Was strong finish enough for Fedde to earn spot in rotation?

Our offseason player review series continues today with Erick Fedde, who showed improvement after getting a chance to stick in the rotation.

PLAYER REVIEW: ERICK FEDDE

Age on opening day 2021: 28

How acquired: First-round pick, 2014 draft

MLB service time: 2 years, 99 days

2020 salary: $563,500 (prorated $208,704)

Contract status: Possibly arbitration-eligible in 2021, free agent in 2025

2020 stats: 2-4, 4.29 ERA, 11 G, 8 GS, 0 CG, 50 1/3 IP, 47 H, 25 R, 24 ER, 10 HR, 22 BB, 28 SO, 3 HBP, 1.371 WHIP, 107 ERA+, 6.15 FIP, -0.3 fWAR, 1.5 bWAR

Quotable: “What I really liked with him, he used to get to a point about the fourth inning or so where he got tired and he threw a lot of pitches. It seems like now every outing he’s got a little more stamina and he’s starting to go a little longer, little longer. ... This is something that he understands: If he wants to go deep, his pitch count can’t go 120 pitches every outing. He’s worked on it and done well.” - Manager Davey Martinez on Fedde

Fedde-Slings-It-Gray-Sidebar.jpg2020 analysis: He’s bounced around between Triple-A, the Nationals bullpen and rotation so much over the last few years, Fedde has learned how to just shrug it off and pitch whenever and wherever he’s asked. But this season perhaps provided some evidence the right-hander really is best served starting every fifth day in the big leagues.

Thrown into the fire at the last minute when Stephen Strasburg was scratched from his first start of the season with his wrist injury, Fedde fared well in a four-inning outing against the Yankees. He went back to the bullpen in early August, but was thrown into the fire once again when Strasburg departed in the first inning in Baltimore and proceeded to toss 5 1/3 scoreless innings.

Fedde got to remain in the rotation the rest of the way. And though there were a couple of bumps early on against tough Phillies and Braves lineups, he finished strong. Over his final three starts (against the Braves, Marlins and Phillies), he allowed five runs and 19 baserunners over 18 innings and twice topped the 100-pitch mark.

Fedde’s success came when he was able to use his sinker effectively and induce weak contact. He was especially good against left-handed hitters, who batted just .188 with a .590 OPS against him. (Righties hit .278 with an .889 OPS.)

2021 outlook: As has been the case for years, Fedde will report to spring training competing for a job, whether in the rotation or in the bullpen. Once again, nothing will be assured and he’ll need to earn his spot.

And once again, Fedde’s fate could be directly tied to the fates of Joe Ross and Austin Voth, who both figure to be in the mix as well. Ross seemed to have the inside track for the No. 5 starter’s job this season, but who knows if his standing will change after opting out of the 2020 season. Voth, meanwhile, was far less effective than Fedde this year and continues to look like he might be more effective as a reliever who only has to face a lineup once.

Still, Fedde has much to prove. And because he doesn’t have blow-you-away stuff other big league right-handers have, he’s always going to be looked at differently by talent evaluators who question whether he can be successful without posting big strikeout numbers.

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