In a flurry of moves today, one of the more interesting and surprising was the promotion of Mississippi Braves left-hander Max Fried up to the Show.
Max Fried, LHP
OFR Rank: 15
2017 Level: AA Mississippi
5.92 ERA, 4.06 FIP
19 G, 19 GS
Fried was a 1st-round pick (7th overall) by the San Diego Padres. 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, a prospect that under other circumstances would likely have been untouchable. The Braves played it cautiously with Fried’s rehab, extending it through the entire 2015 season. In the spring of 2016 Fried was assigned to Class A Rome and unsurprisingly came out of the gate a little rusty , but he started turning that around mid-season and pitched to a 1.06 ERA in seven starts in June and July. 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 a consensus Top 10 prospect in the Braves organization.
Fried was added to the Braves 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule V draft and made a good impression in spring training. Along with Mike Soroka and Kolby Allard, he made the double-jump from Rome to AA Mississippi to begin the 2017 season. In his first start with Mississippi however, he had to leave early due to back tightness. Upon his return, Fried was beleaguered by an inability to finish off hitters, especially right-handers, and then was slowed by a recurrence of his blister issues. Although he never officially went on the DL, Fried did not make an appearance between June 24 and July 21. His last three starts have each been 4 innings or less, but he’s been dominating in those spots, allowing no runs in 10 innings total.
Listed as 6’-4”, 200 pounds. Fried has a clean, upright 3-quarters delivery. 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, occasionally plus-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. When struggling earlier this season, Fried was having trouble dropping the curveball in for strikes and hitters, especially right-handed hitters, had been getting good hacks off his fastball. For this season, righties have an .837 OPS against him, while he has limited lefties to a .665 OPS. Fried needs to stay on top of his pitches to get the movement and sink on them in order to be successful.
Fried also possesses an outstanding pick-off move and good overall athleticism.
Fried makes yet another double-jump, this time going to the major leagues straight from AA Mississippi. With room on the 40-man roster tight, the team looks like it wants to evaluate Fried in a possible low-inning, bullpen role as the team is clearly now using what’s left of the 2017 season to figure out who should be in the plans for 2018. Despite a large number of high-ceiling left-handed pitchers in the Braves minor league system, left-handed hitters have feasted on Braves major league pitching this season. The organization will now look to Max Fried to help reverse that trend.