back problems and a stress reaction in his arm). He signed for $3.03 million, full slot value for the 22nd pick.
2.55: RHP Cole Henry – Louisiana State
20 Years Old – Bat: R – Throw: R 6’4″ – 210 lbs – ETA: 2023
|55 / 60||50 / 60||45 / 50||45 / 55||55|
Another perfectly on-brand pick for the Nationals. Cole Henry, like Cavalli, was a well-known prospect at Florence High School in northern Alabama, earning top three rounds consideration in 2018. He ended up at LSU instead, and the numbers have been great in his short time there: 3.03 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 95/24 K/BB in 77.1 IP against a tough schedule. He throws a low to mid 90’s fastball that he can run up to 97, adding in a power curveball that can look like a true plus pitch with great depth down in the zone. He rounds out his arsenal with a decent changeup, one he has made progress on since high school but which still has a bit further to go.
The 6’4″ right hander has smoothed out his delivery in college and has been better about repeating it, but there are still times where he loses his arm slot and the Nationals will want to keep him moving on the trajectory he’s on. Right now, like Cavalli, the control is ahead of the command, but he’s trending in the right direction there too. It’s an interesting combination of now-ability and trajectory, and the the fact that he only turns 21 in July gives confidence that he won’t be plateauing any time soon.
Henry has true impact starter potential due to his size and two plus pitches, though if he doesn’t continue to make the progress he has been making, there is some reliever risk. He would fit well there, but the Nationals are banking on him remaining a starting pitcher, which he definitely has the talent to do. I really like the pick, even if they spent $2 million ($690,000 above slot) to keep him from heading back to Baton Rouge for his junior year. As a draft eligible sophomore who turns 21 in July, he’s almost a year younger than Cavalli, who is relatively old for a college junior and turns 22 in August.
2C.72: SS Sammy Infante – Monsignor Pace HS (FL)
19 Years Old – Bat: R – Throw: R 6’1″ – 185 lbs – ETA: 2024
|45 / 55||50 / 55||45 / 55||50 / 50||45 / 50||50 / 55||50|
This pick surprised some, and even though had him more in the fourth or fifth round range, I’m willing to get on board with it. The Nationals develop this type of player very well – in fact, I actually think they develop young hitters better than pitchers. Most of the recent successes, such as Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Carter Kieboom, Luis Garcia, and co. have been hitters, while some promising pitchers like Erick Fedde and A.J. Cole haven’t quite worked out.
A product of Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami, Sammy Infante has been up and down throughout his prep career, but the shortened spring was definitely an “up” for him. He shows solid power from a nice, leveraged right handed swing, one that produces a lot of force while still staying under control. With added physical development onto his 6’1″ frame, you can see Infante hitting for above average power down the line, and while he does show some swing and miss, he was making more consistent contact this spring.
Defensively, he’ll need to work to stick at shortstop, but he could be above average at third base if he moved over there. Considering that this pick was compensation for losing Anthony Rendon, that would be a nice coincidence if he took over long term there. He’s a little old for a high schooler, having turned 19 in June, which does matter. Still, with the upside of a 20 home run bat who can produce solid on-base percentages and net-positive infield defense, the Nationals like what they’re getting at the 71st overall pick, and I think he fits in well with the organization. He signed for $1 million, which was $115,800 above slot value.
3.94: RHP Holden Powell – UCLA
20 Years Old – Bat: R – Throw: R – 6’0 -190 lbs – ETA: 2022
|55 / 55||55 / 65||40 / 45||50 / 55||50|
Judging by the fact that I had Powell ahead of Infante on my pre-draft top prospects list, it might appear that I prefer this Holden Powell pick to the Sammy Infante pick. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work like that, because Infante’s upside requires more imagination and I can get behind it with the confidence the Nationals are showing, while Powell’s upside is very cut and dry. The UCLA closer is strictly a reliever going forward, though he has quite the track record for the Bruins; since the start of the 2019 season, he has a 1.54 ERA, a 0.87 WHIP, and an 85/29 strikeout to walk ratio over 58.1 innings, saving 20 games. In 2020 alone, he struck out 20 of the 35 batters he faced and allowed just five to reach base.
The 6′ righty from the Central Valley town of Visalia throws a low to mid 90’s fastball that tops out at 96, and it plays up because he has a little bit of funk in his delivery. The slider is his out pitch, sitting anywhere from the low to mid 80’s and playing up because he can really manipulate its shape and spot it. Sometimes, it can be a softer pitch with more depth, and others it can be sharper with more bite, but either way it’s intentional. His command has progressed from decent as an underclassman to above average as a junior, at least in the small sample size.
It’s all a great and enticing package, but I’m very skeptical of college relievers. You’re supposedly buying them for the floor, for the safe bet/right now product they provide rather than the upside, but from Tyler Jay to Zack Burdi to Durbin Feltman, that “safe bet” has proven to be a little bit of an illusion. I’d much prefer to target starters later in the draft, throw them in the bullpen, and see if they take a step forward. That said, Powell does have a very good right-now product, and even though he’s young for the class and won’t turn 21 until September, he could move relatively quickly. He signed for $500,000, which was $118,200 below slot and just about paid for Sammy Infante’s over slot bonus.
4.123: C Brady Lindsly, Oklahoma
22 Years Old – Bat: L – Throw: R – 6’1″ – 220 lbs – ETA: 2023
|45 / 50||40 / 45||40 / 45||40 / 40||50 / 55||50 / 55||40|
This pick killed three birds with one stone, as it saved the Nationals significant bonus pool space, reunited first round pick Cade Cavalli with his college catcher, and gave the Nationals a nice prospect. The Fort Worth-area native has been a decent hitter for four years at Oklahoma, slashing .275/.360/.420 with ten home runs and a 112/60 strikeout to walk ratio over 148 games.
He’s an average hitter that makes pretty consistent contact, adding in a little bit of pop from a loose left handed swing but nothing that will wow anybody. He does work the strike zone pretty well, as you would expect from a catcher. Together, he projects to hit just enough given the rest of his game. Behind the plate, he’s solid average and should have no trouble sticking as a catcher. Additionally, he shows all of the intangibles you look for in a catcher as a hard worker and a guy who makes his pitchers better.
He must have gotten a glowing recommendation from Cavalli, and I’d expect that the two work really well together, which should help Cavalli reach his lofty ceiling. Overall, Lindsly profiles pretty clearly as a backup catcher, as he’ll likely never hit enough to start but his other tools could carry him up to a reserve role. He signed for $20,000, saving the Nationals $444,500 in bonus pool space.
5.153: LHP Mitchell Parker, San Jacinto JC
20 Years Old – Bat: L – Throw: L – 6’4″ – 195 lbs – ETA: 2024
|50 / 60||50 / 55||45 / 50||45 / 50||45|
A well known name from a pitching staff that also included Nationals 2019 first rounder Jackson Rutledge and Cubs 2020 fourth rounder Luke Little, Parker has been an absolute force to be reckoned with on the JUCO circuit, going 11-0 with a 1.43 ERA and a 175/63 strikeout to walk ratio over 94.2 innings at San Jac. His 64 strikeouts this year not only led all JUCO pitchers, but would have been enough to lead Division I or Division III as well, and enough for second place in Division II just behind Francis Marion’s Josh Bobrowski and his 65 strikeouts.
The Albuquerque native is a 6’4″ lefty that sits in the low 90’s with his fastball and adds a big, looping curveball with great depth in addition to a solid splitter. His command is average if perhaps a tick below, but his pitches play up due to high spin rates and some interesting arm action where he pauses mid-delivery. Going forward, he’ll have to be careful not to show too much of his grip during that pause. There is some projection left in his frame, so you can imagine him adding a tick or two of velocity, though the difference as to whether he sticks in the rotation or is forced to the bullpen will likely be his command.
Parker has had absolutely no trouble missing bats on the JUCO circuit, and out in Region XIV with schools like Angelina, Navarro, and Blinn to deal with, it’s some pretty solid competition. He’s a combination of a projection arm and a right-now talent who needs to add a little consistency here and a little power there, so he’s not a true “project.” As with Cavalli, the Nationals actually signed his catcher, Raymond Torres Jr., out of San Jac as well, so that’s interesting. It took $100,000 to sign him away from a Kentucky commitment, which was $246,800 below slot.
Follow us on Twitter! @ProspectsWorldW