For installment three of the On-Deck Circle, we will take a look at a couple of National League farmhands, both ranked within the top 60 among Major League prospects. First up is Los Angeles Dodgers slugging first baseman Cody Bellinger. Next, is Washington Nationals top pitching prospect Erick Fedde.
With the exception of the volatile Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers outfield is off to a sluggish start. With no one in the outfield batting above .235, aside from Puig, Cody Bellinger could be in line for a call-up rather soon. We all know Puig’s history, and have seen this type of talent before. Could this be the year he puts a full season together, both on and off the field? It’s anyone’s guess. One thing that is for certain, this Bellinger kid can mash. Over the course of five minor league seasons, the 21-year old’s pop has become his calling card. In 354 games, Bellinger hit 63 home runs, which does not sound like a high total overall. In his first couple of seasons, the organization wanted him to focus on his average, not hitting the ball out. Of those 63 minor league bombs, 56 have come since the 2015 season. It is clear his power stroke has developed, and he has switched his focus in recent seasons. The rest of his offensive game is solid, as he has slashed .271/.351/.500, driven in 250 runs, and stolen 33 bases in those five seasons as well. The knock on the kid has been his tendency to strike out at a high rate. With 344 K’s in his career, including 14 in 48 plate appearances at Triple-A to begin 2017, compared to just five walks so far. It is possible he could be held down a bit longer to improve his discipline at the plate. While it does not help fantasy owners, Bellinger is profiled as a Gold Glove first baseman. Most scouts grade his fielding as the marquee part of his game, and it could be the reason the Dodgers look the other way at his strikeout numbers. While the club does not figure to move Adrian Gonzalez any time soon, Bellinger has experience at all three outfield spots, and has impressed in each. He could be the shot in the arm the Dodgers outfield has been missing the past couple of seasons. It would not be surprising if we see him up with the big club sometime in May, especially with the .372/.438/.674, three home run, 12 RBI start in his first 11 games this season.
With the trade of Lucas Giolito to the White Sox, Erick Fedde stepped in as the top pitching prospect in the Nationals pipeline. A first-round pick of the club in 2014, the youngster has justified his draft slot with outstanding minor league numbers. In three seasons, ranging from Low-A, to Double-A, Fedde has posted a 3.03 ERA, a 1.19 WHIP, and a 14-8 record. His 0.5 average homers allowed per start, and his 8.8 K/9 are impressive as well. His overall numbers show he is able to keep the ball in the yard, and does not put a lot of unnecessary runners on base. The problem for fantasy owners lies in the timeline the club had set for Fedde. It is evident he was not supposed to be called up this season, and was more likely a guy the club pegged for the rotation in 2018. What also works against the 24-year-old is Dusty Baker is the manager of the big club. To say Dusty is not a big fan of rookies is an understatement. However, being 24-years old makes him a more mature prospect than most, and could make him be viewed a bit more favorably by the skipper (maybe some wishful thinking here?). Much like the previously mentioned Bellinger, and much unlike the two previous pitchers I have profiled this season, Fedde is off to a blazing start. His 2017 stat line reads as follows: 11 innings pitched, no earned runs allowed, a 0.89 WHIP, nine strikeouts, and just seven hits allowed. He still has to prove himself at Triple-A, and yes, he will allow a run at some point, but the stat line is still impressive. If that happens, he could replace someone in the Nationals rotation sometime around the All-Star break, or shortly thereafter (yes Gio, I’m looking at you).