After weeks and months of anticipation, the Washington Nationals used their 1st Round pick, 18th overall, in the 2014 MLB Draft to select UNLV right-handed pitcher Erick Fedde. Later in the evening, the Nationals chose University of Miami left-handed pitcher Andrew Suarez with their pick at #57 overall in Round #2.
Staying true to form at the top of the draft, the Nationals did not shy away from a potential injury risk and took the top rated player on the board, Fedde. If he had remained healthy throughout the season, he was in discussion for the Cubs at #4, and certainly would not have escaped the top-12 picks. Unfortunately Fedde suffered an elbow injury late in the season and underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this week. Plainly stated, the Nationals had no chance of selecting Fedde, a Scott Boras client, if he does not suffer an injury late in the season.
On the mound Fedde possesses a powerful and electric 92-94mph fastball that can touch 97mph, along with a sharp low-80s slider with true swing-and-miss type movement. In addition Fedde throws a solid mid-80s changeup that scouts believe could be an above-average pitch with refinement and polish. Blessed with a wiry, lean projectable 6-4 180lbs frame that could add considerable strength and weight, Fedde could find additional velocity as he matures physically. Finally, Fedde repeats his relatively quiet delivery well and is considered a good athlete on the mound.
After starring on Cape Cod and for Team USA last summer, Fedde entered the season as one of the top prospects available in the draft class, as scouts were in love with his strong repertoire and prototypical pitcher’s body. His elbow injury casts a healthy amount of risk with this pick, but Fedde was the best prospect available at #18, and the Nationals were shrewd to scoop him up.
Building off 1st round pick Fedde, in the 2nd round the Washington Nationals selected left-handed pitcher Andrew Suarez, a well-built 6-2 205lbs left-handed pitcher from the University of Miami. Blessed with a solid 3-pitch repertoire, Suarez throws an 89-91mph fastball, touching 93mph, with an above-average (or better) low-80 slider with late biting action. Also, Suarez features a changeup with sinking action, which has average or slightly better potential with some refinement, along with the occasional fringy curveball.
Suarez is a very intriguing draft prospect, as he has clear current strengths and weaknesses to his game. Suarez has a solid 4-pitch mix, although his present fastball and slider are more advanced than his curveball and slider, and he has a strong, durable pitcher’s body. Suarez pounds the strike zone, and rarely walks opposing hitters, as evidenced by his 15 walks in 109.2 innings pitched in 2014.
On the other hand, scouts question if Suarez will eventually pitch in relief, as his changeup (and curveball) currently lag behind his fastball and slider, and he has had past labrum surgery on his pitching shoulder during his freshman year. Only time will tell if his shoulder can hold up to the workload of a professional starting pitcher, but he has thrown 190+ collegiate innings as a workhorse for the Hurricanes in the ACC.
Assuming he is completely recovered from his past injuries, Suarez projects as a strike-throwing #4 or #5 starting pitcher in the big leagues, and if he can improve the quality and consistency of his changeup, Suarez could develop into a strong #4 starter. His floor is that of a lefty reliever, as his fastball, slider, and terrific command of the strike zone should allow him to be a weapon against lefties in the bullpen. The Nationals did well to pair a polished, high-floor pitcher like Suarez in Round 2 with the talented but injured Erick Fedde on Day 1 of the draft.
NatsGM Day 1 Grade -> A-
* NatsGM’s Projected Early Day 2 Picks *
Round 3 (Pick #93) Grayson Greiner Catcher South Carolina
After taking two pitchers on Day 1, I almost guarantee the Nationals will look to draft a bat in Round 3. Brett Austin from NC State would also be an intriguing pick here.
Round 4 (Pick #124) John Curtiss RHP University of Texas
Mentioned by Jim Callis as a personal favorite of his on the 1st Episode of THE NatsGM Show (cheap plug), Simms would be a terrific value for the Nationals in Round 4.
Round 5 (Pick #154) Justin Morris Catcher DeMatha HS
A local product with the ability to stay behind the plate as he matures, Morris could be an interesting pick midway through Day 2 of the draft.