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Lefty Max Fried could have ace potential if he recovers from Tommy John surgery

The Braves are counting on Max Fried to bounce back in 2016.

The Atlanta Braves have acquired a lot of interesting pitching prospects over the past 15 months. But not one may be as intriguing as left-hander Max Fried, who was acquired from the Padres in the Justin Upton trade.

Fried was available only because he had Tommy John surgery on August 20, 2014. If not for Fried’s elbow issue, the Padres would likely have not given up a prospect that was regarded as one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in the game prior to the injury.

Fried was the 7th overall pick in the 2012 draft. He was the top high school pitcher chosen, and in his 147 minor league innings after the draft Fried showed why he was so highly regarded. He allowed 136 hits and had 127 strikeouts.

The kid just needs to stay healthy now and accumulate innings. There’s been so much success with pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery that there is tremendous hope Fried will regain his prospect status. If he shows he’s healthy, there’s a great chance Fried could again be regarded as one of the top lefty pitching prospects in the game a year from now.

The plan is for Fried to get 85-100 innings in Carolina this season and then for him to have a full season in Double-A Mississippi in 2017. Then if all goes well, Fried, who would be 24 then, could be ready for the big leagues sometime in 2018.

Fried has a great frame (6-4, 185) and has been compared in the past to Cole Hamels, another southern California left-hander. Fried had a great curveball before his injury. His above-average curve and changeup, along with a fastball that ranged from 92-95 mph, gave him the stuff that convinced scouts Fried could be a very good pitcher with more development.

Plus, scouts love his arm action and his fluidity of his motion. If that has not been impacted by the injury, Fried has a great chance to come back strong. His upside is definitely there.

Just think of what the Braves’ system could look like in a year if Fried regains that status. It will provide even more depth and give this franchise a better chance of getting on track in a short period of time. Fried’s potential recovery is a crucial part of that process, and that’s why he will be watched closely in 2016.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.


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