There is no Hollywood story for the kid from North Hollywood. He isn't coming out of nowhere and he's not some rags-to-riches story. What Max Fried is, is just good. He was a first round pick in 2012, and was one of the top prospects in baseball before his injury. All of that was for good reason. Now, it hasn't all been smooth sailing for the talented, lanky left hander. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014, and faced an 18 month road to recovery. In that time he was traded away to a team on the opposite coast from where he was born, and faced a new team in a small town environment in northwest Georgia. All he did was pick right up where he left off, flashing devastating stuff that has the potential to again make him one of the best prospects in baseball.
Level: Class A - Rome Braves
Position: Starting Pitcher
Height/Weight: 6'4" 185 lbs
Born: 1/18/1994 Santa Monica, California
Drafted: 1st Round (7th overall) in 2012 by San Diego
Acquired: Trade with San Diego in 2014 (Justin Upton)
Bats: Left Throws: Left
5 G; 1-1; 3.52 ERA; 23 IP; 12 BB, 23 K; 1.174 WHIP; 13.3% BB%; 25.6% K%;
Fried's early performance has provided a lot of hope for Max Fried, as his stuff is back to pre-surgery levels and he is getting outs better than he did in Arizona. He is old for the level, but given his abilities he could see time in Carolina in a month or two. He has the lowest WHIP of his career despite his highest walk rate of his career, as hitters have been unable to consistently make contact against him. The walk rate is a bit concerning, but given his clean delivery I expect it to drop. He is still inexperienced and likely rusty from his time off, so I think he will improve that phase of his game. His strikeout rate is great, and will only continue to go up as he refines that command and works more pitches in the zone.
Max Fried has one of the more controlled deliveries in the system, and I would venture to say it is nearly perfect. He sometimes loses consistency in this delivery, which is the biggest problem walk wise, but he will develop that as his career progresses and I see those issues ironing themselves out for the most part. The landing can be a bit awkward, and he falls a bit back towards the rubber (shown below) so we may see that tweaked a bit to keep his momentum moving in the right direction. There is little effort to his delivery, and no indication that the injury was caused by a problem in his mechanics. I expect him to be able to stay healthy and durable, especially as he adds weight to a very lean frame.
One of my favorite parts of Fried's game is his mental approach to pitching. He is a calm, collected player throughout the game and works hard to move his pitches around and mix them well. He allowed a home run to Lucius Fox in the game I attended (a long one at that) but maintained his composure and continued to work up in the zone with his fastball. I have zero complaints about his approach and mentality, and he clearly exudes a level of confidence in his stuff when he is on the mound. He still has projectability in his frame, and with already good velocity and could move to having the coveted velocity you see from a guy like Sean Newcomb. Also of note, Fried is effective against right handed batters, allowing them to hit only .224 though he is better against left handers. Oh and he has also picked off 6 players in 5 games this season, at least one in each game. Safe to say his pickoff move is a plus plus tool.
Max has a very good fastball, especially for a left handed pitcher, and as mentioned before projects for more velocity at maturity. His fastball sits in the low 90's, around 92-94, and can get up higher when he needs to. He is confident working the pitch to any part of the plate, and I saw him locate pitches up, in, and on the lower part of the zone consistently. There are few pitchers in the Braves system that have been able to work effectively in the upper part of the zone, so that is a nice sign. He gets arm side movement and sink on his fastball, which helps his fastball play up a bit more. At maturity, I see him adding at least 1 mph to his fastball, and I don't think 2 or 3 is out of the question.
His changeup is going to be an even more effective tool against right handers in the future, though with some of his control problems hasn't worked quite as well yet. It was his least developed pitch before the injury, so he will have to get back to his pre-surgery self to continue to improve and utilize the change up. As you can see, he hides the ball well in his delivery, which will further help the pitch along.
My favorite pitch of Fried's is that soft, lollipop curve that has effectively shut down every batter he has faced. I have yet to see a single player actually make contact against it. The pitch flashes a wicked downward plane, with some horizontal plane that adds further dimension to the pitch. He controls the pitch well, rarely spiking one or hanging one, which makes it impossible for a hitter to sit on the fastball. He has used the pitch to strike out right handed batters as well, and will throw the pitch basically in any count. This is a hard pitch to hit, and will continue to be a hard pitch to hit. I would already call this a major league quality curve, so it's a pitch I feel he just needs to maintain.
There are some occasions where Fried will lose his command, but on most occasions he works in the zone well. He goes after corners with all of his pitches, and shows the ability to hit those corners on a consistent basis. If I had to choose one player in the system to fix his control problems, it would be Fried, and at this point I feel it's a foregone conclusion. I was high on him going into the season, placing him at 5 on my personal list, and he has given me no reason to believe I was wrong.
Lets get a couple things about our overall grade out of the way. The overall grade isn't a reflection of our feelings about his pitches or command and putting a 30 merely reflects where we think he is as a pitcher right now. He clearly has the stuff to be a very good pitcher, but he is at low-A, old for the level, a little bit inconsistent, and still recovering from Tommy John surgery in terms of innings, pitch count, etc. Its possible if not likely that we will alter his present overall grade once he sees some better competition and continues to shake the rust off.
The phrase may go "Out of sight out of mind" but that was never really true for Fried. From the moment he came over to Atlanta in the Justin Upton deal, he was the center piece and swinging factor in the success of that trade. While Jace Peterson and Mallex Smith have turned into regular players, with Smith having the potential to be an every day starter, there is no doubt that Max Fried was the center piece of that deal. He is a premium talent that due to injury concerns was made affordable, and the gamble is going to pay off for the Braves. While he is older and carries the Tommy John stigma, the stuff is undeniable and could make him to top gun in the rotation in a couple of years. I placed aggressive ratings on Fried, and believe he will live up to all of them. He was more than worth giving up the year of Justin Upton on his own, and in combination with the others could swing that deal favorably towards the Braves.
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