Through his first seven starts of the 2016 season with Single-A Potomac, former Nationals first round pick Erick Fedde had a 6.62 ERA and opponents were getting on base against him at a .347 clip. From his next start on May 23 through his most recent one on Aug. 31 - a span of 16 outings - Fedde posted a 1.76 ERA and struck out 88 batters in 87 innings.
That's a midseason turnaround that you just don't see often. His results became dramatically different and during this 16-start surge he's both spent time on the disabled list and been promoted to Double-A. Those changes would slow the roll of some, but not Fedde, who now enters this offseason as one of the fastest rising prospects in baseball.
The 23-year-old believes a conversation he had with Potomac pitching coach Franklin Bravo was a turning point in his 2016 season.
"I definitely had a big turnaround. I think the biggest thing was that I got really comfortable. Really early in the year I was trying to be the guy that struck out 12 every single game rather than just attacking hitters. I was trying to be extremely perfect. Bravo sat me down in Potomac and said 'you have great stuff, you've just gotta trust it.' Ever since then, I've pitched with more confidence and it's really paid off," Fedde said.
Though Fedde's approach has involved not focusing on strikeouts, the strikeouts have followed. In his last start he struck out 12 in six innings and had eight in his previous outing. He has 47 strikeouts in his last 43 innings going back seven starts.
Fedde credited his improving changeup as a big weapon against lefties, and also his slider. He called his slider a "real equalizer" and said he's comfortable throwing it when he's ahead or behind in counts.
Getting more confident with those pitches has helped Fedde adjust to Double-A where he's seen a new breed of hitters step in the box.
"It changes a lot. I have to keep hitters off balance. That's probably been the biggest thing. I used to be able to get ahead with fastballs, but now guys can hunt fastballs and crush them. You have to keep guys off balance and keep them off the fastball," he said.
"I've had a few starts where I got into a groove throwing a few fastballs where in High-A you get away with that, or in lower levels. They're making me pay for it. I think that's been the biggest difference. No matter what the situation, you need to be able to throw all pitches in any count."
Fedde could technically make one more start based on Harrisburg's schedule, but the team is likely to call it a year for him one week early. He's already pitched 121 innings, which is nearly double the 64 he logged in 2015. This was his first full season as a professional and they see no reason to push him further, especially as a veteran of Tommy John surgery.
Fedde is already speaking in terms of 2017 and sounds like someone who can't wait for it to arrive.
"This is my first full year and I'm definitely feeling the wear and tear of pro ball and a five-day rotation and all that. But another great thing, is to be able to get through it. It's great to go into next year knowing I can get through it. I'm excited for it," he said.
Fedde will not pitch in the Arizona Fall League, either. He said he'll next go to the instructional league in Florida.
"I'll get the bat in my hand a little more. I'll get used to that," he said.
The biggest goal for Fedde this offseason will be to gain weight. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds, he's tall and lean. Having more meat on his bones could be helpful to take another step next year and log even more innings.
Fedde will work with his trainer since college, Dr. Robert Braden, in Las Vegas this winter to build strength and gain weight. He also has a personal chef, of sorts, to help out with his diet.
"My mom. She cooks for me a lot and has meals prepared for me like right before bed and stuff," he said.
Fedde is likely to participate in his first big league spring training this February, as Lucas Giolito did just a few months ago. That could set Fedde up for his own MLB debut some time in 2017. That's the goal for any prospect and Fedde certainly looks to be on the right track.
"I'll come back in shape and be ready for next season and make a push for the big leagues," he said.
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