Results have been good thus far for Erick Fedde, who in limited action has made a good impression on a struggling Nationals bullpen, per Byron Kerr of MASN Sports. Fedde, a starter in the minors, was brought up for the first time this season on April 28th – and he immediately made an impact. He threw four scoreless innings in relief of Jeremy Hellickson against the Padres that day, keeping a 6-0 deficit at bay and giving the Nationals young bats a chance to heat up. Juan Soto, Victor Robles, and Carter Kieboom became the first trio of teammates younger than 22-years-old to homer in the same game as the Nationals came back to beat the Friars 7-6 in 10 innings. In an unceremonious thank-you, however, Fedde was sent back to Double-A the very next day.
In Harrisburg, Fedde has roasted the competition so far this season, 2.55 ERA, 2.84 FIP, 2.63 xFIP with 9.85 K/9 to 1.82 BB/9, which includes two-thirds of a combined no-hitter in early April. Fedde, 26, is miscast in Double-A after a full season between Triple-A Syracuse and the majors in 2018, but with their Triple-A affiliate now cross-country in Fresno, the Nationals have kept a few ML-hopefuls close at hand in Harrisburg. Current teammates in D.C. Dan Jennings, Michael A. Taylor, and Adrian Sanchez have all spent time in Harrisburg this year before recalls with quick turnarounds. Fedde is back in the Nats’ bullpen now and potentially in line to take on a larger role, whether as a long man, in a setup capacity, or both.
There is little doubt as to the need for the Nationals, whose bullpen has imploded time and again in 2019 as Dave Martinez searches for a reliable option in the middle-to-late innings. The three-headed monster in the rotation (Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin) somewhat mitigates usage of the pen (111 innings is the lowest mark in the National League), and Sean Doolittle is as good as it gets at the back-end, but there’s still that pesky eighth inning to worry about, and forty percent of the rotation is not among the NL’s top ten in strikeouts, K/9, innings, and WAR as are Scherzer, Strasburg, and Corbin. (Admittedly, Corbin ranks tied for 14th in the NL with 1.0 fWAR, though his 2.0 rWAR jumps him to second by that measure, while rWAR drops Scherzer out of the top ten into a seven-way tie for 12th. Among those seven is Doolittle, tied with John Gant for the NL rWAR lead among relievers.) Anibal Sanchez and Jeremy Hellickson have lasted six full innings only once apiece en route to respective ERAs of 5.27 and 5.52, and between the implosion of Trevor Rosenthal, some bad bounces, and a difficulty in stranding inherited runners, the bullpen ahead of Doolittle has been a mess.
Washington’s pen boasts some ugly numbers with a 6.24 ERA, 5.06 xFIP, .342 BABIP, and 65.1 LOB% – all of which rank dead last in the Majors. Still, it’s hard to know exactly what the Nationals have in their pen, as BABIP and LOB% have a tendency to fluctuate, and many of their pen hands have much stronger FIPs than ERAs (Wander Suero, Matt Grace, Joe Ross), and while that could point to some bad luck, they have an equal number of arms on the flip side of the ledger as Doolittle, Justin Miller and Kyle Barraclough’s ERAs are all outperforming xFIP. Outside of Doolittle, the pen is functioning largely without defined roles so far this season, which is where Fedde’s newfound versatility could prove invaluable. Fedde is adjusting to life in a potential fireman role, but if he can muster a quality outing or two in high-leverage situations – arguably the Nats’ greatest area of need – he will make it very difficult for the Washington brass to shuttle him back to Harrisburg.