Bradley’s Buzz: The maximum value of Max Fried

110221 HOUSTON: Braves starting and winning pitcher Max Fried falls after colliding with Astros Michael Brantley while fielding at first base in game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, in Houston.   “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

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110221 HOUSTON: Braves starting and winning pitcher Max Fried falls after colliding with Astros Michael Brantley while fielding at first base in game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, in Houston. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Max Fried wasn’t the first pitcher acquired in the famous rebuild around pitching. Shelby Miller and Tyler Jenkins became Braves in the Jason Heyward trade with St. Louis of Nov. 17, 2014. Fried arrived 32 days later as part of the Justin Upton deal with San Diego.

Fried was the seventh player drafted in 2012. That was an auspicious Round 1. Luis Giolito, his classmate as Harvard-Westlake School in L.A., went nine picks later. Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton went 1-2. Kevin Gausman, briefly a Brave, went No. 4. Corey Seager went 18th.

Fried didn’t get around to pitching until 2016. He’d had Tommy John surgery in August 2014. His restart came with the Rome Braves, whom general manager John Coppolella deemed “our flagship.” That team won the Sally League playoffs with a rotation of Mike Soroka, Kolby Allard, Touki Toussaint and Fried. Ronald Acuna and Austin Riley were there, too. Baseball America named it the minor league team of the year.

Fried was then one arm among many. A partial list of the others: Soroka, Allard, Toussaint, Sean Newcomb, Matt Wisler, Aaron Blair, Patrick Weigel, Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz and Kyle Muller. Entering 2017, the Braves’ farm system was ranked No. 1. Fried was rated their 10th-best prospect, sixth-best among pitchers. Baseball America had him 72nd overall.

Fried made big-league appearances in 2017 and 2018 – nine as a starter, 13 as a reliever. There was no consensus in the organization – Alex Anthopoulos took over in November 2017 after Coppolella was forced to resign – as to where he’d wind up. Spot starter? Long reliever? LOOGY? (Short for left-handed one-out guy.)

Which only goes to show: With young arms, nobody knows anything. Today Fried ranks third among MLB pitchers – behind Miami’s Sandy Alcantara and Texas’ Martin Perez – in Baseball-Reference WAR. His ERA for May was 3.16. For June, it’s 0.64. He’s the No. 1 starter for the reigning World Series champs. He was the winning pitcher in the World Series clincher.

He’s not a spot starter. He’s not a long reliever. He’s the ace.

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About the MLB playoffs

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Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson gets high fives in the dugout scoring on a RBI double by Travis d'Arnaud to take a 3-0 lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates during the third inning in a MLB baseball game on Thursday, June 9, 2022, in Atlanta. The Braves beat the Pirates 3-1. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson gets high fives in the dugout scoring on a RBI double by Travis d'Arnaud to take a 3-0 lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates during the third inning in a MLB baseball game on Thursday, June 9, 2022, in Atlanta. The Braves beat the Pirates 3-1.    Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson gets high fives in the dugout scoring on a RBI double by Travis d'Arnaud to take a 3-0 lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates during the third inning in a MLB baseball game on Thursday, June 9, 2022, in Atlanta. The Braves beat the Pirates 3-1. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

The hot-hot-hot Braves shaved 2-1/2 games off the Mets’ division lead over three days. Of greater note: They’ve almost drawn even with San Francisco for the National League’s third wild card. (They’re .002 behind.) That’s the race to watch.

It’s possible the Braves won’t catch the Mets. What matters is that they finish no worse than sixth among NL clubs. It’s hard to imagine them finishing worse than sixth.

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About John Collins

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Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins soars to the basket for a slam agains the Indiana Pacers during the first period in a NBA basketball game on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins soars to the basket for a slam agains the Indiana Pacers during the first period in a NBA basketball game on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

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Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins soars to the basket for a slam agains the Indiana Pacers during the first period in a NBA basketball game on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Rumors about the Hawks trading John Collins have again gained traction. Portland is said to be interested, and the Trail Blazers hold the No. 7 pick in this draft. Philadelphia, which got rid of Ben Simmons but seems stuck with James Harden, is mentioned as another possible destination.

What the Hawks do with Collins – who’s owed $74 million over the next three seasons – will tell us much. GM Travis Schlenk has chastised himself for keeping the team together after its run to the 2021 Eastern Conference finals. Re-upping Collins was a major part of that.

This is the tricky part of rebuilding. Acquiring a bunch of young players isn’t hard. Finding young players who mesh is more difficult. For a few weeks in 2021, the Hawks appeared to have managed that. Now they’re less sure.

After making the 2012 NBA finals with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Harden, Oklahoma City looked destined for greatness untold. Harden was traded to Houston four months later. OKC had three players who would be named the league’s MVP, and not much came of it. The Hawks, who’ve already dumped Cam Reddish, find themselves on a similar clock.

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About the NBA finals

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Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) dunks the ball against the Golden State Warriors during the first quarter of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals, Wednesday, June 8, 2022, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Credit: Michael Dwyer

Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) dunks the ball against the Golden State Warriors during the first quarter of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals, Wednesday, June 8, 2022, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Credit: Michael Dwyer

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Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) dunks the ball against the Golden State Warriors during the first quarter of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals, Wednesday, June 8, 2022, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Credit: Michael Dwyer

Credit: Michael Dwyer

I’d never say the Warriors have no chance, though I like those chances less with every game. The difference between Golden State and Boston is that one of them has Al Horford. If memory serves, the Hawks used to have Al Horford.