On Friday, the Washington Nationals and the rest of Major League Baseball were forced to make roster decisions by either tendering their Arbitration-Eligible players a contract for the 2023 season, or Non-Tendering them and making them a Free Agent this Winter. The Nationals do not have much set in stone in regards to everyday players or foundational players, so it was always going to be curious to see what direction they chose come roster day. There were ten players who were eligible for arbitration, and the Nats tendered contracts to eight of the ten. Among those non-tendered were RHP, and former first round pick, Erick Fedde as well as 1B/DH Luke Voit, who was acquired in the Juan Soto trade in August. Voit could still be brought back for less than he was projected to make in arbitration, but Fedde’s time with the team has most likely come to an end, highlighting again an organizational failure to adequately draft and develop.
Erick Fedde was drafted 18th overall by the Nationals in 2014 out of UNLV. In his college career, Fedde posted a respectable 3.18 ERA in 263 innings, but it was his final year that catapulted him into the first round as he posted a 1.76 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP in 76.2 Innings. Fedde made his Major League debut with the Nationals in 2017, but struggled to stick at first as the Nationals already had the likes of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and others. Even following their departures, and a new need for starting pitching, Fedde struggled. In his time across 6 Major League seasons, Fedde never posted an ERA below 4.29, and was more frequently in the 5+ range.
Now this isn’t a post meant to bash Erick Fedde, but rather highlight an organizational inability to adequately draft and develop players, especially in the first round. Players like Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon cover a lot of the misses, but Rendon was drafted all the way back in 2011, and Strasburg and Harper even farther back. It has been over a decade since the Nationals produced a quality first round pick.
Of course there are certain extenuating circumstances that occur, like injuries for example. That is why you won’t hear me criticize picks like Mason Denaburg, who has undergone multiple major arm surgeries in the past few years. And it’s not like every first round pick is guaranteed to have success to begin with, so it is unreasonable to expect a 100% success rate in drafts. But do the Nats even have any success in the past decade?
Here is the list of the Nationals first round picks since Anthony Rendon in 2011:
- 2011 – RHP Alex Meyer
- 2011 – OF Brian Goodwin
- 2012 – RHP Lucas Giolito
- 2014 – RHP Erick Fedde
- 2016 – INF Carter Kieboom
- 2016 – RHP Dane Dunning
- 2017 – LHP Seth Romero
- 2018 – RHP Mason Denaburg
- 2019 – RHP Jackson Rutledge
- 2020 – RHP Cade Cavalli
- 2021 – INF Brady House
- 2022 – OF Elijah Green
Now it is obviously too early to judge Rutledge, Cavalli, House or Green. And as I pointed out, it’s also a bit unfair to judge Denaburg, but it also doesn’t seem like the Nationals can expect him to contribute at the Major League level any time soon, so in all respects, it is another draft miss. Of the rest, Lucas Giolito stands out, but he and Dane Dunning were traded to Chicago in the infamous Adam Eaton trade. Giolito only made a couple of starts for the Nationals, and not great ones, before he was dealt. I don’t think you can give the Nationals any credit, really, as Giolito was statistically the worst pitcher in baseball in 2018 with Chicago, his first full season, before he and the White Sox figured it out and went on to post three straight seasons of a sub-3.60 ERA.
It is also worth mentioning Seth Romero, who the Nationals also non-tendered this past Friday. However, this decision was likely due to Romero’s repeated off-the-field issues and multiple DWI’s. The organization has always had a strict stance to off-the-field issues, as they should.
So of the eight picks prior to 2019, I’d give the Nationals a crisp 0 for 8. If you want to argue Giolito shouldn’t count, it is still 0 for 7. And no, I don’t believe Carter Kieboom will develop into a major league player, at least with this team.
This is one of many reasons why I have always been critical of the decision-making, particularly the draft-and-develop strategy the Nats are employing now. There has been no evidence of an ability to do so effectively, and that’s for entire draft classes, not just the first round. Now the Nationals have revamped their scout staff and analytic staff, but the verdict is still out on whether or not it will have any success.
Erick Fedde becomes the latest in a long line of talented players the Nationals could not develop. Even Austin Voth immediately found success elsewhere upon his release. Maybe the same could happen for Fedde, but it was certainly not here.