Scouts considered Nate Savino as a likely first-round pick in the 2020 MLB draft. The then-left-handed prep pitcher from Virginia didn’t get caught up in the draft attention, though. Instead, Savino graduated high school early and enrolled at the University of Virginia.
The move allowed Savino to start his collegiate career and suit up for the Cavaliers in 2020.
“Three years in college is like three years in the minors,” Savino said. “I rather have had the fun three years in college and had all those experiences rather than be in the minor leagues with a bunch of older guys.”
Savino’s freshman season ended prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though his first year didn’t transpire as he anticipated, Savino has enjoyed his first 2½ years at Virginia.
The left-handed pitcher has developed physically and mentally on the mound while playing a pivotal role in Virginia’s College World Series run last season.
This season will be an important year for Savino. Two years after removing his name from the draft, Savino is eligible for the 2022 draft. Scouts project Savino as a potential early-round pick. If he can show growth on the mound this spring, Savino could vault into first-round consideration.
“I’m super excited,” Savino said. “Going through it is a dream come true. It is something I’ve dreamt of since I was a kid, and it’s something I still dream about.”
Savino posted a 3.38 ERA with 10 strikeouts and five walks allowed in 10 2/3 innings in four appearances as a freshman. Although the season ended early, it gave Savino a taste of the college game, and he learned what he needed to do to succeed against talented hitters.
Last year, Savino worked mainly as a starting pitcher, recording a 3.79 ERA with 34 strikeouts and 16 walks allowed in 54 2/3 innings in 16 games.
Savino is a 6-foot-3, 195-pound left-hander who throws a four-seam fastball, two-seamer, slider, and changeup from a three-quarters arm slot and athletic delivery, which he repeats well.
Last year, Savino rarely used his four-seam fastball. His goal this season is to use it regularly to attack hitters in the top part of the strike zone. He has confidence in his two-seamer, and it features solid movement. His fastballs sit in the low-90s and touch the mid-90s.
Savino’s slider serves as his outpitch, while his changeup has developed into a solid offering.
“My ability to hit my spots is my biggest strength,” Savino said. “For me, after my games, I just break my pitches down and look at the video to see what I was doing.”
Although Savino has the intangibles and skills, he hasn’t missed as many bats as scouts initially anticipated. To improve in that area, Savino worked on his slider in the offseason.
His slider is now a tighter offering instead of a sweeping slider that he previously threw. He also is throwing his slider from the same arm slot as his fastball, which has increased the velocity.
“Last year, my slider wasn’t tight, and I would slide it across the plate,” Savino said. “I’d start it on the outside part of the plate so that it would break down the middle. I have worked on it a ton, and I need it to be tighter. I want to throw it down the middle and have it break at the hitter’s feet.”
Last year, Virginia had one of its best seasons in recent memory, as they made their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2017. The Cavaliers finished the year with a 36-27 record and advanced to the College World Series for the first time since 2015.
This season, the Cavaliers hope to build on last year’s success and return to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Savino said. “We didn’t win it, but still, it was one of the greatest experiences in my life. I’m really hoping we can make it back this year. We can do it, and we just have to put it all together like we did last season.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for seven years. He has interviewed 356 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.