In an MLB Network Radio interview this Spring, Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said he brought top pitching prospect Erick Fedde to big league camp so that when the 24-year-old right-hander first gets the call he’ll be ready.
Fedde split his 2016 campaign between High-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg, going (6-4) with a 2.85 ERA, 3.22 FIP, 19 walks (1.87 BB/9) and 95 Ks (9.33 K/9) in 91 2⁄3 innings pitched for the P-Nats and (2-1) with a 3.99 ERA, 3.02 FIP, 10 walks (3.07 BB/9) and 28 Ks (8.59 K/9) in 29 1⁄3 IP for the Senators.
“Fedde, is one of our top prospects that’s in big league camp,” Rizzo explained this Spring.
“We want to get him a taste of it and see where he’s at so he’s not in awe when he gets to the big leagues and he’s a guy we have high expectations [for].”
Fedde, a 2014 first-round pick, taken 18th overall out of UNLV in spite of the fact that he underwent Tommy John surgery during his draft year, made five appearances and three starts for the Nationals in Grapefruit League action, giving up nine hits, four walks and six runs, five earned over 13 2⁄3 innings, holding opposing hitters to a .184 AVG.
Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker was impressed with what he saw from Fedde.
“You like his aptitude, that’s what you like probably more than anything,” Baker said, as quoted by Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes.
“That’s what you like to see out of young players. He pays attention. He doesn’t say much, but you see he’s always paying attention.”
“He’s one of the guys at the very top of the list in case something happens, or just through natural progression of pitching.”
In an interview with Daron Sutton on MLB Network Radio’s Minor and Majors this weekend, Fedde talked about what he learned during his first big league Spring Training.
“The first thing,” Fedde said, “was just showing up every day and seeing just everyone in the clubhouse already and everyone was working so hard it was kind of like, I guess, contagious in the sense that you see everyone working so hard it reminded me that maybe I’m not working as hard as some of these big league guys and it was kind of cool to see and build routines off of what they were doing.”
He also got an opportunity to work with Nationals’ pitching coach Mike Maddux, which he said was an amazing experience.
“We worked on just a ton of things from my changeup to a curveball and just keeping my front side closed,” Fedde said.
“It was quite a learning experience and something I took a lot from.”
“He’s great,” Fedde joked. “He’s kind of a goofy guy... the way he speaks and drops his knowledge on you. But talk about a guy that knows his stuff. I learned so much just from that camp and everything and his experiences and it was for sure something that I really appreciated.”
So where is he at as a pitcher at this point, a few years removed from Tommy John surgery and knocking on the door of the majors? Fedde offered a scouting report.
“I’m a guy that tries to really attack the zone and work quickly,” he said.
“A big two-seam fastball guy. I’ll feed a large portion of those throughout the game, trying to get a ton of ground balls, and then the slider is my first go-to pitch when it comes to putting guys away. Now I’ve been adding a changeup and a curveball here, helping keep guys off-balance.
“If I had to describe myself, it would be a guy who is just attacking for ground balls.”
The changeup he’s using is, “... a little bit of a modified circle [change],” Fedde said.
“More of a three-finger circle change. My last start I was supposed to throw it 15-20 times, to make sure that — pretty much was told that we want to learn the changeup now rather than learning it in front of 40,000 here in the future. So, just something I’m getting the feel for and making sure I can throw in every count.”
It’s not just learning to throw the changeup effectively, Fedde said.
“It’s just, the idea of throwing something slower when you can beat a lot of guys and get late, bad swings on your fastball. It’s something that it’s really tough to trust, especially when you’re working on it and you give up hard-hit baseballs, just to stick with it. But it’s something I’m getting a much better feel for and last game I was extremely happy with it, so it’s coming along nicely.”
Through three starts and 18 innings, Fedde has a 0.50 ERA, a 2.47 FIP, six walks (3.00 BB/9) and 17 Ks (8.50 K/9) for the Senators this season, over which he’s held hitters to a .185 AVG.
Will we be seeing the right-hander in the majors some time soon?