I am counting down the top prospects in the Braves minor league system, starting with lefty Max Fried.
Max Fried, LHP
Andy’s Rank: 8
2016 Level: A Rome
21 G, 20 GS
Fried was a 1st-round pick (7th overall) by the San Diego Padres in the 2012 draft out of Harvard-Westlake HS in California. A much-hyped prep standout, Fried had solid but underwhelming seasons for the Padres Rookie and Class-A affiliates in 2012 and 2013 respectively. After only 10 innings into the 2014 season, Fried was diagnosed with a torn UCL that required Tommy John surgery. That offseason, Fried was the centerpiece in the Justin Upton deal. The Braves played it cautiously with Fried, extending his rehab through the entire 2015 season, and only taking the wraps off for the instructional league. In the spring, Fried was assigned to Class A Rome and unsurprisingly came out of the gate a little rusty with his command. While Fried would flash the stuff that made him such a prospect, Fried’s command came on slowly, and that led to short outings and the occasional blow-up start through the first two months of the season. Fried started turning that around mid-season and pitched to a 1.06 ERA in seven starts in June and July, while striking out 44 and walking 11 in 34 innings pitched. Blister issues knocked him out of a July 15 start and onto the disabled list, but it’s possible the extra rest did him good. He finished off the season in style, striking out 10 or more batters in each of his final four starts, including both playoff series clinchers. After the season, Fried was named by Baseball America as the #6 prospect in the South Atlantic League.
Fried is a tall and lanky lefty, listed as 6’-4”, 180 pounds. Fried has an uncomplicated, upright wind-up and comes from a 3-quarters delivery. Fried’s command can desert him when he doesn’t stick his front foot landing, but this issue went almost completely away by mid-season. Fried has a strong arsenal of pitches that includes both a four-seam and two-seam fastball. The four-seamer is the primary pitch, and sits 92-94 in games, but can touch 97. He has a plus curveball that he can alter the spin rate on to make a slower, loopier offering or a harder, late-breaker that is his bread-and-butter swing-and-miss offering. Fried works in a change-up that has become an average pitch for him, and late in the season he was getting good movement with that pitch. No conversation about Fried would be complete without acknowledging his outstanding pick-off move, and he averaged over one caught-stealing every two starts.
Stop taking leads off of Max Fried.
Pick off #17 pic.twitter.com/fLH4660DhG
— Braves Reddit (@BravesReddit) July 5, 2016
Other than the blister issue that kept him out for five weeks, the Braves couldn’t have asked for a better second half for Fried coming off nearly two seasons away from competitive play. Fried will be added to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule V draft. He will likely start the season in Class A+ Florida, but I would guess there’s a more than fair chance he follows his Rome rotation-mate Patrick Weigel in skipping Class A+ and going straight to Class AA Mississippi.