Prospect Report: Christian Friedrich

It seems like fantasy owners are always looking for the next stud young pitcher on the precipice of making an impact.  That involves more than just putting up a good ERA and the possibility of getting wins.  The potential to strikeout batters, and at an impressive rate, is just as important.

Of the young pitchers who could make the leap to the majors in 2010, Christian Friedrich has the potential to make an impact across the board.  Just look at the numbers the 2008 first round draft pick (25th overall) posted last season at two levels of Single-A:

6 Wins
119.2 Innings
2.41 ERA
1.15 WHIP
159 Strikeouts (12.01 K/9)
43 Walks (3.25 BB/9)
.334 BABIP

Just look at that BABIP.  That’s some bad luck, yet, with the number of strikeouts he was able to produce, he still put up stellar numbers.  In fact, in the Major Leagues last season there were only seven pitchers with at least 100 innings who had a BABIP above .330.  Of them Ricky Nolasco posted the best WHIP at 1.25 with no one else being better than 1.37 (Carl Pavano).

We all know the strikeouts will likely regress some as he moves up the levels, but at the same time he should pitch to significantly better luck as well.  Put it together and it is not unbelievable to think that he could actually post a similar WHIP, even against more advanced hitters.

He certainly has the stuff, that’s for sure.  Just look at what Baseball America, who ranked him as the Rockies second best prospect heading into 2010, had to say:

“Friedrich has added velocity, pitching consistently in the low 90s and topping out at 95 last season. He has a 12-to-6 curveball and a hard slider, both emerging as plus pitches. He rarely threw his changeup before pro ball, but it has becoming an average offering.”

At the time he was drafted, Rockies Vice President of Scouting, Bill Schmidt, said, “He has a four-pitch mix and a very good breaking ball.”  That breaking ball (his curveball) is what many believe is his best pitch.

The ERA in 2009 was impressive, but it’s obviously going to be difficult to maintain.  He did a great job of keeping the ball in the ballpark, allowing just five home runs.  As he moves up, you have to expect him to allow a few more, but again, being capable of generating swings and misses certainly goes a long way in correcting for some mistakes.

The fact that he’s a 22-year old lefty just makes him all the more attractive to a team that is likely to have a hole in its rotation (Jason Marquis is a free agent and unlikely to return).

Look at their current staff:

  1. Ubaldo Jimenez
  2. Aaron Cook
  3. Jorge De La Rosa
  4. Jason Hammel
  5. Jeff Francis

Hammel sports a career ERA of 5.18 over 384.0 innings (though, as Tim Lawrence pointed out yesterday, he does have some potential upside) and in Francis, does anyone really know what to expect?  Once a dependable option and the ace of the Rockies staff (despite a career 4.74 ERA), Francis missed all of 2009.  To count on him to be a major force would be a mistake.

It all adds up to the Rockies likely needing one, if not two additional starters at some point in 2010 (not taking any potential injuries into account).  Would it surprise anyone to see Friedrich be given an opportunity?

He did miss time in 2009 due to inflammation in his elbow, which helped to limit his innings.  That could be a cause for concern, since he could face an innings limit in 2010, so keep that in mind.

Still, with his stuff, you have to like his chances of not only getting an opportunity, but making a major impact.  When you can get strikeouts like he has, you are an instant player to monitor in all formats.

What are your thoughts?  How good could Friedrich be?  Will he make an impact in 2010?

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