Nationals President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo talked about what the team's first-round pick Erick Fedde brings to the table.
"He is a plus-stuff guy," Rizzo said. "We scouted him intensely over the last three years. He has got two plus-plus pitches and his third pitch, changeup, is on the come. We think that is going to be an above average pitch. Big physical guy. We had him towards the top of our draft board. We felt the risk of him rehabbing and coming back to pre injury form was worth the draft pick."
Fedde had Tommy John surgery June 3. Rizzo said the organization has grown comfortable with the recovery time and their rehab process that has worked well with their front line starters like Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, as well as others.
"As the more successful rehabs from the Tommy John and as the surgery has improved, the techniques, we felt more comfortable, obviously with Tommy John and elbow injuries than we have in the past," Rizzo said.
They had him as a top 10 guy early in the year. They scouted him "intensely" on Team USA and UNLV.
Nationals scouting director Kris Kline watched Fedde with both teams, Team USA and UNLV, this past season. He was very impressed. He believed Fedde would not be available at the Nationals selection because he was so good.
"Actually saw his first start of the year at UNLV and it was really, really good," Kline said. "I walked out of there thinking that we have got no shot at getting this player because he was top five kind of guy. Through the sixth inning, he was still 95 to 98 mph. He doesn't throw anything straight. It's a lot of life, real heavy, above average slide, up to 88 mph and the makings and flashes of an above average changeup. Lot of strikes, very competitive guy, looks a lot like if you guys remember Jack McDowell, body type, delivery, that type of thing, with a more fastball.
"When I left there in my mind he was a definite candidate to be a front line starter in the big leagues. I still feel that is what he is. The guys that we could have taken behind him with Erick being healthy after post surgery we still feel like he is the better guy. I think it was an easy pick for us there."
Rizzo said they asked Fedde's high school teammate, Bryce Harper, about what kind of a player he was.
"We have known him for a long time," Rizzo said. "He went to high school with (Bryce Harper) Harp. He said a lot of good things about him. Obviously, talked to his college coach and did an extensive background on the guy. We feel comfortable with him. We have a history on him back to his early days at UNLV to Team USA to his junior season at UNLV. We know the character and the makeup of the player. You could tell on the field he's a very competitive, athletic, bulldog type mentality."
Rizzo said Fedde will follow the same rehab path that top prospect Lucas Giolito is on now, just a different timeline because Fedde just had his surgery this week.
"He just had surgery just a couple days ago," Rizzo said. "We'll put him on the Viera rehab mode, and he'll get to know all the restaurants in Viera, Fla., and have our really talented rehab coordinators get after it and allow him to hopefully be pitching at this time next year somewhere."
Does Rizzo believe he will sign quickly? Does having a prior relationship with his agent Scott Boras help?
"We've dealt several times before (with Boras)," Rizzo said. "I don't know if that's a comfort level, having just because we're comfortable dealing with each other. We're not sure, we're going to begin the process and see if we can get him out, get him signed and get him rehabbing so we can take the next step toward seeing him pitch out here at Nats Park."
The Nationals have selected recently some players with injury question marks. Giolito last season and Rendon had ankle and shoulder questions by some prognosticators.
"We don't take hollow chances," Rizzo said. "We do a lot of research, we do a lot of background checks. Obviously, we 're hand-in-hand with our medical team here. We think our medical team is some of the finest in the game. We've had very good success in rehabbing these type of players. Each situation is individual and different. Anthony Rendon, we felt that there was no risk whatsoever with Rendon. We knew his shoulder was fine. We did the research on it, and when he got to us at six, we were extremely comfortable with it.
"Lucas Giolito, we knew going into it that we were going to get a young 17-year-old power pitcher that's going to need Tommy John surgery, and hopefully he rehabs from it and becomes the pitcher that we saw pre-injury, and we're hoping the same thing here. We just felt, again, the upside of this, a guy that we feel is going to be a front-of-the-rotation type of right-handed starter if the rehab goes well and if he returns to form, we felt that the risk at 18 in the draft was worth the possible reward."
How does it work until he's signed - rehab process?
"We'll have communication and interaction with the Boras Corporation," Rizzo said. "But they do a good job in their own right. They have a good core of medical people on their staff, I know their fitness and training guy very well and they'll do right by him until ... they pass the rehab responsibilities off to us."