Healthy Fried ready to carry momentum into '17

Healthy Fried ready to carry momentum into '17

ATLANTA -- A little more than two years removed from Tommy John surgery, Max Fried feels he is once again physically capable of proving why he entered the 2012 Draft as one of the top available left-handed pitchers and exited the '13 season ranked as MLBPipeline's 43rd-best overall prospect.

Fried reinvigorated his prospect status with the strong second half he produced for Class A Rome last season, and he will come to his first big league camp next month with the realization that he could soon become a key figure within Atlanta's rotation. The 22-year-old southpaw spoke about his recent progress as he attended MLB's Rookie Career Development Program in Leesburg, Va., last week.

"Looking back on it, I hadn't been healthy throwing a baseball since 2013, so it was really three years of not feeling good throwing a baseball," Fried said. "So once I got back into games, it was a little bit of an adjustment period, but I felt like I hit my stride and got my confidence and everything else fell into place."

When Fried was taken by the Padres with the seventh overall selection in 2012, some scouts rated him higher than his high school teammate Lucas Giolito, who currently ranks as MLBPipeline's top pitching prospect. Fried lived up to expectations through the 2013 season, but he then made just five starts in '14 before undergoing Tommy John surgery just four months before the Braves acquired him as part of the package gained in exchange for Justin Upton being sent to San Diego.

After rehabbing throughout his first year as a member of the Braves' organization, Fried had to shake off some rust as he progressed through the early portion of this past season with Rome.

Fried posted a 5.21 ERA and recorded 40 strikeouts while issuing 28 walks over the 48 1/3 innings he totaled through his first 10 starts. Over the 54 2/3 innings totaled within his other 11 regular-season starts, he posted a 2.80 ERA, notched 72 strikeouts and issued just 19 walks.

Quashing any potential concerns about his endurance at the end of what was his first full season since 2013, Fried notched 10 strikeouts in each of his final two regular-season starts before totaling 24 strikeouts while allowing just two runs over 14 2/3 innings during the South Atlantic League playoffs.

Fried will likely begin this upcoming season with Double-A Mississippi, but there is at least a chance he could reach the big league level this year.

MLBPipeline ranks Fried as the Braves' 11th-best overall prospect and their seventh-best pitching prospect.

"It's always been nice to look to your left and then to your right and see guys who are extremely talented," Fried said. "It pushes you to want to get better every day and not really take time off, because you know those guys are working just as hard as you right now."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.