Another draft-eligible sophomore out of Baylor University, Craig Fritsch (Round Rock HS, TX) is listed at 6' 4", 180 lbs. According to Baseball America, Fritsch is the #6 draft-eligible sophomore prospect for the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft and the #38 overall college prospect.
This past summer, Fritsch was among the top prospects in the Cap Cod League, checking in at #18 on the Baseball America list (subscription required). The brief report on Fritsch, mentions a low 90s fastball, "a good slider and a usable change up."
Fritsch pitched against Rice University on Sunday, March 1, 2009 at Minute Maid Park during the Houston College Classic.
Game: March 1, 2009 vs. Rice University
Fastball. True to the report from the Cape, Fritsch's fastball sat at 90-92 and hit as high as 94. His stride and low 3/4 release give him a wide angle to the plate, so all of his pitches have "hidden" movement to his glove side. Fritsch gets good sink and arm-side run on his fastball that counters this "hidden" movement and augments the pitch's life. He had good control, but was a little bit wild in the zone as evidenced by the 7 hits he allowed.
Slider. His slider really looks like a side-arm or sweeping curveball to me. Fritsch's low arm angle reinforces my belief that this pitch is really a curveball. That said, the pitch has strong arm-side-to-glove-side movement as well as some downward plane. This is a great college breaking pitch, and it should play very well against wood bats. It should become at least a Major League average offering.
Change up. Fritsch's change up is quite an interesting pitch. He gets good sink on the pitch, but it doesn't fade to the arm side. This pitch actually cuts to the glove side, almost like a slow slider. Fritsch's wide-angle release point could be the sole cause. In this game, he kept it down but mostly out of the zone. To me, it looks like it can be Major League average, though it needs some work.
Mechanics. Have a look at the video.
His stride is a decent combination of tall-and-fall and drop-and-drive. Fritsch stays tall early, and then bends his leg to get a strong forward push. He starts to pull off the rubber, but drags his toe, preventing his hips from continuing forward through the pitch and stopping his shoulders from fully rotating until after primary deceleration.
You can also see that Fritsch starts his stride in the middle of the rubber and lands outside the third-base edge of the rubber. He lands very closed, but this is part of why his pitches have such a unique angle to the plate. Landing closed can lead a pitcher to throw across his body, but Fritsch gets enough of a hip turn to avoid it.
Fritsch starts to pick the ball up with something like a pendulum swing, but he cuts it off very early to hyperabduct his humerus. He has a pretty strong scapular load, but he gets his forearm vertical before foot plant.
He has a pretty late forearm turnover. You can see that it doesn't fully lay back until just before release. While his forearm is laying back, Fritsch moves his elbow up. This limits the amount of reverse forearm bounce that takes place by reducing the rotational inertia of the lay back. In the side views, the ball doesn't appear to change height at all, but in the front views, you can see the ball dip a little right before Fritsch releases it.
Fritsch shows good pronation on his pitches, but his follow-through is a little rough. The strong lateral components introduced by his stride and his scapular load cause his arm to fly across his chest after release. This can put a lot of stress on the infraspinatus and teres minor muscles of the rotator cuff, particularly when a pitcher's shoulders stop rotating before the follow-through like Fritsch. This is a small concern going forward, but may never become an issue.
Overall. Fritsch's fastball is probably already Major League average, and his slider isn't far behind. He needs to work on command of his change up, and it could become fringe-average. His control is a plus, but he lacks true command of his arsenal.
He throws a lot of strikes, probably too many, and doesn't fool college hitters as often as someone with his stuff should.
Fristch has some pretty good college stuff, and he has some projection left in his slim frame. In time, he stands a decent chance of having three pitches that are at least Major League average. He's not there yet, but if his command comes around over the next couple of months, he could see his draft stock shoot up significantly.