Jordan Zimmerman. Stephen Strasburg. Lucas Giolito. Three exciting arms who are still rising to great success because the Washington Nationals exhibited patience as they traveled the long road to recovery from Tommy John surgery.
Is Erick Fedde the next in line in the nation’s capital?
Fedde was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the first round of the 2014 MLB Draft. The big right-hander was UNLV’s Friday-night starter since his freshman season and was seen as a potential top pick after he posted a monster junior season, going 8-2 with a 1.76 ERA and registering more than one strikeout per inning. When he had Tommy John surgery in May, weeks before the draft, some felt his stock could drop to the end of the first round, but the Nationals swooped in and selected their next comeback project 18th overall.
He would be on the shelf until June of 2015. His long-awaited debut came on June 21 in the Short-Season New York-Penn League. Fedde went three innings, striking out four and walking three. He landed 63 percent of his pitches for strikes and looked like he could be close to being right back to where he was pre-injury.
Fedde’s 2015 couldn’t have gone better for someone who was on the recovery trail. While his top velocity on his fastball came across higher in college than it did as a pro, he was still throwing in the 90s, but more importantly, he was throwing with accuracy. Velocity works it’s own way back post-Tommy John, but command and control are often behind for some time and take a lot of work.
Not for Fedde. He continued to be the strike-thrower that earned him that elite draft prospect status. He finished his 2015 with a promotion to Hagerstown in the South Atlantic League.
The Nationals are known for taking it slow and sticking to the plan, and Fedde didn’t exceed five innings in any start. The 6-foot-4, 180-pound hurler finished 5-3 over both levels, posting a 3.38 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over 14 starts. He struck out 59 (8.3 per nine) and walked just 16 (2.25 per nine). His sinking fastball kept the ball in the park, allowing just two home runs and an impressive 1.62 ground ball to fly ball rate.
Fedde is a sinker-ball pitcher, with solid command of his fastball. It has been hitting consistently between 90 and 94 this season, about two ticks lower than his college velocity. Sometimes he has been able to take a little bit off of it and get people chasing the big sinking action in the high-80s. He mixes in a sharp slider that appears to be ready for the next level and can induce plenty of swings and misses. His changeup is a fringe pitch that some feel is behind, but most feel works well when his fastball is on point.
He looks like he works the third base side of the mound, but comes straight at the batter with a big leg kick. He doesn’t seem to have too much trouble repeating his delivery, but he also looks like he works in doing so, often times exhibiting the dreaded “Inverted W”.
This year started off a bit differently for Fedde. Now 23 years old and in High-A Potomac, the righty allowed 25 runs over his first seven starts, getting uncharacteristically tagged for three home runs in his second start of the season. Heading into his May 23 start, Fedde had a 6.62 ERA, a 1.44 WHIP and a 0.91 ground ball rate.
Starting with that May 23 start — and minus a brief stint on the disabled list — Fedde has allowed just three runs in his last eight appearances (a 0.69 ERA), seven of which were starts. He’s allowed seven home runs on the season, but just two have come during this hot streak, seeing his ground ball rate rise to 1.21. Most impressively, he’s walked more than one batter in a game just once, posting a 36-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 39 innings. He has his ERA down to 3.45 — coming off of consecutive scoreless six-inning outings — and his WHIP down to 1.15. Simply put, Fedde has been lights-out and Double-A is likely on the horizon.
For more analysis and some projections, head on over to Today’s Knuckleball for my full piece on The Fedde by clicking the link below: