Christian Friedrich—a 6’4” left-hander who was drafted No. 25 overall by the Rockies out of Eastern Kentucky in 2008—was on the fast track to the major leagues after his 2009 season, in which he registered a 2.41 ERA with 159 strikeouts and 43 walks in 119.2 innings between Low- and High-A.
However, lingering elbow soreness and shaky command led to a major step back in both 2010 and 2011, as he posted a 5.00-plus ERA and sub-9.0 K/9 rate at Double-A in both seasons.
Pitching for Triple-A Colorado Springs for the first time in his career, the 24-year-old’s early success this season has been encouraging, especially when considering that he’s pitching in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
In five starts, Friedrich has registered a 3.00 ERA, allowing only 23 hits while posting a 27/4 K/BB rate over 30 innings. In four of his five starts, the southpaw has tossed at least five innings and recorded six strikeouts.
Having grown up in the same area as Friedrich, I had the opportunity to see him throw several times during the summers of 2004 and 2005, and he was very, very impressive.
In 2009, his fastball would occasionally touch 94-95 mph, but these days he works more in the 90-93 range with some late arm-side life. His best pitch is without a doubt his plus curveball, which has a 12-to-6 shape and late downer bite. Even back in ’04 and ’05, the pitch was one of the best breaking balls I had ever seen.
Friedrich also features a solid-average changeup in the upper 70s, as well as a low-80s slider that has consistently improved since he entered the Rockies’ system.
It’s yet to be determined whether this is a one-and-done outing for the left-hander, or if he actually has a chance to stick in the Rockies' rotation. If he ultimately pitches well enough to hang around, Friedrich will be the team’s third left-hander in the rotation alongside Jamie Moyer and rookie Drew Pomeranz.