Harvard-Westlake High School was going to have a top 10 pick in the 2012 MLB Draft. But who that selection turned out to be was not what people had been expecting. Lucas Giolito went from the potential number one overall pick to 16th overall after suffering a UCL strain in his elbow. But his teammate, left-hander Max Fried was more than willing to pick up the slack. Fried led Harvard-Westlake to a 24-4 season with the spotlight squarely on him. And along the way he showed off his impressive repertoire as a lefty pitcher and the San Diego Padres noticed, drafting him 7th overall in the 2012 MLB Draft.
It’s always nice for high school pitchers to be projectable, meaning that they have the potential to add velocity as they fill out their frames. Projectable pitchers have essentially automatic upside because of their (usually) impending velocity increase in pro ball. But as Fried shows, a prep product having less velocity on his fastball than he will in the future can have another positive effect: the forced development of secondary pitches in order to succeed.
Fried is 6’4″, 180, definitely projectable with his slender frame. Because of that, his velocity has fluctuated. Scouts saw Fried in the high-80′s one game and the low-to-mid-90′s the next. But all along, Fried managed to get impressive movement with the late sink on his fastball, and the fact that he couldn’t always blow hitters away forced him to harness his secondary offerings. At the forefront has been his curveball, which has gotten better and better the more he has used it. He throws it out of the same arm slot as his fastball before it features dynamic 1-to-7 break that makes hitters sitting dead-red miss by a wide margin. Fried throws his curveball from the mid-to-high 70′s and can not only use it to forces swings and misses but can also locate it for strikes consistently, preventing hitters from laying off it even if they recognize it in time. Between Fried’s fastball and breaking ball, his arsenal is impressive enough, but he has also developed a changeup with good action and some sink as well. Fried locates all his pitches well and he even has a very good pickoff move. Projectable and polished are often considered to be mutually exclusive ways to describe pitching prospects, but in the case of Fried, his last of consistent velocity because of his remaining projectability literally forced him to polish out his arsenal.
Moving forward, Fried already has an impressive arsenal but has clear room for improvement. Gaining velocity will make his fastball a consistently and allow him to rely on his breaking ball less, making it more effective. And also his changeup is a pitch that is solid right now but could be even better as Fried utilizes it more against better competition in pro ball. Fried’s upside ranges from a number two starter to as high as a number one based on just how much velocity he gains, whether into the low-90′s or the mid-90′s. Fried possesses an excellent arsenal for a lefty pitcher with still room to grow he has the ability to be an upper-echelon major league pitcher someday. It was tough for Fried being compared to Giolito all the time, attending the same school. But he is an excellent player in his own right and gives the Padres the perfect combination of present ability and upside.