Fried is pronounced FREED.
In 2012, Fried graduated from Harvard Westlake High School in Encino, California, with a commitment to UCLA. In his senior year, he was 8-2 with a 2.02 ERA and 105 strikeouts against 29 walks and 43 hits allowed in 66 innings. And he was on the same team with RHP Lucas Giolito, the Nationals first round pick in June 2012.
Max was probably just 9 years old when he first saw the grainy, black-and-white footage of the legendary lefthander his father and brother spoke of—Sandy Koufax.
"Growing up in [Los Angeles], the name Sandy Koufax is always thrown around," said Fried. "I tried to learn as much as I could from watching film of Koufax. There isn't that much. I looked for any footage, anything I could get a hold of, just to see if I could see any aspects of pitching."
Using film of Koufax as a source as he matured, Fried started to pick up on the nuances of his curve in particular.
His older brother, by nine years, Brandon, was a tremendous influence during his formative years as a pitcher. He also credited 17-year Major Leaguer Reggie Smith, who runs a baseball academy in Encino, with being a valuable instructor.
"I think Max has a tremendous future," said Smith, who has produced several first-rounders. "You always worry about pitchers being injured, but what I see in [Fried] is possibly being in the bigs by late 2014, 2015 for sure. With Max, you're going to see a staff ace, because he knows how to pitch and he's not afraid.
"He was taught how to fight through adversity and do the things a pitcher needs to do to give his team a chance to win. All of those things were laid out for him at an early age—how to conduct yourself, how to pitch in certain situations. That's what you're seeing, and that's what you'll see in the future. That's what the great ones have."
In 2012, Fried got drafted by the Padres (see Transactions below).
In 2013, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Fried as the second-best prospect in the Padres' organization. He was at #3 in the winter before 2014 spring training.
After being dealt to the Braves, he was rated as the third-best prospect in BA's Updated Braves Top 20 in 2015. And he was at #6 in the spring of 2016. He was at #10 in the winter before 2017 spring training. And in the winter before 2018 spring camp opened, Max was rated 8th-best prospect in the Braves' organization.
Fried was a member of the 2009 gold medal-winning USA 18th World Maccabiah Juniors baseball team.
Fried was a high school friend and competitor with Lucas Giolito, and many felt it was a legit question on who was the better pitcher in high school.
As every Braves player and coach made his way to the top of the long staircase leading to Wrigley Field's visitors' clubhouse after a 5-1 victory over the Cubs, they were greeted with a hug or handshake extended by a smiling Max, who was still basking in the thrill of notching his first Major League win.
"I just wanted to say thank you," Fried said. "I can't do it alone."
Showing some of that poise that intrigued scouts before he was taken with the No. 7 overall selection in the 2012 Draft, Fried was not adversely affected by the emotions that surrounded him as he progressed through his first big league start. He limited the defending World Series champions to one run over five innings and ended his outing by escaping a bases-loaded threat.
"[Fried] and his real good friend [White Sox pitcher] Lucas Giolito, I call them the biggest geeks in the world," Braves third baseman Rio Ruiz said. "You never know if they're nervous or scared. They're so composed. Today he showed that and everybody else saw what he was capable of doing."
Also freshly promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett, Ruiz tallied a career-best three RBIs in a series-finale victory. But he also indirectly provided some comfort for Fried via the strong bond the two have shared since they began playing on the same southern California travel team at 14 years old.
"I've known Rio is an unbelievable player ever since I was 14," Fried said. "So it was really nice to being out there with someone comfortable like that to be able to share this experience with." (Bowman - mlb.com - 9/3/2017)
Lucas Giolito’s resurgence has been a topic of discussion among the White Sox faithful. The talented right-hander has bounced back from a lackluster 2018 campaign with 14 wins and a sterling 3.20 ERA for 2019.
Giolito credits his success to a revamped delivery established in the offseason. He admitted that he lacked consistency on the mound in 2018.
“I was all over the place last year,” Giolito said. “I would fly open, and my arm would be late. The misses were really big, and I think I led the league in walks.”
So, in early January, he called his best friend and current Braves starter Max Fried for help. The former Harvard-Westlake High School teammates spent the offseason working out in Los Angeles. The duo trained in local facilities and played catch in parks. Giolito worked to routinely fix several aspects of his delivery. He used plyo balls and a core velocity belt in his training to sync his lower half and get more balanced on the mound.
“I did towel drills, dry drills and gym work with wearing [the core velocity belt] sometimes," Giolito said. "It kind of gets your hips and legs in the position you want it to be.”
A newfound balance helped Giolito focus on his arm slot. He shortened his delivery to mirror that of an infielder. “The biggest adjustment and one that everyone can see is the arm action,” Giolito said. “I used to be really long, and it was behind my back. Now it’s short and direct, kind of like an infielder.”
The results have equaled success. Fried was impressed with Giolito’s development so far this season. “Revamping your whole entire delivery is not something that is easy,” Fried said. “It takes a lot of hard work and discipline. To see the hard work pay off, I couldn’t be happier.”
Fried also credits Giolito’s confidence with helping him be more consistent overall this season. “I think a lot of it has to do with confidence and just going out there knowing he has a good chance to succeed,” Fried said. “When you have that confidence and belief in yourself, the possibilities are endless.” (Jaylon Thompson - MLB.com - August 31, 2019)
How three HS teammates became MLB stars
A trio of Harvard-Westlake pitchers is already dominating in the Major Leagues right now. That's Jack Flaherty, Lucas Giolito and Max Fried -- three teammates at Harvard-Westlake who all went on to be first-round Draft picks and all had breakout seasons in 2019 for their respective big league clubs, the Cardinals, White Sox and Braves.
This is what the three of them did last season (2019):
Flaherty (age 23): 11-8, 2.75 ERA, 231 K, 196 1/3 IP
Giolito (age 24): 14-9, 3.41 ERA, 228 K, 176 2/3 IP
Fried (age 25): 17-6, 4.02 ERA, 173 K, 165 2/3 IP
Flaherty finished fourth in National League Cy Young voting after a second half for the ages. His 0.91 ERA post-All-Star break was the second-best ever for a qualified starter (behind Jake Arrieta's 0.75 in 2015).
Giolito went from having the worst ERA of any qualified starter in 2018 (6.13) to ranking among the American League leaders in '19 -- he finished fifth in the AL ERA race and sixth in the AL Cy Young vote.
And Fried showed in his first full season that he has the potential of a future ace, emerging as a key young starter in a playoff-bound Braves rotation alongside Mike Soroka. Not to mention that he has one of the prettiest curveballs this side of Clayton Kershaw. (David Adler - June 4, 2020)
- June 2012: The Padres chose Max in the first round, 7th overall pick, out of Harvard-Westlake High School in California. And Fried signed with scout Brent Mayne for $3 million.
- December 20, 2014: The Padres sent LHP Max Fried, INFs Jace Peterson and Dustin Peterson, OF Mallex Smith and international bonus compensation, to the Braves, acquiring Upton and RHP Aaron Northcraft.
|Birth City:||Santa Monica, CA|
|Draft:||Padres #1 - 2012 - Out of high school (CA)|
|2015||-||DL - Tommy John|
Fried has a 92-97 mph 4-seam FASTBALL (a 55 or 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale) and an 88-93 mph 2-seamer that has good sink and arm side run. He also has a CUTTER and an above-average tight 75-78 mph overhand. He gets tremendous spin on his downer CURVEBALL with plus depth and tight rotation that he can throw for a strike anytime in the count. That vicious curve is his best pitch (a 60 on the 20-80 scale) and it is s true weapon with top-to-bottom/12-to-6 spin. His 80-82 mph CHANGEUP is becoming above-average (a 60 grade) with deception and late sink that generates fade for a swing-and-miss from righthanded hitters. (Spring, 2018)
He can manipulate the shape and velocity of the curveball depending on the situation, throwing it hard for a strike or a chase pitch, and he can slow his curve down. He says he patterned the tight spinner after the curveball thrown by his half-brother who pitched for Southern Cal. And both of them watched any video they could find of legendary Dodgers lefty Sandy Koufax.
The key now for Max is to continue fine-tuning his pitches and to make adjustments. He believes his added maturity and healthy arm should lead to more success. (Spring, 2017)
2017 Season Pitch Usage: Fastball 62.7% of the time; Change 11.1%; and Curve 26.1% of the time.
2019 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 54% of the time, his Sinker 2.9%; Change 2.3%; Slider 15.9%; and Curve 24.9% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 94 mph, Sinker 93.7, Change 85.1, Slider 83.8, and Curve 74.6 mph.
- Max has above-average mound presence. He is a cerebral lefthander. He has shown he's at his best when he is pitching to contact and getting guy out early in the count.
Fried is lanky, with long arms and a free, easy delivery. He comes at hitters from a good downhill plane.
He has very good command.
Even when Max doesn't have his best stuff, he battles.
Fried's long layoff while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, he spent time at the mental part of the game.
"I think I'm a little more advanced in the mental game," Fried said in 2016. "I had a lot of time to work on that while I was rehabbing and picking the brains of other guys. I feel I can assess what I'm doing wrong quicker so I can fix it and make adjustments. I'm working hard on the mental aspects of my game instead of relying solely on the physical parts.
“I was always thinking of ways I could better my game once I got back (from rehab), regardless of what happened from a physical aspect,” Max said. “I feel I’m a different pitcher, and a better pitcher, because of everything I worked on while I was rehabbing.”
Max, true to Los Angeles roots, said his favorite Major League pitcher of all is Sandy Koufax. Of the current lot, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw tops his list.
Fried has the stuff to be a #2 starter in the Majors.
In September 2018, the Braves pushed Max Fried to a relief role and unlocked an aggression level that has allowed the young lefthander to realize the tremendous potential he displayed in near-perfect fashion during the 9-4 win over the Cubs at SunTrust Park.
“I’m not going to lie, going to the bullpen is something that helped me a lot with my mentality,” Fried said. “It helped me go after guys. It was like I said, ‘Here’s my stuff, hit it if you can.’ I’m going to try to adapt that to my starting routine too.”
Making his first start in more than two weeks, Fried went longer and stronger than expected. The southpaw routinely spotted his livelier fastball, which made his plus curveball even more effective. The Cubs did not produce their first baserunner until Mark Zagunis lined a 1-2 changeup to center field for a two-out single in the sixth.
Nick Markakis, the veteran outfielder quickly acknowledged the story of the night was Fried, who surrendered just the one hit over six scoreless innings. Just 3 of the 19 batters he faced hit a ball to the outfield.
“There’s almost a different look in his eyes this year,” Markakis said. “He worked well back there tonight with [catcher Brian McCann]. He was locating and had good pitch selection. It was just a fun game to watch and be a part of.”
Aware that Fried had not completed more than two innings since tossing five scoreless against the Nationals way back on March 19, Braves manager Brian Snitker was not going to push his young hurler beyond the sixth regardless of whether or not the no-hitter or perfect game were still attainable.
“He wasn’t built up enough to throw a nine-inning no-hitter,” Snitker said. “A couple more starts, he might be.”
Before the game started, Snitker responded to a question about a fitting role by saying he thought Fried could be effective in the rotation or the bullpen. Excitement about his capabilities as a reliever grew late last season when he showed increased velocity after being moved to the bullpen.
But as Fried’s four-seamer averaged 94.4 mph and touched 97.2 mph during this outing against the Cubs, he showed he is indeed capable of producing that enhanced electricity when being used as a starter. His four-seamer had never averaged better than 93.2 mph in any of his previous nine career starts.
If Fried routinely pumps his fastball at this rate with consistent command, he has the tools to become an elite pitcher. Per Statcast, the spin rate of his curveball ranked fifth among all pitchers who used the pitch at least 150 times in 2018.
“I told him he looks like a young Cole Hamels,” McCann said. “He’s got the same build and the same sort of look. The stuff is off the charts.” (M Bowman - MLB.com - April 5, 2019)
April 21, 2019: A true breakout season tends to have certain signature moments, and one appeared to arrive for Max Fried. Fried’s early season brilliance has benefited the Braves and earned him attention in Atlanta, but the stuff and self-assurance he showed in front of a national audience on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball in an 11-5 win over the Indians at Progressive Field felt like a proper coming-out party for the lefthander.
Though Fried’s season ERA escalated to 1.38 in the wake of his 6.1 innings of work, that was more a testament to how minuscule the mark was coming into the evening. Staked to an early lead, Fried overcame some first-inning wildness to breeze past the Cleveland bats with an electric mix highlighted by a beautiful breaking ball.
“He might look young, but … mid-90s fastball, slow breaking ball that kind of kept spinning,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Kind of reminded me of Blake Snell in Tampa. I can see why they’re so excited about him.”
What was most encouraging was the way he corralled his command of all of his pitches. The main takeaway was talent and tenacity.
“The fastball command has been so much better,” manager Brian Snitker said. “I think the slider is becoming a really good pitch for him. The ability to spin the ball is what we’ve been looking for from him. He’s repeating his delivery and taking it a pitch at a time.”
“I just I felt like I was maybe overthrowing a little bit in the early portion,” he said. “I was trying to get that third out a little too hard. I tried to take a step back, execute pitches. By the time I went out for the second inning, I was executing pitches.”
His best pitch might be that Snell-like curve. Fried threw it 28 times and got eight swinging strikes and three called strikes. (A Castrovince - MLB.com - April 21, 2019)
The path to Fried’s success could be a Rich Hill pitching style that emphasizes curveballs.
2019 Improvements: Fried's strikeout increase can be attributed to the enhanced comfort Fried has gained with his slider, a pitch he developed during Spring Training and then began using more frequently near the end of April. Everyone has long known about his big curveball, which has gained more value now that hitters must look for two different breaking balls in any count.
“It’s been a lot more consistent,” said McCann. “The slider keeps everybody off the fastball. It all plays together. It was fastball/curveball early in the season. Now he’s got that slider, which looks like the fastball. So it kind of protects everything else.” (Mark Bowman - MLB.com - September 6, 2019)
Fried's 17 wins nearly led the National League. And his 6 victories in the final two months were more than all but eight pitchers, so he is already appreciated in fantasy circles too. What might not be appreciated is the elite spin rate on his curveball, which is in the same range as Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton and Justin Verlander.
To take the next step, Fried must improve his effectiveness against righthanded batters, who hit .281 and slugged .435 against him in 2019.
Max showed in his first full season that he has the potential of a future ace, emerging as a key young starter in a playoff-bound Braves rotation alongside Mike Soroka. Not to mention that he has one of the prettiest curveballs this side of Clayton Kershaw.
Fried throws a stunning 12-6 curveball. His curve drops 69.6 inches on average, top-five in MLB and most among lefties. That drop is nearly eight inches more than pitchers who throw their curves at similar speed and release points to Fried, giving his curve top-10 vertical movement above average. The movement comes from Fried's high spin rate -- he sat at 2,844 rpm last season, way higher than the 2,523 rpm Major League average, and he reached the elite 3,000-plus rpm spin territory 80 separate times.
Fried's curveball is great on its own. But it got even more effective once he added a second breaking ball, a slider, to go with it. Fried worked on the slider in Spring Training 2019 and deployed it during the 2019 season to great effect. His slider and curveball have different enough speeds but similar enough action to keep hitters off-balance. Now when hitters see a breaking ball come out of Fried's hand, they can't just wait on the big slow curve. That makes everything harder to hit … hence the great barrel rate. Fried allowed barrels -- the most dangerous kind of contact -- on just 4.4% of batted balls last season, fourth-best of that same group of 152 pitchers. Only 3% of the batters he faced barreled the ball, also fourth-best. (Adler - mlb.com - 6/3/2020)
Oct 2020: Fried, the 26-year-old, gained comfort with the slider he added last season in 2019, and then began to use the pitch more frequently this year, in 2020. Opponents hit .239 against this pitch, which was considerably higher than the average produced against his four-seam fastball (.198) and curveball (.175).
.195 expected batting average against the slider was a reminder of how much trouble opponents have had squaring up his pitches. Fried surrendered a 23.8 percent hard-hit rate. Per Baseball Savant, that ranked first among pitchers who allowed at least 150 balls to be put in play this year.
“His curveball has always been nasty and his fastball has always been electric,” Braves third baseman Austin Riley said. “When he added that slider [before the 2019 season], it has made him that much better. When facing a guy with two pitches, you have some comfort in eliminating one pitch. When you’re facing a guy with three pitches or four like Max, that’s tough. He’s been outstanding.” (M Bowman - MLB.com - Oct 6, 2020)
- As of the start of the 2021 season, Fried has a career record of 26-11 with 3.52 ERA, having allowed 29 home runs and 272 hits in 281 innings.
Watch out for Max's pickoff move. He can pick a runner off of first base.
- Fried is very good with the glove.
April–July 2014: Fried was on the D.L. with a sore left arm.
August 15, 2014: Fried suffered a setback with news that he will need Tommy John surgery.
Max missed the first three months this of 2014 with left forearm soreness before eventually making five starts between Rookie ball and Class A. He last pitched July 21 before being sidelined again with what was called elbow soreness.
Fried underwent UCL reconstruction surgery on August 20, 2014 and will miss the entire 2015 season. (Alex Halsted - MLB.com - 8/15/2014)
July 6-15, 2016: Max was on the D.L. with a blister problem.
July 16-August 14, 2016: Fried went right back on the D.L. with a blister that sidelined him for a month.
2017 season: A blister issue helped ruin Max' first half in 2017, but he rebounded to make his big league debut in August.
July 6-28, 2018: Max was on the DL with left middle finger blister.
August 8-27, 2018: Max was on the DL with left groin strain.
May 7, 2019: The meaty portion of Fried’s left hand was struck by Alex Verdugo’s line drive. The pitcher felt little strength as he attempted to throw a pair of warmup pitches before heading to the clubhouse, where he felt relief when X-rays showed no signs of a fracture.
July 15, 2019: Fried's best outing in almost two months was cut short by a blister. The lefthander, who has been bothered by blisters dating back to his time in the Minors, said he noticed it near the end of the fourth inning and it got worse in the fifth.
“It was never painful, just a little uncomfortable,” said Fried, who spent time on the injured list last season with a blister. “I showed the training staff after I came in in the fifth and just thought it was the best thing [to leave].”
July 16-27, 2019: The Braves placed Fried on the IL with a blister on his left index finger.
- Sept 7-17, 2020: Max was on the IL with left lumbar spine muscle spasm.
- Sept 23, 2020: Once a left ankle injury forced Max Fried to exit after the first inning of a 9-4 win over the Marlins, the obvious question was whether he might be ready to start Game 1 of next week’s Wild Card Series.
“We’ll check him out tomorrow and go from there,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I’m hoping everything is good. The preliminaries are good, but we’ll know more tonight.”
Fried was not available to talk with the media because he was taken to a facility away from the stadium for further evaluation.