Max Fried: 2018 Deep Sleeper

This was supposed to be a quick paragraph on Max Fried but it turned into a borderline Quick Look. I was doing an article on pitchers who saw their ERA balloon because of starts at Coors. His non-Colorado ERA dropped stood at 3.09 vs 3.81 which made him seem like a borderline ace. I kept digging and found additional encouraging information. Here are some of my thoughts on my first 2018 deeper sleeper.

First, here’s how industry sources graded him including his pERA grades from his short MLB stint.

Max Fried Prospect Grades
Season Source Fastball Curve Change Control
2018 BA 92-93 mph (55) Plus (60) Fringe Avg (45) Below Avg (40)
2017 pERA (MLB) 71 56 55 42
2017 FanGraphs 60 60 55 50
2017 MLB 60 60 50 45
2014 MLB 60 65 50 50
2013 MLB 60 60 60 60

Some definite disparities exist. I will examine each pitch with a video from his September 9th start against the Marlins.

Fastball

My pERA grade loves his fastball. Based just on velocity, it grades out as average. The deal is that the pitch is an extreme groundball pitch on the level of Dallas Keuchel’s sinker with a 69% GB%. It spins at only 2000 RPM which is extremely slow. It will allow him to stay competitive in each start even if his breakers are off for the night. Also, it pushes his ERA under his ERA estimators. This pitch is a nice hidden secret.

Curve

It may play up off his fastball but it’s a loopy and slow which will keep it from being elite.

Changeup

There seems to be a little disagreement on the pitch, especially with the latest grade being “fringe-average” from Baseball America. With Fried throwing in the Arizona Fall League, I wondered if Baseball America’s information was more up-to-date. I contact Eric Logenhagen who has seen him in the AFL. He said it’s “more 45 than 50 here [AFL], definitely flashing 50/55”. While not great, it seems serviceable.

Control

His 2017 MLB control (4.2 BB/9) sinkholes his overall value. When he’s thrown over 20 IP at any level, his BB/9 is over 4.0 with a 4.5 BB/9 in 86 IP in AA this past season. Without including control added in, his pERA grade placed his ERA at 2.72. It jumps to 3.80 with the bad control.

He’s dealt with injuries which could be behind the wildness. He missed all of 2015 because of Tommy John surgery and the first half of 2017 with blisters. Until he controls the walks, his value will be suppressed.

There is some hope. In 23 IP, in the AFL his walk rate is at 2.7 BB/9 while striking out over a batter per inning. Steamer projects him at 8.3 K/9, 4.7 BB/9, 51% GB% and a 4.24 ERA. If he can drop those walks like he has done in the AFL, he could be a 3.50 ERA or better pitcher.

Starting with an possibly elite sinker and adding two average or better breaking balls, Max Fried has a decent floor with upside. He needs to limit the walks. I’m not going to count on him for 2018 but I’m going to own as many shares as possible. He’s going to cost nothing with no on drafting him in early mocks.



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Jeff writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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ChippersJonesing
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ChippersJonesing

There’s a lot of sleeper upside in the Braves rotation next year, I’m starting to feel bullish on the team for the first time in years.

Have you taken a look at Luiz Gohara? I know you were against streaming him a couple times at the end of the year, and he had incredible games both times! He seems like a guy that would catch your interest though, big lefty throwing 98 with a nasty slider that he likes to manipulate.