For the second consecutive draft, the Nationals’ top selection underwent successful Tommy John surgery within a few weeks of being selected.
This time, it was former UNLV right-hander Erick Fedde, who was so tough he pitched for Team USA while fighting through an injury.
His college coach, Tim Chambers, said the right-hander “really sold out for (him)” while with the Runnin’ Rebels.
Now, as my colleague Dan Kolko reports, Fedde is back to beginning his throwing program. His schedule will most likely mirror that of Lucas Giolito, who had his innings limited last season, even to the point where he didn’t pitch for three weeks in late May.
Chris Mellen, co-director of the Baseball Prospectus prospect team, has Fedde listed as the Nationals’ fifth-best prospect.
No. 5: right-hander Erick Fedde
“With Fedde, without the injury, he was trending as a potential top-10 draft pick in this year’s draft (and) there was a lot of feedback with him,” Mellen said. “He shows a very good moving fastball, low-90s mph, good sink, good run. He shows ability to throw strikes with that fastball and a slider, tight slider that moves fast.”
Mellen said the changeup is a key pitch for any young hurler making his first steps into the pros, and Fedde will focus on that pitch as he rehabs.
“The changeup is kind of a new pitch for him in the repertoire. It is something he incorporated last season, his sophomore season,” Mellen said. “He started throwing a lot. Really a focus on it in his junior year to particularly incorporate that more in his sequences and use it. Knowing that if you want to be a major league pitcher, you need at least three pitches, be able to command those pitches and have sharpness to it.”
But recovering from Tommy John is still a major adjustment. Mellen feels the Nationals’ experience with this injury and how to be careful and measured in their pacing for Fedde’s return offers a good chance for big dividends in the end.
“The injury is kind of a big wild card,” Mellen said. “The track record with the organization is that they are able to rehab these guys back. I see people around saying there is a 90 percent chance of recovery with it now, it is more of a routine injury. There is still that cloud. We are not going to really know much about him during 2015. Obviously, this is going to be about recovering and rehabilitation.”
Mellen believes the Nationals could have a No. 3-type starter in Fedde or he could trend to a Tyler Clippard-type role out of the bullpen.
“It is a little bit wait and see, but I felt given the talent level, given the pedigree with him, and just the ability that if doesn’t come back to form, or the changeup doesn’t progress, he could be a that late-inning type with a feeling of a mid-rotational starter,” Mellen said.