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Is Max Fried Ready To Return to Atlanta's Rotation?
Chris Clegg breaks down Max Fried's Triple-A Rehab start on Friday.
I ventured over to Gwinnett to cover what was supposed to be a doubleheader between Gwinnett and Norfolk. The rain allowed for only one game, but it was better than no baseball.
Max Fried made what the Braves hoped would be his last rehab start before returning to the rotation in Atlanta. Fried was limited to 65 pitches and completed just 3.1 innings, not quite the length the Braves hoped he would go.
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The game started out rough for Fried and not in any fault of his own as Ryan McKenna blooped a single into center. Then, Connor Norby singled on a ground ball to short, followed by a Heston Kjerstad single to right field. All three of these plays would have likely been made by Major Leaguers. Fried struck Joey Ortiz on three pitches before a Coby Mayo sac fly allowed a run to score.
Fried’s second inning went pretty smoothly as he struck out two batters and allowed a hit on a ground ball. A weird situation happened on Fried’s first strikeout of the inning. The count was 3-2, and there was a runner on first base. The runner attempts to steal 2B, and ball four is called. Fried challenges the call, which is overturned, and the batter is out. After a five-minute debate between the umps, the runner on 2nd was sent back to 1st.
The third inning started out exactly as you would have hoped with Fried striking out Connor Norby on a fastball up and Heston Kjerstad on a slider down and away. Fried was in a groove until Joey Ortiz took him deep on a curve that was hanging over the heart of the plate. He escaped the third with Ortiz doing the only damage before serving up another home run in the fourth inning to Daz Cameron.
As I told someone earlier, Fried’s arsenal looked the part, with his velocity and pitch shapes looking very good. The fastball was Fried’s most-used pitch, touching 96 mph and averaging 94 mph, which was up from his season average this year.
Fried’s curveball was nasty as usual, sitting in the mid-70s with a ton of spin and vertical break. He saw vertical drop as high as 71 inches but averaged 66 while also getting up to 12 inches of horizontal movement. Fried did not miss many bats, but his curveball had a 54 percent CSW.
His changeup and slider both looked like effective pitches at times, but showed some inconsistencies with command. The changeup did generate three whiffs, the most of any of Fried’s pitches on Friday.
The larger issue was that Fried doubled his pitch count from his last rehab outing and had not thrown this many pitches since May 5. By no means do I think Fried pitched badly on Friday, he just had a little rust to shake off and missed on a couple of pitches and Norfolk’s lineup made him pay.
The Braves hoped Fried could complete 5 innings today and be activated next week, but right now, it looks like Fried will make at least one more rehab start before rejoining Atlanta. With a 65-pitch cap on Friday, you can likely expect him to get to 80 pitches in his next outing before being ready to be full go in Atlanta’s rotation.
I thought Fried pitched fine and I would pretty much ignore the box score outside of the two home runs. The arsenal looked good, his pitch velocity was there, and Fried is nearly ready to return to his CY Young form.
Fantasy Baseball Implication
Many are anxious to get Fried back in their fantasy rotations as he is likely many teams ace or SP2. If all works out properly, you should be able to set Fried in your weekly lineups the first week of August as he would lineup to pitch on August 2 against the Angels.
I got some comments from people that seemed pretty concerned about Fried after some of my Tweets about his start, but I really think he pitched fine outside of a couple of mistake pitches that punished by a really good lineup.
You should get two solid months of Max Fried and be pleased with the results your get down the stretch. If a dynasty manager is a somewhat concerned by what they have seen, he is an easy buy for me.