Top 25 Starting Pitcher Review: Despite Slow Starts, Don’t Sell Erik Fedde or Jack Flaherty Short

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

There were some surprising names among our Top 25 starting pitcher prospects prior to the season (click here for #11-25).  Among them were the Nationals’ Erik Fedde (#18) and the Cardinals’ Jack Flaherty (#17), both of which got off to slow starts making us look foolish for the aggressive ranking.  Of course it’s still early and both have started to show signs of a turnaround, so let’s not write them off so quickly.  Let’s check in on both:

 

Erik Fedde – Washington Nationals
The Nationals have pitching, whether it’s at the Majors or in the minors (like Lucas Giolito and Austin Voth).  That makes it easy to overlook someone like Fedde, a 2014 first round draft pick who returned from Tommy John surgery last season (64.0 IP).  He got off to a slow start in ’16 at High-A, but he’s turned things around over his past two starts (11.0 IP, 0 ER, 7 H, 1 BB, 11 K).  Fedde’s actually shown the skills all season (45.0 IP) that had us excited:

  • Strikeouts – 46 K
  • Walks – 10 BB (more than 1 in a start in just 1 of 9 starts)
  • Groundballs – 1.22 GO/AO

Those are similar to the skills he showed last season, which led to us ranking him as the Nationals #3 prospect and the #18 starting pitcher overall.  Fedde also appears to be taking this opportunity to learn and develop.  After his last outing he was quoted by MILB.com’s Michael Leboff as saying (click here for the article):

“I’m starting to settle in at this level these past few outings,” the 23-year-old righty said. “I feel like I’m learning how to pitch at a higher level now. I’m understanding that a 94 mph pitch up in the zone is going to get hit and I can’t get away with that stuff anymore.”

Despite the slow start the skills are still there, so make sure not to let him fly under your radar.

Preseason Grade – B+
Current Grade – B+

 

Jack Flaherty – St. Louis Cardinals
Pitching at High-A, the 2014 first round pick has struggled to a 5.08 ERA and 1.51 WHIP.  Before we are quick to pull the plug on our preseason #17 ranked starting pitcher (the #2 prospect for the Cardinals), the underlying skills are actually still there:

  • Strikeouts – 8.93 K/9
  • Walks – 3.25 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 1.13 GO/AO

A lot of his struggles have come due to poor luck (.366 BABIP, 58.9% strand rate), and he’s also really struggled against left-handed hitters (.333 BAA).  He’s coming off a tremendous outing recently, having thrown 6.0 shutout innings with 9 K.  He recently got advice from fellow prospects Lucas Giolito and Max Fried, who he played with in high school, according to MILB’s Michael Peng (click here for the article):

“They both say just attack the zone and keep the ball down and good things will happen,” Flaherty said. “They’ve both had success so far and have done a realy good job at doing that themselves, so I’m just trying to take advantage of what they tell me and follow what they do.”

This could easily be the start of a turnaround.  The underlying numbers are there, as is the upside, so don’t be so quick to write him off.

Preseason Grade – B+
Current Grade – B+

Sources – MILB.com, Fangraphs

Make sure to check out all of our Team Top 10 Prospect Lists:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore OriolesChicago White SoxHouston Astros
Boston Red SoxCleveland IndiansLos Angeles Angels
New York YankeesDetroit TigersOakland A's
Tampa Bay RaysKansas City RoyalsSeattle Mariners
Toronto Blue JaysMinnesota TwinsTexas Rangers
NL EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta BravesChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Miami MarlinsCincinnati RedsColorado Rockies
New York MetsMilwaukee BrewersLos Angeles Dodgers
Philadelphia PhilliesPittsburgh PiratesSan Diego Padres
Washington NationalsSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants

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