UNLV’s Erick Fedde goes to Nationals

Las Vegas made a play to land the Montreal Expos 10 years ago, but the organization wound up in Washington as the Nationals.

Instead of the Expos/Nationals coming to Las Vegas, these days Las Vegas is going to D.C.

UNLV junior right-handed pitcher Erick Fedde became the latest Thursday when he was drafted with the 18th pick in the first round by the Nationals.

Though Fedde isn’t expected on the major league roster for at least two years, especially since he might spend a year rehabilitating from Tommy John elbow surgery, he could one day join a club that already features fellow Las Vegans Bryce Harper and Zach Walters and is managed by former Rebel Matt Williams.

“Yes,” Harper tweeted. “@ErickFedde and I were teammates in high school! Give him a follow DC! So happy and proud of him! #LVpride.”

The two were teammates at Las Vegas High School for a year, and Fedde said he was ecstatic about getting selected by the Nationals.

“I had no clue that they were going to take me,” Fedde said. “I was watching TV with my family. They called my name, and that’s pretty much when I found out. I really didn’t know if I’d be going there.

“It’s just pure excitement. I was surrounded by all my friends and family and loved ones. It just doesn’t get much better than that.”

He is the third player from Las Vegas to be selected in the first round in the past five years and the second by the Nationals. Harper was the No. 1 selection in 2010, and former Bonanza High School star Kris Bryant went to the Chicago Cubs last year with the second pick.

Experts considered Fedde (6 feet 4 inches, 180 pounds) a potential top-10 pick until nearly a month ago when he discovered he needed surgery. Fedde had that procedure Tuesday in Los Angeles and said it went well.

But the operation also means Fedde will be out of commission nine to 18 months, which dropped him in the draft, but not far.

“The upside has to really trump the risk of a player not coming back from an injury,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo told MLB.com. “We really (consider) elbow injuries a lot more favorable than shoulder injuries. A lot that goes into it is the character of the player, the type of makeup that he has. The rehab process is not an easy one. You have (to have) the right character, right makeup to go through it and to come out the other end better than when you started.”

The Toronto Blue Jays used their ninth selection to take East Carolina pitcher Jeff Hoffman, who had the same procedure.

“The big thing to me is this is a new story,” MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds said during the draft broadcast. “You’ve got two Tommy John guys early in the first round. ... So this is a new time that we’re ushering in that people are not worried about the medical, so to speak.”

Fedde remained a first-rounder because of his ability to throw a fastball that usually is in the low 90s, but can reach 95 mph, and mix in a slider and changeup. He used that arsenal to go 8-2 with a 1.76 ERA this season, earning him Mountain West Pitcher of the Year honors.

“I’m sure on every board before this guy was hurt he was a top-10 guy,” John Hart said on MLB Network. “This is a guy when you look at it, the stuff is electric, he’s athletic, and they were comfortable with the medical.”

Signing bonuses are slotted, and Fedde is due to receive $2.15 million for being the 18th pick, according to The Washington Post.

Scott Boras represents Fedde, and though he carries a reputation as baseball’s most divisive agent, Boras has a good history working with the Nationals. He represents several players on the club, but Fedde said he didn’t know if that positive relationship would ease his contract negotiations.

That’s business for another day, however.

Fedde was enjoying the moment of becoming UNLV’s third first-round draft pick. Donovan Osborne was taken 13th overall in 1990 by the St. Louis Cardinals, and Williams went No. 3 in 1986 to the San Francisco Giants.

“I’m completely happy,” Fedde said. “I’m ready to show the Nationals that I’m not going to let them down.”

UNLV junior right-hander John Richy (11-4, 3.20 ERA), projected to be drafted in the first three rounds, was not taken in the first two rounds Thursday. Rounds 3 through 10 will be today, and the rest of the 40-round draft is Saturday.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.