The number one Google suggestion for Max Fried is max fried chicken, which made me giggle, so I’m passing it along. What’s more American than trying to figure out how to fry chicken to the max? Makes me want to go to a Popeye’s Chicken, stand outside in a trench coat, and ask someone to go in to purchase me a max fried chicken like I’m fiending for the crack rock. Then, when they invariably ask me why I don’t go in myself, I’ll tell them that due to my cholesterol Popeye’s has cut me off, then grab them my the lapels of their shirt and scream, “Get me that max fried chicken, man!” Or perhaps this is a fever dream I’m having while pressing keys on my keyboard. Last year, Max Fried (pitcher, not the chicken) had a top 40 starter year (28th, mansplainingly), going 17-6/4.02/1.33/173 in 165 2/3 IP. Obviously, he was lifted in the end-of-the-season rankings due to his wins, but there’s more to Max Fried than just his ability to fry chicken to the nth degree. So, what can we expect from Max Fried for 2020 fantasy baseball and what makes him a sleeper?
There’s many different types of sleepers. Some sleepers are draftable in all leagues and others are not. As to which category Max Fried falls: in former. A licky boom-boom down! I’m not claiming Max Fried is some crazy unknown, but he’s not being drafted as high as he should. He almost completely abandoned his change and began to throw a new pitch, a slider, which he threw 16% of the time. His slider produced a 34% strikeout rate with a .200 BAA. I.e., he went from not having a pitch, to it being a top 20 slider in baseball. P to the erhaps as important was his newfound command. His walk rate went from regularly 4-plus to 2.6 BB/9. He had the 29th best BB% and only nine of them had a better K/9. The nine are exactly as elite as you’d imagine. Stating the obvious: If you’re not walking anyone and you’re striking them out, good things will happen. Something I don’t mention much in these pitcher sleeper posts is WHIP, because shizz happens and BABIP can mess up well-laid plans. Fried, though, had a 1.33 WHIP, as mentioned above, but how do you think that tracks with improved command and Ks? Yeah, he was unlucky. There was only three WHIPs worse than him in the top 29 of BB%. Fried’s .336 BABIP was the 2nd most unlucky BABIP in the majors, and he had the 5th most ground balls in the majors. His teammate the Thai rooster sauce, Soroka, had the 7th best ground ball rate, and had a .280 BABIP. To spell it out to you, they had the same infielders, and Soroka’s BABIP was almost sixty points better! Of course, bingos-off-the-bat were hit harder from Fried’s hand, but not by much 38% vs. 36% Hard Contact on Fried vs. Soroka. To beat this dead horse further — sorry, PETA! — Soroka’s average exit velocity was 87 MPH and Fried’s was 88.3 MPH. Fried also had 4.4% barrels per batted ball event, which was 10th best in the majors (Ryu was 13th and deGrom was 16th, to grab two names that are meant to impress you). Spelling out again what I just spelled out to you, Soroka was lucky to have a 2.68 ERA; Fried was unlucky to have a 4.02 mark. One concerning thing for Fried is his innings jump, going up 54 IP one year over the other, but he’s going to be 26 years old in 2020, so unless he needs Tommy John surgery in March, I’m not concerned. For 2020, I’ll give Max Fried projections of 14-9/3.77/1.27/184 in 174 IP with a chance for more.