On March 3, 2016, the San Diego Padres signed 29-year-old left-hander Christian Friedrich to a minor league deal. Friedrich was a first round pick of the Colorado Rockies’ organization out of Eastern Kentucky, and was expected to fulfill a bullpen role for the Padres immediately.
Friedrich came up to the majors on May 13th and was something the team did not expect him to be… a starting pitcher.
Friedrich was one of the brighter spots of the 23rd-worst pitching staff in all of major league baseball. He was nothing but an innings eater last season for the Friars.
The former first round pick, at times, showed flashes of what he is capable of doing throughout the 24 games he appeared in last season. Posting multiple 7+ strikeout, 6+ inning starts, Friedrich surely has the potential to be a decent number two or number three pitcher for the Padres. He is not going to blow it past anyone, as his fastball averages about 89 mph. His ability to mix his pitches and change speeds is what makes him a solid pitcher. Although he throws his cutter more often than his slider and changeup, it is not nearly as effective as the other pitches in his arsenal.
In 2016 with the Padres, Friedrich threw his changeup and slider a combined 590 times. Opposing hitters batted .217 against his changeup and slider, showing that his off speed pitches are effective. In previous seasons, Friedrich rarely even threw his changeup, and hitters have never posted a mark higher than .250 when going against his slider. The stuff for Friedrich is certainly there, it is just finding that consistency. His ability to mix his pitches and locate effectively is what will propel him to being an effective pitcher in 2017.
Now, in 2017, I can see Friedrich being the number three pitcher in the Padres’ rotation. He has the potential to outperform the two pitchers ahead of him in the rotation. I think Luis Perdomo and Clayton Richard will be at the helm of the Padres rotation, but I really think Friedrich can be effective this whole year. Both Friedrich and Richard give the Padres lefties to rely on, something that every good starting rotation needs. With the uncertainty of how Jhoulys Chacin will perform, it would be unreasonable to put him above Friedrich at this point, though he is also one to keep an eye on, as Darren Balsley will likely have a positive effect on him.
Look for Friedrich to finally make a jump this season with his production. He has never been particularly good in the pros, but last season was surely a good indicator that he is improving. With the stuff he already has, matched with the brilliance of Darren Balsley, I can see Friedrich actually being effective for the Padres. Look for Friedrich to go about six innings deep on average, and strikeout about 5-6 batters every game.
Padres fans, I’m telling you, don’t write off Friedrich just yet. He is certainly not someone who we can build our franchise around, or rely on to be future contenders, but there is certainly a chance for Friedrich to be a pretty decent starter for our team in 2017. We need all the arms we can get.