The reports from GM Mike Rizzo and Assistant GM and VP of Scouting Operations Kris Kline after they selected Erick Fedde out of UNLV with the 18th overall pick of the 2014 Draft were glowing to say the least.
"He's a plus stuff guy," Rizzo told reporters. "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. Big physical guy, and we had him towards the top of our draft board and we thought the risk of him rehabbing and coming back to pre-injury form was worth the draft pick."
"He doesn't throw anything straight," Kline said. "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. Looks a lot like, if you guys remember Jack McDowell, body-type, delivery, that type of thing with a little more fastball."
Both members of the Washington Nationals' front office agreed, if Fedde hadn't suffered a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, the then-21-year-old right-hander would never have been available for them to pick.
Kline recalled watching him pitch on a scouting trip early in the 2014 season.
"I walked out of there thinking that we've got no shot at getting this player because he's a Top 5-type guy," he said.
"Early in the year we had him certainly as a Top 10 guy and possibly even higher than that," Rizzo told reporters.
Baseball America's John Manuel told MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr this winter that Nationals' scouts saw Fedde right before the injury, and, "they use a 2-to-8 scale," and, "they had [him] with a 7 fastball, a 7 slider and a 6 changeup."
Kline, he said, "could not stop gushing about Erick Fedde."
By January, Fedde was throwing on flat ground, and he told MLB.com's Bill Ladson that he was working hard to return to competitive action.
"I'll work my way up," he said. "I hope to get some rehab starts. Hopefully, July time, we'll see what happens from there. I want to be on the mound and be somewhat like my old self at some point of the year.'"
Before he threw a pitch as a professional, Fedde was ranked fourth overall in the Nats' organization by Baseball America. Baseball Prospectus ranked Fedde 5th overall. MLB.com's organizational rankings had Fedde 4th.
Fedde was back on the mound in June.
The now-22-year-old starter made his professional debut with the Auburn Doubledays on June 21st and made eight starts total for the Nationals' NY/Penn League affiliate, going (4-1) with eight walks (2.06 BB/9) and 36 Ks (9.26 K/9) in 35 innings before he was promoted to the Low-A Hagerstown Suns, for whom he made six starts, with eight walks (2.48 BB/9) and 23 Ks (7.14 K/9) in 29 innings.
In his final outing of the 2015 campaign, in the Suns' season finale, Fedde threw five scoreless innings, giving up two hits and a walk while striking out seven and earning his first win in the South Atlantic League.
Overall, Fedde went (5-3) in 14 starts with a 3.38 ERA in 64 innings, over which he held opposing hitters to a .246 batting average against.
So what does the future hold for the Nationals' 2014 1st Round pick? He'll turn 23 this February, so the 2016 season will be a big one for the righty, who was ranked behind only Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez on Baseball America and MLB.com's lists among the Nats' top right-handed pitching prospects.
How quickly might he move up in his first full season back following Tommy John? Kris Kline talked after the Draft in June of 2014 about the risks you take drafting injured players.
"We're never going to take a hurt guy," Kline said, "whether it's a guy like Fedde, or somebody that's going to require surgery unless we feel that he can get to the big leagues quick."