Jim Callis of Baseball America was recently asked for his top 5 left handed pitching prospects in the minors right now, and Padres’ lefty Max Fried came in at #2 behind Marlins’ pitcher Andrew Heaney. This surprised me a bit, if only because I hadn’t been ready myself at the time to move Heaney ahead of Fried.
Fried was drafted by the Padres out of Harvard-Westlake High School in 2012, and signed with the Padres for a $3 million bonus. The team sent him to their Arizona Rookie league affiliate after signing, where he threw 17 innings, struck out 17, walked 6 batters, and allowed 14 hits while posting an excellent 4.17 GO/AO rate.
The Padres sent him to full-season Low-A for the 2013 campaign, and through 21 starts has posted a 3.58 ERA, 105 innings pitched, allowed 96 hits, struck out 94 while walking 55 batters and getting grounders at a 1.87 GO/AO rate. The walk total is a bit concerning, translating to a 4.7 BB/9 ratio, but that rate has improved as the season has gone along.
The scouting reports on Fried point to a pitcher who could slot in near the top of a rotation, and it’s easy to see why. Fried is listed at 6’4” and 170 lbs according to BR, which has led to projections that he can potentially develop into a front-end starting pitcher as he continues to grow and mature. His delivery appears to be lower-effort from his starts on MILB.tv, although from this eyewitness report from Nick Faleris ($), it sounds like there are some smaller details with regard to consistency that still need work. Not necessarily hugely concerning, given that he’s still just 19 years old and in Low-A.
Fried features a fastball which sits in the low-90s, but has shown the potential to have it move into the mid-90s at times as well. He’ll throw both a four seam and a two seam version at times, but overall the fastball projects as a potential above-average pitch. He also throws a very good curveball, which showed excellent break in the starts I watched, and projects to be a plus offering in the future. It’s not a 12-6 offering, but as Nick Faleris noted in the article mentioned above that it appears to be more 1-7 instead. He also throws a changeup, which is anticipated to be at least an average offering. He gets a ton of groundballs already, which should continue to serve him well.
At this point, I see a pitching prospect that could vault into the upper tier of pitching prospects, but still has a little work to do. He’s not in the same tier as pitchers like Taijuan Walker and Archie Bradley, but would fall in the next group of pitching prospects for me. The fact that he is already showing a propensity to get weak contact and ground balls bodes well for his long-term success, and I can see a pitcher who provides above-average ratios while striking out nearly a batter per inning at his peak. Add in that his numbers could be helped by pitching in San Diego, and he’s likely a top 10 pitching prospect for me in the long term. I don’t think we see Fried in the Majors for another 3 years at least, and would anticipate that the team will send him to High-A to at least start the 2014 season. After that though, I could see him moving at more than a level per year, similarly to how the Padres have moved Matt Wisler this season.
For more on Fried and the Padres, head over to SBNation's Gaslamp Ball.
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