Washington Nationals top pitching prospect Erick Fedde will be taking part in his first major league Spring Training this year. He may not make the Opening Day roster, but Fedde will pitch for the Nats at some point this season.
Ladies and gentlemen, baseball has arrived. The Washington Nationals’ pitchers and catchers report to West Palm Beach, Florida, today for the first official day of Spring Training. Reigning Cy Young winner Max Scherzer and former No. 1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg may receive most of the attention in the next few days, but top pitching prospect Erick Fedde deserves a look in his own right.
Fedde, the 23-year old right-hander out of Las Vegas, ranked among baseball’s top 60 prospects by both MLB Pipeline and Baseball Prospectus. After reaching Double-A for the first time in his young career last season, the Nats’ most prized arm will have a chance to make an impression on the organization’s top coaches and evaluators.
The big league club’s rotation is all but set and the bullpen’s last few spots will be highly coveted, giving Fedde slim chances of breaking camp with the team. He only made five starts for AA-Harrisburg last season and still has yet to fully develop his changeup, suggesting he’ll probably need a few months in the minors to make adjustments.
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Entering his third season since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014, Fedde is coming off a year in which he tossed 121 professional innings. Based on the Nats’ handling of Tommy John recipients Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann in the past, it’s likely that Fedde pitches somewhere around 185 innings in 2017.
With a fastball velocity that hovers in the 91-94 mph range and knee-buckling slider, there’s a lot to like about Fedde’s chances of developing into a mid-to-front-end starter. His 9.1 K/9 and 0.31 HR/9 rates he posted between Single and Double-A last season would make any front office giddy at the thought of sliding him alongside Scherzer and Strasburg in the rotation.
As Teddy Cahill of Baseball America said:
"“He’s throwing more strikes. He’s always been a guy that has had control and he’s getting that back. His strength is there. Running the ball pretty good. He got to Double-A this year, which is an important step for him. He will probably go back; he didn’t have that much time there. As he gets further away from surgery, he’s getting better and better and starting to look more like that guy everyone thought he would be.”"
While Fedde’s will likely be placed on an innings limit, don’t be surprised if he’s promoted to the majors at some point this season. Strasburg and young righty Joe Ross both have extensive injury histories, as does nearly half of the current projected bullpen arms. Even if they all do manage to stay healthy, Fedde would be a good bet to see the Nats’ dugout once rosters expand in September.
He’s made several significant strides in the right direction, and the front office’s noticed. Fans may have been disappointed to see top prospects Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez shipped to Chicago earlier this winter, but Fedde still stands out as a promising future starter. If anything, the fact that the team was willing to part ways with Giolito and Lopez rather than working Fedde into the deal speaks volumes of how the team sees his potential.