Nationals fans need any hope they can get right now. After heartbreaking trades of generational talents, major superstars facing career ending injuries, and an abundance of losses, Washington fans are looking for any glimmer of light they can find. The main source of hope for the future amongst the fanbase has been the young, promising prospects in the Nationals’ farm system. Whether they arrived through a trade or were drafted by the organization, there’s a list of names that will make most fans at least somewhat excited. Unfortunately, this has turned into some fans setting themselves up for disappointment by putting too much on the shoulders of these young players. While they are undoubtedly a major source for excitement and gleeful anticipation, they are still human.
A striking example of this is 24 year old pitching prospect Cade Cavalli. Cade is a prospect who quickly made a name for himself among Nats fans. He was drafted in the first round in the 2020 draft with the 22nd pick. The following season, Cavalli put together solid numbers across three minor league levels in 2021. Over 123.1 innings across A+, AA, and AAA ball, he averaged a 3.36 ERA and a 1.265 WHIP, and struck out 175 batters. At a time when the Nationals needed pitching, Cavalli cemented himself as a name to watch for in the future.
As the excitement within the fan base grew, the organization also took note of his success. Cavalli was called up in August of 2022 to pitch in the major league. His debut did not go as many had hoped and anticipated it would. Across 4.1 innings, Cavalli allowed 6 hits and 7 earned runs. There could be numerous possibilities for why this was, as Will details in this article, however it is undeniable that it went poorly. As if the universe wanted to dash these hopes even more, Cavalli seemed to injure himself in a recent spring training start, and will have to go through all the necessary processes so he —and Nationals fans— can understand just what kind of toll this will take on his career. Obviously, this is all crushing for many fans. This young hopeful talent is one who many expected —and some may even still expect— to help lead this franchise to success.
These incredibly high expectations are where we run into a problem. Throughout baseball’s history, young players have always had a massive amount bet on their futures. This alone is a great thing. It serves as a way for fans to remain invested and excited even when their current MLB roster isn’t performing well. Nats fans especially know this feeling. Still, there reaches a point where we can set the bar too high.
Everyone knows that the performance of MLB prospects is never a sure thing. Nonetheless, we can still get caught up in the excitement of new players that we’re sure will be stars. This makes it seem like every setback or bump in the road is a case for total defeat. When in reality, this is just the way baseball goes sometimes. Cade Cavalli’s poor MLB outing and injury problems are only two examples. This is not to say that we cannot or should not be disappointed by these events. Many Nats fans —myself included— were very upset to hear that Cade Cavalli will have to undergo Tommy John surgery and will not pitch in 2023. However, as fans we simply have to adjust our expectations and take our wins where we can get them.
A similar situation arose around Josiah Gray’s stat line at the end of the 2022 season. His 5.02 ERA may not have been what many fans were hoping for, particularly because of the trade he was involved in. However, we have to remember that these players are still just young adults. Cavalli and Keibert Ruiz are only 24. Josiah Gray is only 25. CJ Abrams is only 22. The current Nationals lineup is filled with players who are only a few years separated from college.
There is no need to panic. While Nats fans have been somewhat spoiled by debuts like Stephen Strasburg’s, exciting rookie years like Bryce Harper’s, and superstar performances from incredibly young players like Juan Soto, not every prospect will do that. Most of these individuals will need time to adjust to the MLB and settle into their role as a Nat. As fans, we shouldn’t keep our expectations at the lowest level, but we also shouldn’t expect our prospects to be young baseball phenoms from day one. Having hope is never a bad quality, but as cliché as it may sound, patience is a virtue.
There are many young players to be very excited about within the Nationals organization. Names like CJ Abrams, Keibert Ruiz, Luis Garcia, James Wood, Robert Hassell III, Elijah Green, and Jarlin Susana, along with several others, should generate eagerness and anticipation with Nationals fans. Nevertheless, the expectations for them should remain grounded. They likely won’t all immediately make a massive impact. They may face setbacks in the way of injuries or poor stretches of play, but that shouldn’t immediately be a reason to give up on them. No matter what happens along the way, we as fans can just root for them and hope that the kids are alright.