Scouting E. Kentucky's Christian Friedrich

Dustin Mattison scouted a pitcher in whom the Cardinals are rumored to be interested, Eastern Kentucky's left-hander Christian Friedrich. Exclusive video of the 20-year-old in action is included.

With the St. Louis Cardinals holding the 13th pick in next month's First-Year Player Draft, we look at one of the top college arms in the country, Christian Friedrich.  Following is a scouting report on the pitcher considered by some to be the second-best college left-hander available. 

 

The Cardinals have not had a pick this early since the organization took Shaun Boyd with the 13th selection in the 2000 draft.  The Cardinals have the same overall spot this time around and are hoping for a bigger payoff with this selection. 

 

With the price of free-agent pitching, the Cardinals could look at a pitcher in the first round.  With some of the bigger names predicted to be off the board, they could go with a polished left-hander out of Eastern Kentucky, Christian Friedrich. 

 

 

Background

 

Entering the season, Friedrich was regarded as one of the top pitching prospects of 2008.  With less than a month until the draft, the junior has done nothing to disappoint. 

 

This season, Friedrich is 5 -1 with a 1.59 ERA.  He ranks among the nation's leaders in ERA, strikeouts and fewest hits allowed. The southpaw has 99 strikeouts compared to 30 walks in 73.2 innings.  Opposing batters are hitting only .133 against him while he is giving up just over four hits per nine innings. 

 

On the day I saw Friedrich, he was opposed by Southeast Missouri State.  With 15-20 scouts on hand watching his every move, the 6-foot-3 lefty mowed down Redhawk hitters with ease.  Friedrich racked up 13 strikeouts while allowing only one hit in eight innings.  His command was shaky, however, as he allowed six free passes.  

 

For week ending May 4, Friedrich won his third Ohio Valley Pitcher of the Week honor this year, and the fifth of his career. Friedrich was almost perfect in a recent Colonels' victory, allowing just one base runner in his eight innings of work, and at one point retiring 20 consecutive batters.

 

 

During his sophomore season, the lefty led the OVC in ERA, opposing batting average, strikeouts, and strikeouts per nine innings, the latter which ranked 14th in the nation. He was named a freshman All-American after going 10-2 with a 1.98 ERA and striking out 118 in 82 innings.

 

Though he played in the Ohio Valley Conference, Friedrich has matched up against some of the best college players in the country.  Regarded as one of the top pitchers in the 2007 Cape Cod League, Friedrich struck out future first round picks Buster Posey and Gordon Beckham along with Stanford's Jason Castro in his final inning of the summer. 

 

Friedrich has been nominated for the 2008 Dick Howser Trophy Watch List, given annually to college baseball's premier player. Also, he is a finalist for the Brooks Wallace and Roger Clemens Awards, and was voted the 2008 preseason OVC Pitcher of the Year earlier this year.

 

 

Scouting Report

 

Frame

 

The 20-year-old possesses a long, lean projectable frame.  He stands 6-foot-3 and is listed at 210 pounds, which seems like a stretch.  He could definitely add some strength to his frame with more velocity probable.  I've seen him compared to the Angels' Joe Saunders but a taller Jamie Moyer is the first person that came to mind.  Cliff Lee would also be a good comparison.

 

Mechanics

 

His delivery was smooth and easily repeatable with minimal effort.  Good balance using a high leg kick that he uses to hide the ball with as well (think P.J. Walters).  Friedrich showed excellent arm speed with his 3/4 delivery.  Uses the high leg kick as well as a slide step when pitching from the stretch.  Didn't lose velocity with runners on base.  Friedrich did not pay a lot of attention to baserunners.  I wonder if this is because of how well he trusts his stuff or the fact he has one of the top defensive catchers in the league. 

 

 

Intangibles

 

Reminds me a lot of David Price in how he was easily identified as the leader of the team.  Like his teammates, he put on the eye black and looked like he was ready to go into battle.  During at bats, he was the loudest cheerleader in the Eastern Kentucky dugout. 

 

Friedrich is a pitcher, not a thrower.  He has a good idea of what he needs to do from pitch to pitch.  Yes, his walk total has high on this day.  Part of it was due to control issues, but it was partly due to the fact that he would not give in.  The southpaw had an idea of how he wanted to pitch to each batter and would not change his game plan even if it meant giving up the walk.  In this instance, he is reminiscent of Tom Glavine. 

 

It is impressive that the 20-year-old has not allowed the pressure to affect him.  Although multiple big league scouts are watching his every move, he has lived up to all expectations and solidified himself as one of the best college pitchers in the country. 

 

 

Pitches

 

Fastball

Though he was inconsistent throwing it for strikes on this day, there was no doubt it was a plus pitch.  He worked at 86-89 MPH, changing speeds from pitch to pitch.  When he needed a little extra zip, Friedrich would dial it up to 91-92 and I saw him touch 94 on the radar gun on this day.  His fastball has late life that explodes in the zone.

 

Slider/Cutter

Some scouts say he throws both while others say he throws a slider that looks more like a cutter.  On this day, I saw him throw the cutter.  He would use it in on the hands of right-handed hitters as well as using it to come in the backdoor when he is ahead in the count.  The pitch registered 84-86 MPH on the gun.  

 

Curveball

A sharp, late breaking pitch that is already above average.  Friedrich threw the pitch for strikes to get ahead of hitters as well as throwing it out of the zone to get hitters out. His hook has nasty bite that gets on the hitter before dropping right off the table.  On this day, he threw it at 72-74. 

 

Change Up

This is definitely his fourth pitch that he did not use very often.  He threw it at 80 MPH, so not a lot of difference in speeds compared to the cutter.  The pitch seemed flat and with him not throwing it too much on this day, I wonder how much faith he has in it.  With more work and a bigger velocity difference between it and his fastball, it could become devastating with his above-average heater. 

 

Command

 

He lacks command of his fastball at this time.  With all the other plusses he does possess, it would seem a professional pitching coach would put these concerns to rest. 

 

Behind only the University of San Diego's Brian Matusz, Friedrich is considered by many to be the second-best college left-hander in the country.  With lots of polish, he should be a fast mover that projects to be a number 2-3 starter in the big leagues.  At this point, the only thing that could hold him back is his command but with the smooth delivery he possesses, I am sure it will come. 

 

If Friedrich is on the board at number 13, rumor has it, the Cardinals will take the EKU pitcher with their pick.  After seeing him this past Saturday, I will be a happy Cardinals fan if they do. 

 

Exclusive video

 

(3:13)

 

 

Dustin Mattison can be reached via email at dustin@whiteyball.com.

 

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