Fried Leads Talented Prospects in Fort Wayne

PEORIA, AZ: This spring the Padres' will send one of their most talented pitching staffs to Low-A Fort Wayne in the Midwest League. Four of the six starters were either first round selections, Max Fried in 2012 and Joe Ross in 2011, or supplemental selections in Zach Elfin and Walker Weickel in last year's draft.

And the other two pitchers, Justin Hancock, who was one of the better hurlers in the Northwest League last summer, and Tayron Guerrero, a six-foot-seven tools monster out of the Dominican Republic, round at a very strong and young staff.

But the player that is going to get most of the attention is Fried, a left-hander out of Studio, City, California and the the seventh overall pick of last year's draft.

Fried, 19, was a high school teammate of the Washington Nationals 2012 first round pick Lucus Giolito, spurned a scholarship from UCLA to sign with San Diego for a $3 million dollar bonus.

An athletic 6'4", he was also the starting guard on the Harvard-Westlake basketball team, with a 90 to 94 MPH fastball and a good feel for his breaking pitches that made him the first high school pitcher selected in the draft.

But as the Padres' scouts told the development staff, there is much more to Max Fried than just his athletic ability.

"His baseball knowledge and how he carries himself is beyond his experience," said Mike Cather, the Padres‘ Minor League pitching coordinator.

"He is a kid that has prepared his whole life to do this job and he is very astute and very aware of where he is and what his opportunites are. I think the best way to say is that he is highly competitive."

Fried echoed Cather's sentiments on why he decided to turn pro as opposed to becoming a Bruin.

"It was just the experience and realizing what I wanted to do with my life," Fried said at the end of spring training.

"It's always been a dream of mine and something that I have wanted to do. I wanted to start getting acclimated to being around pro ball and actually talking to people that have done it helped me to make my decision to go pro."

Unlike many young players that are drafted, Fried was not a participant in the year long baseball programs at the expense of other sports as is the case with so many others coming into professional baseball.

"I played baseball, basketball and football my freshman year. In my sophomore and junior years it was just baseball and basketball."

"It was a big thing for both me and my Dad for me to not get burned out on baseball."

Another big advantage for Fried was the changing in the draft rules of moving up the signing deadline to mid-July which enabled him, as opposed to other top draft picks in previous years, to get some experience in the short-season Arizona complex league.

"Throwing another 17 innings in pro ball just really helped me prepare for the upcoming year as opposed to facing high school hitters," Fried said on his experience in the Arizona League.

"Obviously the conditions were tough with it being Arizona in the summer time and 115 degrees everyday but it was a definitely a great sample size of what to expect and it really helped me to prepare for what I needed to expect in spring training."

With only Ross and Hancock having any significant minor league experience, the Padres' are being careful with how many innings the staff will throw particularly in light of the injuries to top young pitching talent Cory Luebke, Casey Kelly and Joe Wieland.

This year they plan on going with a six man staff for to protect the young arms and because they just have so much pitching talent at the lower levels.

"Its not that foreign this year," Cather said on a staff where the oldest starter, Hancock, is twenty-two.

"Last year we sent [Matt] Wisler, Hancock, Mike Kelly and [Cody]Hebner up there and we thought what happens if these guys can't get out of the second or the third? We are making sure we have plenty of protecting arms."

Fried has been impressed in how the organization main focus is on his health and building up his arm strength.

"The Padres are very diligent in their studies and preparations for pitchers to be as healthy as possible. We do a lot of arm care, dumbbells an different programs."

"We do a lot of running, dry work and work on our mechanics constantly."

So far Fried has started out strong for the TinCaps, cold weather and all, allowing only one earned run in his first two starts.

For San Diego, a small to mid-market team depending on you score certain categories, the development of quality starting pitching is paramount to any success the organization can will have in the future.

Since the departure of John Moores and Sandy Alderson in 2009 the team has shown more of a willingness to invest in young talent with a higher risk/higher reward factor and believe that Fried is the embodiment of the type of investment the organization needs to make.

"Remember you are talking about a lefty with a good body and three good pitches," said Randy Smith, the Padres' Director of Development.

"In addition to his fastball, he has a feel for his breaking ball and his change-up has come along well this spring."

"You don't see that too often."

Sox Hardball Top Stories