The Arizona Diamondbacks could use another pitcher in the rotation for 2024. Currently, they would enter the ‘24 season with Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly, Brandon Pfaadt, and a mix of Ryne Nelson, Tommy Henry, and Slade Cecconi making up the last two rotation spots. For a team that will all but certainly try and compete next year, the D-Backs need another pitcher to help stabilize their rotation. But one interesting free agent the Diamondbacks should at least keep tabs on is Erick Fedde.
Erick Fedde was originally a first-round draft pick by the Washington Nationals nearly a decade ago in 2014. While the right-hander was a consensus top-100 prospect for a few seasons, he never made a positive impact in the majors. He appeared in every season from 2017 through 2022, pitching to a 5.41 ERA, 5.14 FIP, and 1.52 WHIP. Fedde struggled to limit home runs with a 1.55 HR/9 rate while also clocking in with a poor 17.5% strikeout rate. His 9.5% walk rate was also below average.
Fedde hit free agency after the 2022 season and decided to take his talents across the pond to South Korea. Fedde signed a one-year deal with the NC Dinos and turned in what has thus far been the best season of his playing career, both as a professional and in college. Fedde pitched 180.1 innings, working to a 2.00 ERA, 2.38 FIP, and 0.94 WHIP.
The right-hander allowed just nine home runs for an HR/9 rate of just 0.45. To say that he got ground balls at a high rate would be an understatement. Fedde had a 70% ground ball rate. Since batted ball tracking was implemented, there has only been one pitcher who has had a ground ball rate of at least 70% in 120+ innings in MLB. That was Framber Valdez in 2021 at 70.3%. But limiting home runs and making batters smack the ball into the ground at an enormous rate weren’t the only things Fedde was good at.
After struggling with both limiting walks and inducing strikeouts in MLB, Fedde turned in a 29.5% strikeout rate and a walk rate North of 5% at 4.9%. Fedde ended the year with a K:BB ratio of 5.97. His previous career-high K:BB ratio was 4.24, which was set in 2016 for the Nats’ High-A and Double-A affiliates.
This obviously draws parallels to Merrill Kelly, who was a struggling American pitcher in the minor leagues who went to Korea just to return to the US for the Diamondbacks and became one of baseball’s most underrated pitchers, as well as a Postseason hero. Just because Kelly has had immense success shouldn’t be the only reason the Diamondbacks pursue Fedde. However, I can think of multiple other reasons for the Snakes to go after the right-hander, including they need another starter, and Fedde looked like a new man on the mound compared to his days with the Nationals.
Regardless of the similarities in the story, the Diamondbacks need starting pitching. Erick Fedde is coming off an extremely promising season in South Korea, and he would be an attractive free agent for them to pursue. Adding another arm should be on the D-Backs’ to-do list, and Fedde should definitely be a name for them to consider.