When it comes to projecting the successes or failures of a team’s starting rotation, there are two categories into which you can place pitchers.
Those who you think you have a good idea what to expect, and those you are hoping will break through.
For the Rockies, the guys in the second group often bear a disproportionate amount of pressure entering the season. Tell me if these lines sound familiar:
“If Drew Pomeranz commands his fastball and shows why the Rockies traded for him…”
“If Jhoulys Chacin proves that he can consistently pitch at the top of the rotation…”
“If Juan Nicasio becomes more consistent…”
And that is but a small sample. The point is, the Rockies’ chances to surprise the rest of the league always depend on the rotation. As the franchise has desperately tried to bolster their farm system and develop more homegrown pitchers, there is always a short list of young pitchers we are hoping will break through any given season. And if one of them does, it has a huge impact.
See Tyler Chatwood‘s 2013 season as an example. In 20 starts he went 8-5 with a 3.15 ERA and a 140 ERA+. What made Chatwood’s success especially interesting was the fact that he was not necessarily the top candidate for the franchise. Looking to 2014, who might that guy be?
To me it feels a lot like Christian Friedrich could be this year’s Tyler Chatwood.
The talk will be about Eddie Butler and Jonathan Gray, both considered among the best pitching prospects in baseball this season. There is also Jordan Lyles, acquired in a trade with the Houston Astros this off-season. Friedrich’s name has also been mentioned, but it feels a little bit like he’s being forgotten.
Friedrich made 20 starts in 2012 and struggled overall before a back injury forced him to miss the end of that year and all of 2013. There was an interesting explanation for his stats, though.
Of the 84.2 innings he threw, 39.1 were at home and 45.1 were on the road. In those 39.1 home innings, he posted a 8.92 ERA. You read that right. 8.92! In those 45.1 innings on the road, though, his ERA was a solid 3.77.
Those solid road numbers go along with some moments where he just felt like a guy who can the team can eventually count on. That’s the dreaded eye test, I know, but I liked what I saw in those hopeful moments from Friedrich.
I know Coors Field is a bear, but that problem still feels correctable. If Friedrich does level off those numbers, doesn’t he have the goods to be this year’s Tyler Chatwood? If nothing else, I think he’ll make us pay attention come Spring Training.