The Atlanta Braves Max Fried on the comeback trail

The Atlanta Braves are tough to watch right now. When you look over their April schedule, it doesn’t appear that it will get any better anytime in the near future.

Remember though, Tomahawk Faithful, that was the plan. What Braves fans should be happy about is that their big names on the farm that are part of this big rebuilding process are off to a great start.

My latest prospect profile from Today’s Knuckleball takes a look at one of the first pieces acquired under the John Hart Era of Braves baseball. Max Fried was the centerpiece of the Justin Upton deal. A year after sitting out from Tommy John, he was back on the mound. How did he do?

April 9 saw a big start for the Atlanta Braves. It had little to with Julio Teheran and the Braves taking yet another loss on the big league level. It had everything to do with Max Fried hurling five innings of baseball for the Rome Braves.

Fried, of course, was the centerpiece of the Braves’ Justin Upton deal on the onset of the 2015 season. The 22-year-old left-hander was expected to be the focal point of Atlanta’s major rebuilding project and be one of their future anchors in their rotation.

There was only one problem. Fried had Tommy John surgery four months prior to the trade and wasn’t going to pitch for the entirety of the 2015 season.

That hardly mattered. John Hart’s upheaval of the Braves roster had little to do with instant rewards. They were not wheeling and dealing for the immediate future, they were preparing for a couple of years down the road when they moved, well, down the road.

So who is Fried?

Fried was drafted in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft, seventh overall by the San Diego Padres. He’s big, standing at 6-foot-4 but at only 185 pounds, he’s never been the power pitcher his tall frame may suggest.

He came armed to the professional level with a three-pitch arsenal. His fastball — usually in the low-90s — and curveball were both plus-pitches, but it was that nasty curve — that he threw two different ways — that scouts and teams fell in love with immediately. His third pitch — a change-up — has always been a work in progress.

The lefty has seemingly dealt with the same glaring struggle all throughout his brief career: His command. That big curve — which usually comes across in the mid-70s with a pronounced break — can get the best to chase, but when he misses, he is wild. The same can be said of his changeup — a typically 80-MPH offering — which is less effective. Some feel that it has potential to be another big-league plus swing-and-miss pitch, but others see it as nothing more than an average out pitch.

His one full season in the minor leagues was in 2013 for the Fort Wayne TinCaps. The positives were that he struck out 100 batters over 118.2 innings while posting a very respectable 3.49 ERA. The worrisome part was that he was very hittable (107 hits for a .249 batting average against) and highly erratic. He walked 56 batters, or what equated to 4.25 walks per nine innings, which is hardly ace material.

Instead of being able to take the next step in his progression, Fried pitched all of 10.2 innings before his 2014 injury and was on the shelf until this past Saturday. Now on the hill for the Rome Braves, Fried was not at his greatest, but the Braves had to be happy with what they saw.

To keep reading to see how Fried’s debut went down, some video footage of his pitches and projections as to where he fits in, head on over to Today’s Knuckleball to read the full story by clicking the link below:

Max Fried begins his long journey back for the Braves

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