Washington Nationals: What to expect in Erick Fedde’s debut

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WEST PALM BEACH, FL - MARCH 23: Erick Fedde #62 of the Washington Nationals pitches in the first inning of a Grapefruit League spring training game against the New York Mets at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on March 23, 2017 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
WEST PALM BEACH, FL - MARCH 23: Erick Fedde #62 of the Washington Nationals pitches in the first inning of a Grapefruit League spring training game against the New York Mets at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on March 23, 2017 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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Tonight, Washington Nationals top prospect Erick Fedde makes his big league debut against the Rockies. What should you expect?

With Stephen Strasburg on the disabled list, the Washington Nationals will send Erick Fedde to the mound as he makes his major league debut this afternoon against the Colorado Rockies. In a year where Fedde has gone back and forth between a starter and reliever, he will finally get his chance at the big league spotlight.

Since he hasn’t thrown in a game since July 19, the first thing to look out for is going to be any rust. He did throw a bullpen session at Triple-A Syracuse before being promoted. Another factor is going to be the pitch count, when you consider he didn’t thrown more than 71 pitches in an outing with the Chiefs.

One of the pitches that have improved this season for the 24-year-old right-hander has been his changeup. When I talked with Kevin Brown, who is the play-by-play announcer for the Chiefs, he talked about how that pitch has been key for Fedde in getting groundball outs.

"“It’s smart of him to work on the changeup and to understand that it’s about developing pitches, said Brown about Fedde using that pitch at the Triple-A level. If he doesn’t pick up many strikeouts, but throws more changeup and that pitch becomes a bigger weapon for him in the long run, I think that’s great.”"

 

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Since joining the Syracuse rotation, Fedde has ten strikeouts in five starts, but he has the strikeout capabilities. His fastball can get up into the 95-97 mile per hour range and he has very nasty movement on his slider. Last year, he did have 9.1 strikeouts per nine combined between High-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg.

Fedde faces a huge test this afternoon against one of the tougher lineups in baseball, but the key for him is going to be to get the ball down in the zone. If he hangs a slider or misses location with the heater, players like Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon can make him pay for it.

Earlier this month, I had the privilege to talk to Fedde about if there is any pressure about him being one of the top prospects in the Washington Nationals organization:

"“If anything, I don’t view it as pressure. I view it as a confidence booster. When you are out there on the mound, you know people believe you are something special. It gives me confidence more than pressure.”"

For Fedde, there isn’t much pressure on him in this outing. True, the hype around this outing is comparable to what Lucas Giolito or Reynaldo Lopez had last year. However, the Nats have a double-digit lead in the NL East and Fedde is still continuing to stretch himself back into a starter. Without many pitches to work with, it will be interesting to watch how he goes about navigating this lineup.

The pressure isn’t as high, but the Nats first round pick back in 2014 out of UNLV could impress the front office enough to either stay in the rotation while Strasburg heals or take Edwin jackson’s spot in the rotation if his struggles continue.

Next: Grading Mike Rizzo's biggest trades

All in all, this is a great moment for Fedde and his family. Hopefully he enjoys it and it’s the first of many major league starts going forward in his future.

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