The Nationals selected pitcher Erick Fedde, a hard-throwing right-hander who underwent Tommy John surgery on Tuesday, with the 18th overall pick in Thursday MLB first-year player draft.
Fedde, 21, listed at 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds, has strong ties to the Nationals through Bryce Harper. The two were teammates at the Las Vegas High. Harper has called Fedde’s slider “the best slider I’ve ever seen.” Fedde’s fastball sits between 91 and 93 mph, but has reached as high as 95 mph. He also throws a change-up.
“We felt the risk of him rehabbing and coming back to pre-injury form was worth the draft pick,” Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said.
Fedde, named a Louisville Slugger second-team All-American this season, posted an 8-2 record and 1.76 ERA and struck out 82 in 11 starts in his junior season, cut short by his elbow injury. He was named the Mountain West pitcher of the year and was considered a top-10 prospect until he was injured.
The Nationals have shown a willingness to draft pitchers with elbow injuries in the draft, and a strong track record in rehabbing pitchers with those ailments. The Nationals selected Lucas Giolito with the 16th overall pick in the 2012 draft knowing that his elbow could require surgery. Giolito is now thriving at Class A Hagerstown and ranked No. 21 on Baseball America’s list of Top 100 prospects. The Nationals also have successfully rehabbed Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, who have also undergone Tommy John surgery.
Fedde’s surgery was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who removed bone chips removed from Strasburg’s right elbow this offseason. Rizzo said the Nationals team doctor Wiemi Douoguih had a “deep conversation” with ElAttrache about Fedde’s surgery. “We know the medical team over there very well,” Rizzo said.
Fedde is advised by Scott Boras, who has a strong relationship with Nationals ownership and front office, and also represents several Nationals players. The assigned signing bonus value for the 18th pick is $2,145,600. The signing deadline is July 18.
Nationals assistant general manager and vice president of scouting operations Kris Kline saw Fedde’s first start of the season at UNLV this year and, even in the sixth inning, the pitcher was hitting 95 to 98 mph. “I walked out there thinking we have no shot at getting this player because he was a top-5 type guy,” Kline said.
Fedde is expected to miss, at least, 12 months. The Nationals won’t take over Fedde’s rehab process until he signs, but Rizzo said he was comfortable with Boras’ medical and rehab team.
With their second-round pick, the No. 57 overall selection, the Nationals picked left-hander Andrew Suarez, a junior from the University of Miami. Suarez missed his freshman season with labrum surgery. He went 6-3 with a 2.95 ERA over 16 starts this season, striking out 87 while walking 15.
At 6-foot-2, he throws a fastball in the low 90s, along with a curveball, slider and change-up. The assigned signing bonus value for the No. 57 pick is $987,800.
All 30 major league teams have a cap on signing bonuses for picks in the first 10 rounds, depending on when they pick and the number of compensatory picks they have. This year, the Nationals have the eighth-smallest signing bonus pool at $5.275 million. There are penalties if a team spends more than its cap amount.