Washington Nationals' Assistant GM and VP of Scouting Operations Kris Kline saw Nats' 2014 1st Round pick Erick Fedde's first start of the year for UNLV.
"It was really, really good," Kline told reporters last night.
"I walked out of there thinking that we've got no shot at getting this player because he's a Top 5-type guy. Through the sixth inning he was still 95-98 [mph]. He doesn't throw anything straight. A lot of life, very heavy. Above-average slider, up to 88 and the makings and flashes of an above-average changeup. A lot of strikes. Very competitive guy."
Nats' GM Mike Rizzo too talked about Fedde's changeup being a potential weapon. "He's a plus stuff guy," Rizzo said. "We've scouted him intensely over the last three years. He's got two plus plus pitches and his third pitch, the changeup is on the come. We think that's going to be an above-average pitch."
In an interview this afternoon, a day after the Nationals made Fedde the 18th overall pick in the 1st Round of the 2014 MLB Draft, Fedde said the pitch was something he focused on from the start of his junior year.
"The changeup was a difference-maker this year and probably the big number difference from my freshman and sophomore year," the 21-year-old right-hander explained.
"It was a big focus going into the fall and into the spring, and I was able to get a lot of work in on it and I felt, before the injury, felt very comfortable with it and I think it can be a weapon in the near future."
The injury Fedde referred to was, of course, a torn UCL in his right elbow, which ended his 2014 campaign after 11 starts and 76 2/3 IP over which he posted a 1.76 ERA, 21 walks (2.46 BB/9) and 82 Ks (9.62 K/9) while holding opposing hitters to a .209 AVG. His numbers were significantly improved over his first two seasons with the Rebels.
In 2012, he was (6-5) with a 3.59 ERA, a .261 BAA, 33 walks (3.29 BB/9) and 66 Ks (6.58 K/9) in 15 starts and 90 1/3 IP. In his sophomore season, he was (7-3) with a 3.92 ERA, .264 BAA, 28 walks (2.62 BB/9) and 83 Ks (7.75 K/9) in 15 starts and 96 1/3 IP.
His junior year ended abruptly, however.
"I initially felt that I tore my UCL against New Mexico," he said. "I believe it was about six weeks ago. And in the game I felt it I think in the seventh inning and then ended up finishing that inning before being pulled. At first I didn't believe -- we did all the valgus tests, I believe they're called, to see if the ligament was torn -- and I passed all of them. So we ended up taking two weeks just trying to recover before I got the MRI to find out that the UCL was actually torn."
"It was definitely a shock," Fedde continued. "It hit me pretty hard and I was really upset about it, but I had a lot of people telling me it's been a very common procedure and the percentage of guys coming back has been so high that it will be okay if I just work hard in rehab."
All of a sudden his draft prospects were in question.
Considered by the Nationals a potential Top 5-10 pick, Fedde said he just hoped he would still go in the first round.
"After Tommy John I was just hoping going into the Draft that I would get selected," he said today. "Hopefully, in the first round still. That was my expectation and hope and I was lucky enough for that to happen."
"I realized I was probably going to take a hit in how high I was going to go, but I'm just ecstatic that the Nationals took me 18th and just excited to be a part of the organization."
Truly blessed to be picked by such an amazing organization! Can't wait to be back on the field to show they made a great decision #Nationals— Fedde (@ErickFedde) June 6, 2014
The right-hander has a long way to go as he works his way back.
As the Nationals' GM told reporters last night, it will be a long, tough year before Fedde is back on a mound.
"He just had surgery a couple days ago," Rizzo said.
"So we’ll put him on the Viera rehab mode and he’ll get to know all of the restaurants in Viera, FL, and have our really talented rehab coordinators get after it and allow him to hopefully be pitching at this time next year."
"Arm hurts a little," Fedde said, just days after the procedure. "But it's not too bad. I'm not too sure about the whole recovery process. I go back in on Thursday to get the cast and stitches out so then I'll probably be talking with Dr. [Neal] ElAttrache about the whole recovery process, but I think it should be hopefully around a year until I'm back on the mound."
Fedde's taking an aggressive approach to his rehab already.
"I'm going to take full advantage of the year I have to recover and try to get in as best and the top physical shape that I can."