White Sox Stabilize Rotation With KBO MVP Erick Fedde

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday evening, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that the Chicago White Sox are signing KBO kickback starting pitcher Erick Fedde to a two-year, $15 million contract. Fedde had an incredible 2023 season for the NC Dinos, posting a 2.00 ERA in 180.1 IP while striking out 209 and walking just 35. He was named the KBO’s MVP and won their equivalent to the Cy Young.

According to the Washington Post’s Jesse Dougherty, after a generic and semi-disappointing tenure with the Washington Nationals (who drafted him in the 2014 first round out of UNLV), Fedde went to Push Athletic in Scottsdale and remade his body, mechanics, and the shape of his three most-used pitches. As I noted in my recent update to the International Players section of The Board, Fedde hasn’t had a significant arm strength boost, but his arm slot has raised a bit, his fastball looks heavier (helping him generate a monstrous 70% groundball rate in 2023), and he has upped his changeup usage. His newly reshaped slider was easily his most dominant pitch in 2023; it generated 41% of Fedde’s swings and misses. The chase rate on both his changeup and slider was up around 40%, and Fedde looked rejuvenated despite working as many innings as he did.

Perhaps the biggest leap in Fedde’s skill set is evident in his command. His 2023 walk rate with the Dinos (4.9%) was roughly half his MLB career walk rate with Washington. More granular analysis of Fedde’s pitch locations via Synergy reinforces that he has improved in this area. His changeup command, especially, has become much more consistent and precise. His five-pitch mix includes four- and two-seam fastball variants that peak at 96 mph, an upper-80s cutter that lives in on the hands of lefty batters, a well-located slider that pairs nicely with the shape of Fedde’s sinker, and an 85-88 mph changeup that barely ever finishes in a vulnerable location.

The White Sox roster is still obviously in a state of flux. A 30-year-old potential no. 4 starter isn’t going to single-handedly transform the fortunes of a 100-loss team, and there are pervasive rumors that the White Sox will move star righty Dylan Cease and possibly other integral parts of their current roster during the winter. But considering what the rest of the demand-heavy pitching free agent market seems to be like right now, this is an affordable, low-risk proposition for Chicago that immediately stabilizes their rotation. After Cease and Fedde, the rest of Chicago’s current projected rotation is either inconsistent or injury-prone, while Fedde has made at least 27 starts since the 2020 pandemic season.

There’s a chance that Fedde pitches incredibly well, replicating the success Diamondbacks righty Merrill Kelly has had in MLB since returning from the KBO. If that’s remotely the case, the White Sox will have a very affordable and desirable starter to trade, either this coming summer or 12-18 months from now. Next winter’s free agent class of starting pitchers has names you know, many of whom are either old or frequently injured. This of course assumes the White Sox will not contend during that span. It’s feasible that several of their young hitting prospects could debut and contribute in a meaningful way, but as of right now, I think it’s fair to say the Sox don’t have the pitching to scrap with the rest of the AL Central unless a host of the post-hype arms they’ve acquired during the last several months (Michael Soroka, Luis Patiño, Touki Toussaint, etc.) have late breakouts.

Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
4 months ago

While I wouldn’t be super excited about Erick Fedde, the mere possibility that he could be a #4 starter makes him much more exciting than Touki Touissant or hoping that Soroka stays in one piece.

kick me in the GO NATSmember
4 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

If the changes are real, he transformed into an Ace and I’m sad for my Nats. we can’t develop pitchers at all. Josiah Gray has regressed.

Chip Lockemember
4 months ago

“ace” seems a little strong, and I don’t know anyone who thinks Gray has regressed, even if he hasn’t quite taken big steps forward. That being said, the state of their pitching outside of Gray and Gore is…. well, it’s gray and gory.

4 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

He’s exactly the sort of guy a rebuilding team should sign.

Getz us doing better than I thought he would so far, but he would have to get arrested to fall short of my expectations.

It still remains to be seen if they can draft and develop better under Getz than they have in the last 20 years and that still seems unlikely since he was in charge of player development before being promoted to GM.

It also remains to be seen whether or not the owner will again put the brakes on a rebuild and lock up the checkbook just as they are becoming successful.

Last edited 4 months ago by MikeS