Erick Fedde’s career has taken another step forward. On Tuesday, the Washington Nationals promoted the right-handed pitching prospect to Triple-A Syracuse, a move that comes after his excellent run at Double-A Harrisburg.
Coming into the year, Fedde had high expectations as a starting a pitching prospect. His performance at Harrisburg — including a 3.04 ERA and an 8.6 K/9 rate in 56 1/3 innings — met those expectations, but it was his conversion to the bullpen that stood out the most.
Fedde’s outing on May 16 marked the first of 10 relief appearances at Harrisburg. Of his outings, all but two began in the seventh inning or later, and four were for multiple innings.
Judging by his use pattern, Fedde was clearly not in the bullpen to stretch out his innings in a long or middle-inning relief role, but to appear in high-leverage situations. His performance shows that he rose to the challenge. Over those 10 outings, he allowed four earned runs in 13 2/3 innings (2.63 ERA) while striking out 19 batters.
The fact that Fedde was drafted as a starter in 2014 and displayed success in the rotation up until the early stages of this season shows that he still has potential in that role. Perhaps over the long run, Fedde could return to the rotation, but the Nationals are clearly taking a different approach as they look to address their most glaring weakness in the majors.
The Nationals’ relative dominance of the National League East has come despite a bullpen that is statistically one of the worst in baseball. The team’s relievers entered Tuesday’s action with an ERA of 5.11, which ranked 28th in the majors, and a cumulative -0.5 WAR.
While it is foreseeable that the Nationals will decide to pursue relief help via the trade market, there is only so much that trades are going to address. That is where Fedde could come in handy. Whereas Fedde the starter may have spent the entirety of the 2017 season in the farm system or been floated as a trade chip, Fedde the reliever is likely in a position seize a role in the majors at a point in the not-too-distant future.
Having an option such as Fedde in Syracuse will help the Nationals over the course of this season. Success in high-leverage situations in the minors is not guaranteed to translate to the majors, but his ability to pitch multiple innings and his three-pitch repertoire — highlighted by his fastball and slider — give him the ingredients to have an important role in the major league bullpen.
Fedde’s performance in Syracuse will be the next development to watch, and the Nationals will still have to seek other routes to address their bullpen situation. If he does make the majors, Fedde alone is not going to be the solution, but having him reach the majors would be one way for the Nationals to address the problem.Tags: Erick Fedde, Nationals, Nats, Washington Nationals