Another visit from Uncle Charlie

Christian Friedrich, LHP, Rockies (Low-A Asheville)
Wednesday’s stats: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K
Every year, a few guys drop in the draft for unknown reasons. Last year, Friedrich was one of those guys. Expected to go somewhere in the middle of the first round, instead he dropped into Colorado’s lap at No. 25 overall and they’re not complaining. He has a solid fastball but one of the best curveballs around — and dominating breaking balls can torture Low-A hitters. With 45 strikeouts in 29 innings and a 0.93 ERA in five starts, Friedrich isn’t long for the Sally League.

Encouraging results from the D-Train

Dontrelle Willis, LHP, Tigers (Triple-A Toledo)
Wednesday’s stats: 7.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 4 K

It didn’t take a scout to figure out that Willis was just plain broken this spring, but he’s definitely making some slow and steady improvements. Wednesday night, he sat at 87-90 mph with his fastball, and more importantly threw 74 of his 118 pitches for strikes. There’s no specific timetable for his return to the majors, but it might end up sooner than expected.

Tommy who?

Kris Medlen, RHP, Braves (Triple-A Gwinnett)
Wednesday’s stats: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K

While Braves fans pay close attention to every start by uber-prospect Tommy Hanson, he hasn’t even been the best pitcher on his own team so far this season. That honor goes to Medlen, an undersized righty who effortlessly commands a three-pitch mix consisting of an 87-92 mph fastball, an average curve and a very good changeup. He’s a good athlete with a fearless mound demeanor, and he now has a 1.17 ERA over 30.2 innings while striking out 38 and limiting the league to a .167 batting average. Just like Hanson, you could see Medlen in The Show this summer as well.

Like father, like son

Kyle Drabek, rhp, Phillies (High-A Clearwater)
Wednesday’s stats: 6.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R (1 ER), 1 BB, 9 K
On pure talent, Drabek might have been the best arm in the 2006 draft, but a smallish frame and some questionable makeup dropped him to the Phillies in the middle of the first round. After missing a year recovering from Tommy John surgery, Drabek is slowly finding his stuff again with new, much cleaner mechanics, and he’s really come on of late. With a fastball that consistently gets into the 94-95 mph range and a knee-buckling hammer curve, the son of former Cy Young award winner Doug Drabek has recorded 46 strikeouts over 35.2 innings while walking only nine to go with a nifty ERA of 2.27.

Here comes the power?

Josh Vitters, 3B, Cubs (Low-A Peoria)
Wednesday’s Stats3-for-5, 2B, HR (3), 2 R, 2 RBI
The third-overall pick in the 2007 draft, it’s no real surprise to see Vitters hitting .333, as his bat speed, plate coverage and hand-eye coordination rank with nearly anyone in the minors. The questions revolved around the power potential. He makes hard contact to be sure, but it’s more of a line drive swing without loft or backspin. With home runs in back-to-back games and a 10-for-24 mark with 18 total bases in his last six contests, those questions are beginning to get an answer.

Sleeper Alert!

Joe Dunigan, 1B, Mariners (High-A High Desert)

Wednesday’s stats:4-for-7, 3 HR (12), 3 R, 7 RBI, 2 K

Five years ago, Dunigan was one of the most intriguing prospects in the state of Illinois — a massive athlete who was built like a linebacker and had one of the highest ceilings in the Midwest. Exactly the type of player who needed three years of college, the Nationals took a flyer on Dunigan in the 41st round, but he honored his commitment to play at Oklahoma. He never really exploded there, but it was still hard to get away from the body and the potential, leading Seattle to draft him in the fifth round three years later and sign him to a $140,000 bonus. His full season debut in the Midwest League last year ended up uninspiring, as the big guy hit .240/.299/.421 with 14 home runs but also 142 strikeouts in 119 games. The California League, especially High Desert, can do wonders for a guy, especially one with raw power, but it’s hard to ignore what Dunigan is doing at this point, despite his track record, pinball machine of a home park, and age (23). With three home runs, including a walk-off shot in the 11th last night, Dunigan is now tied for the overall minor league lead with 12 in just 105 at-bats as part of a whopping batting line of .390/.439/.857.

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There is a timetable for Willis' return to Detroit. His 30-day rehab clock expires around May 21st, so I'd expect you see him make another start, maybe two, and then its back to Detroit unless there is a 'setback' of some sort....
And Willis may have been the second best starting pitcher on the field that night. Michael Bowden of the Paw Sox went 6 2/3 allowing 1 hit and 1 unearned run.
For what it's worth, the scouts who sit around me in Rancho Cucamonga were very impressed with Dunigan last weekend. And they can be trusted to see past the High Desert mirage.
For what it's worth, my first ever PROFESSIONAL baseball writing assignment involved going to see Dunigan at St. Ignatiaus High in Chicago.
Thanks for the short bit on Medlen; I saw his season stats yesterday and was immediately curious.
Kevin, you hearing anything about Mazzaro? Two clunkers in a row now, is he ok?
Let's see . . . an undersized righty with three-pitch command whose last name begins with an "M" starting for the Braves . . . sounds familiar, doesn't it!