2020 MLB Draft Player Profile: Cade Cavalli

Joining Garrett Crochet in the Tier 3 level of college starting pitching available in the 2020 MLB Draft is University of Oklahoma right-hander Cade Cavalli. The rumors continue that the first 10 picks will be predominantly college players, except for high school outfielders Zac Veen and Robert Hassell. There is an excellent chance that all Tier 1 and Tier 2 college starting pitching options won’t be available for the White Sox at the 11th pick. Even catcher Patrick Bailey might be off the board, which would put the White Sox at an odd place in the first round.

There is a need for them to add more starting pitching in this draft, but does that mean they should make it a priority on Day 1, even if the top four arms are off the board? If you believe so, then it’s time to know more about Cade Cavalli.


Cavalli has the prototypical starting pitcher body frame standing at 6’4”. During his senior year in high school, Cavalli missed most of that season dealing with a back injury. The Atlanta Braves drafted Cavalli in the 29th round, but he opted instead to attend Oklahoma like his father, Brian.

Cavalli tried the two-way life during his freshman year, playing mostly first base while pitching out of the Sooners bullpen. Offensively, Cavalli was overmatched, striking out 94 times in 235 plate appearances (40% K) and posting a slash line of .202/.333/.332 with six home runs. His pitching results weren’t much better. In 11 appearances (incluidng two starts), Cavalli pitched 17⅓ innings with a 6.75 ERA, striking out 18 and walking 13. That summer, Cavalli pitched in the Cape Cod League and continued to struggle with command, walking as many batters as striking them out (15 apiece) in three starts.

Cavalli made a nice jump into his sophomore season. He focused more on pitching, ditching first base and only appearing as a DH otherwise. He improved as the Friday starter, posting a 3.28 ERA over 12 starts with 59 strikeouts over 60⅓ innings. However, he missed time due to an arm stress reaction. Cavalli did make Team USA for one appearance lasting 2⅔ innings (two walks, one strikeout).

The hype for Cavalli picked up entering his junior season as scouts were impressed with the fastball velocity and sharp breaking pitches (both the slider and curve). With an emerging changeup, Cavalli checks off a lot of boxes in what teams are wishing for when drafting starting pitchers. Would it show up in his production?

In four starts before the stoppage, he appeared intent on answering “yes.” In four starts covering 23⅔ innings, Cavalli struck out 37 hitters to just five walks.

2020 Game Log

2/14vs Virginia4.242218
2/21Illinois State7.061119
3/6San Diego State7.095539

Pitch Mix

Let’s start by watching some of Cavalli against fellow 2020 first-rounder, Arkansas OF Heston Kjerstad.

First pitch: Kjerstad looks bad, helplessly whiffing at Cavalli’s slider. I’m assuming Kjerstad was guessing fastball as he grounded out in his previous at-bat against Cavalli on a low heater.

Second pitch: Cavalli spikes a curveball. I like this pitch in two-strike situations for Cavalli because I think it has a chance to be an effective strikeout pitch. Staying low in the zone also assures that if a hitter does make contact, they will beat it into the ground.

Third pitch: We get a look at Cavalli’s fastball that clips the outside corner at 96-mph

Fourth pitch: While the fastball, slider, and curve rate above 50-grade, the changeup still needs a bit more work. It’s common to see Cavalli spike the changeup as he doesn’t have the same feel for it like his breaking stuff.

Fifth pitch: Kjerstad does a good job fighting off a fastball on the outside corner to stay alive.

Sixth pitch: Cavalli doubles up on the fastball and blows it by Kjerstad at 96 mph.


Cavalli’s fastball velocity puts the pitch at 60-grade, and I like how he consistently hits the outside corner against lefties. Early in the count, it’s useful in getting ahead of hitters who will want to wait for a pitch located in the middle or inside zone. In his start against Arkansas, Cavalli was sitting between 95 to 97 mph. Against right-handed hitters, Cavalli likes to go up in the zone, catching hitters off guard looking for the slider or curve.

Just like any pitcher, Cavalli gets into trouble when his fastball lands over the middle of the plate. Even with the plus velocity, good hitters today can handle that kind of heat as the fastball doesn’t move a lot.

Breaking Pitches

The slider has great sweeping action. Against Arkansas, Cavalli was throwing the slider early in counts, suggesting he has a high level of comfort with the pitch. Each Arkansas hitter was loading up for the fastball, and Cavalli kept catching them off guard, spinning a slider at them.

When Cavalli is looking to spike a pitch, he goes the curve. There isn’t a significant amount of vertical drop like Reid Detmers has, but Cavalli’s tunnels better with the fastball. This variation might be preferable as it doesn’t give hitters a great deal of time to decipher what pitch is coming at them. Once they commit, their swing is off-balance, and hitters have to right just to foul it off. It’s not a pitch that Cavalli often throws for a strike, which is why I like it when he’s ahead and looking for the punchout. If Cavalli needs to throw a breaking pitch for a strike, the slider is a better option.


The more I watch Cade Cavalli, the more I like what I see. Even if the changeup never improves to be an average pitch, Cavalli does have three above-average pitches in the fastball, slider, and curve. Developing a better changeup would raise his ceiling to a projected mid-rotation starter in the majors.

To reach his potential, Cavalli needs more time. He only made 18 starts in his college career and barely pitched more than 100 innings. It may take an extra season in the minors for Cavalli than it would for the Tier 1 or 2 pitchers in this draft class. Whoever drafts Cavalli is getting a pitcher with exciting tools but a short track record.

For the White Sox, Cavalli could be an exciting addition providing much-needed starting pitching depth. It’s challenging to know what they have in Dane Dunning, Jimmy Lambert, and Jonathan Stiever for various reasons (injuries for the first two, short track record for the third). Having another blue-chip pitching prospect could also provide Rick Hahn with some comfort if Reynaldo Lopez or Dylan Cease don’t pan out as planned.

(Photo of L. Dale Mitchell Baseball Park by Michael Barera)

More Draft Coverage

Take a second to support Sox Machine on Patreon
Josh Nelson
Josh Nelson

Josh Nelson is the host and producer of the Sox Machine Podcast. For show suggestions, guest appearances, and sponsorship opportunities, you can reach him via email at josh@soxmachine.com.

Articles: 917