Golden Boy Max Fried Shows What All the Hype is About in Brief Starts
I liked to refer to Max Fried as the scouting “golden boy” of the 2012 MLB draft. A tall, projectable left handed pitcher with a plus curveball out of Southern California; that profile just oozes “big leaguer”. I had heard all sorts of hype on Fried before I had ever seen him, people whose opinion I respect had given some lofty comps on him so I was plenty excited to see him. I saw three outings, all of which were brief two inning stints, and in each of those I saw a different Max. I refer to the first outing as Silver Max, the second outing as Bronze Max, and the third and final outing as Golden Max. He was inconsistent but had enough natural ability to get hitters out most of the time.
It is easy to see the projection of Max Fried: he stands around six foot four and is listed at 185 pounds. He has wide shoulders, and looks like he will be filling out over the next few years. His length also adds some deception to his delivery. It is an overall smooth motion with a loose arm at around a high 3/4 angle. While his velocity did vary some it always looked pretty easy. As he gets more reps over the next year or so it will become a more consistent delivery. I would like to see him pick up the pace while on the mound both in overall tempo and in the tempo of his motion. I think it will help him with balance and consistency.
His fastball varied a lot when I saw him. In his bronze outing it was as low a 87-88, but in his gold outing he was as high as 93. I think that difference is just being young and throwing every fifth day for the first time. A couple years working with the Padres strength guys and I see him being at the upper end of that scale consistently. In both outings his fastball velocity didn’t vary much from windup to stretch. His fastball had the natural left handed arm side run to it. He was able to miss barrels with his fastball, and it seemed like he had a good feel for the command of it as well other than the few times he left it above the belt. As he develops, he cannot lose the movement to his fastball since he doesn’t have Matt Moore type velocity location and movement will be key for him. Grade 40/55
“Clearly his best pitch”: I had been told this probably fifty times before I ever saw him. The first time I saw Fried he did not throw it much, but in his golden outing I saw and understood just why he was drafted seventh overall. His curveball was a sharp, vicious, true 12-6 curve sitting around 77-79. It is his clear out pitch. Coming from the same arm angle as his fastball it could be the pitch that carries him to the big leagues. In his golden start he was able to throw it in and out of the zone giving hitters no chance. In his other outings it was a chase pitch but a lot of these young hitters chased it. As long as that command shores up and he can put it in the zone this is a plus major league curveball. Grade 50/70
Fried’s change is not nearly as far along as his other pitches but I did see improvement in it every time I saw him. I still question if it will be a major league average pitch, however. It has no more movement than his fastball most the time, and he still struggles to put it where he wants. It is a hard pitch to judge because I bet this summer was one of the first times he really used it in game situations. As long as Fried can keep his arm speed consistent with it, the changeup can be an decent third pitch for him. He has to focus on his feel for it and leaving in the bottom or down and out of the zone. Other wise it is a pitch that a lot of hitters can put contact on. I won’t write him off on this pitch because he has not thrown it enough and I have not seen him throw it enough. Right now it is clearly his third pitch but with his athleticism he could make it an average pitch. Grade 30/40
Going into the draft I loved Andrew Heaney, and Fried reminds a lot of him. An easy fastball, and a power breaking ball with a developing change. Heaney is farther along in his maturation process than Fried, but I think Fried has the same projection that I gave Heaney: a number three pitcher in a rotation with a shot at being a two. If his change doesn’t come along, he will be in the bottom half of a rotation but if he can make it a viable pitch, I see no reason he can’t be a three. I think worst case he has no change, and he is a late-innings bullpen guy. I see that as very unlikely though, as the change should be at least good enough to keep hitters honest.
This week’s honorable mention is the one player I even put a “marginal prospect” label on for the AZL Reds: 19 year old Pedro Diaz. Right now he has one pitch, a fastball. However it is a fastball that is a consistent 93-94 and even at a six foot frame it is a very easy 94. He rarely throws a breaking ball and is still learning the change. The times I saw him he was 90 percent fastballs but on days he had his command that fastball was enough to get hitters out. His fastball also had some movement to it, so he was able to get a lot of swing a misses with it. He projects as a bullpen guy but that easy velocity will take him a long way.