Padres' Fried developing wisdom beyond his years
Friars southpaw ranked No. 3 among MLB's left-handed pitching prospects
Max Fried spent last year, his first full season in professional ball, doing a lot of learning -- how to attack older professional hitters, how to withstand months of taking the ball every turn of the rotation and how to manage the long bus rides of the Minor Leagues.
It wasn't all about baseball either. Like most players drafted out of high school, Fried had to learn what it was like to live away from home for the first time.
Now, as he prepares to embark on his second full year as a professional, Fried, ranked No. 3 on MLB.com's list of the Top 10 left-handed pitching prospects, will have to prove he has learned from all of his experiences.
"To play and perform at the level you expect from yourself and dealing with the ups and downs and the grind of a Minor League season is something I'm going to take with me," he said. "Now I can better expect and anticipate things that happen during a Minor League season."
Just a year after the Padres made him the seventh overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, Fried threw 118 2/3 innings at Class A Fort Wayne. He posted a 3.49 ERA, struck out 100 batters and helped the TinCaps reach the Midwest League playoffs.
After finishing in second place in the first half to secure a playoff berth, the TinCaps struggled to repeat that success in the second half. But they were able to overcome their poor finish to the season and win their opening playoff series. Fried said that was the highlight of his season.
"After the first half, making a run like we did, it seemed like everyone was doing the right thing at the same time," he said. "The spirit and chemistry that our team had was not only contagious, but uplifting. Everyone wanted everyone to do well and was really genuine about it."
Fried's education didn't end with Fort Wayne's season. He participated in instructional league, which the Padres held at their complex in the Dominican Republic due to renovations at their Spring Training facility in Peoria, Ariz.
While instructional league is always an important part of the developmental process, it took on added meaning in the Dominican Republic. Fried said he came away with more of an understanding of what his teammates from Latin America went through growing up.
"To experience what the island's like, what the facilities they're at in the offseason are like and to see where they come from is one of the most humbling experiences," he said. "It makes you step back and appreciate what you have and where you live."
Fried has taken the lessons of his first full season with him into the offseason and even tacked on a few more. He is working out with a group that includes his high school teammate and fellow top prospect Lucas Giolito as well as Major Leaguers Tyler Skaggs and Trevor Plouffe. Fried said he has taken the opportunity to pick the brains of his more experienced workout partners.
Soon, it will be time for Fried to put all his newly acquired knowledge to work in the 2014 season. He is likely to be sent to Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore, not far from his Southern California home. But no matter where San Diego assigns him, Fried said he will be ready.
"Wherever I get put, wherever they send me, I'm going to try to be the best version of myself I can be," Fried said. "No matter where I'm playing, I have to trust in my abilities, and hopefully I come out on top."