A sold-out crowd piled into AdventHealth Stadium in Rome, Georgia. The reason was Atlanta Braves ace Max Fried was making a rehab assignment for the High-A club against the Philadelphia Phillies minor league team, the Jersey Shore BlueClaws.
Add in the Spencer Strider bobblehead night, and the only remaining tickets were for the Home Run Hill seats out in right field. There was even a segment where two men had their facial hair shaved down to replicate the Strider Stache.
I love Minor League Baseball.
When in Rome, do as Max Fried does
Anyways, back to our regularly scheduled content. The Max Fried rehab assignment. His first rehab start saw him go 1.1 innings in Gwinnett and throw 35 pitches. For Rome, Fried would only throw 30 pitches, but he would get through 3 innings.
Fried's final line: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K. Both singles were softly bounced through the infield. Arguably both are fielded with a major-league defense behind him. All of the batted balls against Fried were on the ground. As we know Max Fried, gets plenty of weak ground balls when he is on his game. Add a good strikeout rate and a patented pick-off, and Fried looked sharp.
Imagine being a guy in High-A, and the runner-up for the 2022 NL CY Young has you in a 0-2 count, and you know the curveball is coming, and you still cannot get anywhere close to it. The poor kid that got picked off was bewildered by the move. Pitchers in High-A do not have that quality of a move over to first.
An excellent start for Fried as he finished with a 100% ground ball rate, 33% strikeout rate, the minimum faced, and he got out of there in time to make it back in Atlanta before the end of the Braves game. Throwing only 30 pitches tonight feels odd as many believed he would increase upon the 35 thrown in his first rehab, but he did get up and warm for 3 innings, so there is nothing to overthink there. The Braves also have the luxury of giving Fried the time needed to get back in shape.
Nacho average prospect
While the Fried news is certainly encouraging for the 2023 season, a guy that might feature prominently in the Braves' long-term plans made the biggest impression. Ignacio Alvarez is a name that is catching the attention of Braves country with his play in the minor leagues this year. Rightfully so, he entered the day hitting .294/.413/.396 4 HR, 38 R, 48 RBI, 14 SB with a .382 wOBA & 130 wRC+. This includes 50 walks to 52 strikeouts. This combined with solid defense at shortstop intrigues people on Nacho's future.
The biggest question is whether he will develop more power, as he entered the night with a .102 ISO. 19 of his 78 hits were extra-base hits on the year. Tonight, he hit two home runs to show that maybe there is more power potential in the bat. One of the home runs was a no-doubter to left center field.
He also added a nifty play to help turn a double play behind Max Fried in the second inning. Showing that he has the potential to stay at shortstop at least for the time being.
If Alvarez starts tapping into more of the power potential scouts believe he has, then there is a legit prospect down on the farm. Shortstop is one of the few spots the Braves do not have locked up long-term, so the spot is open for the taking. Nacho is forcing himself into the conversation.
Alvarez's scouting grades (current/future): Hit: 35/55 Game Power: 30/45 Raw Power: 50/55 Speed: 40/40 Field: 35/60 FV 40+
These were his grades before the season and are not often updated mid-season. Personally, I would go ahead and bump up Nacho's hit tool into the 40-45 range and the Field to a 40 as well.
Even though the Rome Braves ended up losing late, it is impressive that even on a night where Max Fried was wearing a Rome Braves jersey, Ignacio Alvarez is the one who made the biggest impression.