As we transition into offseason mode here, we’re reviewing each significant player on the Nationals roster. We continue today with Erick Fedde, who made his highly anticipated debut this year ...
PLAYER REVIEW: ERICK FEDDE
Age on opening day 2018: 25
How acquired: First-round pick, 2014 draft
MLB service time: 39 days
2017 salary: $535,000
Contract status: Under team control in 2018, arbitration-eligible in 2021, free agent in 2024
2017 stats: 0-1, 9.39 ERA, 3 GS, 15 1/3 IP, 25 H, 16 R, 16 ER, 5 HR, 8 BB, 15 SO, 1 HBP, 2.152 WHIP, -0.3 WAR
Quotable: “He’s been through a lot this season. Started him off in spring training as a starter, kind of shortening up his innings as a reliever, and then stretched him out as a starter. We felt it was a good time to shut him down and to get healthy and prepared for next spring training.” - Mike Rizzo on Fedde, who was shut down for the season in early September with a flexor mass strain in his forearm
2017 analysis: When Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez were traded last winter for Adam Eaton, Fedde immediately jumped to the top of the Nationals’ minor league pitching depth chart. Suddenly the organization’s No. 1 prospect, the young right-hander was going to be counted on to make his major league debut sometime in 2017.
But when the Nats’ biggest early season problem was in the bullpen, the organization made the decision to have Fedde start pitching out of the ‘pen at Double-A Harrisburg, then Triple-A Syracuse. He wound up spending two hit-or-miss months as a reliever, then returned to a starting role in advance of his first career call-up July 30.
Facing a day-night doubleheader against the Rockies, the Nationals had little choice but to throw Fedde to the wolves against that talented lineup, and he suffered as a result, giving up seven runs in four innings. His next assignment - against the Cubs at Wrigley Field - was no easier, but he pitched better. Fedde’s third start came at the end of August against the Mets, and though he threw 112 pitches over six innings, his velocity was noticeably down several ticks.
Though Fedde insisted his arm felt fine, the Nationals sent him to get an MRI, which revealed the flexor mass strain in his forearm. Rather than have him attempt to rehab at that late stage of the season, the club decided to shut him down and give him ample time to prepare for 2018.
2018 outlook: In their ideal scenario, the Nationals expected Fedde to impress as a rookie this season and enter next season ready to hold down a rotation spot. But they can’t make that leap at this point, not based on the limited sample they saw of him in 2017.
Fedde wound up throwing only 105 2/3 total innings this year between the majors and minors, down from his 2016 total of 121, and that’s not an ideal scenario, either. His season-ending injury didn’t help matters and will be some cause for concern heading into spring training, especially when you consider his prior injury history (Tommy John surgery days before he was drafted in 2014).
At this point, the best scenario is for Fedde to show up to West Palm Beach healthy and enjoy a strong spring. He would then open the season in the rotation at Syracuse and get a chance to pitch every fifth day, possibly with some innings restrictions along the way. If all goes well, the Nats would promote him sometime in the summer and then hope he carries his success over and becomes a rotation mainstay.