Despite his seventh year in the major leagues being seriously hampered by multiple injuries, the 77 2/3 innings that Max Fried was able to turn in during the regular season looked as exceptional as they always have. With 80 strikeouts, his K rate was up to 9.27 from 8.26 every nine innings, his average exit velocity was improved from 2022, and he still managed to cobble together a positive fWAR despite his limited playing time.
Fried has struggled in postseasons past, and this year was no exception. With a blister on his left hand that landed him on the IL in late September, he was only able to make one appearance in the postseason against the Phillies in the NLDS. The Braves eventually won, but it went down as a no-decision for Fried, who gave up three of Philadelphia's four runs in the four innings his pitched. Still, no one can argue that Fried is an elite pitcher who, if he can get his injury issues sorted out, will get back to contributing to the Braves' juggernaut levels of success.
Out with the old, in with the new. Although the Braves picked up Charlie Morton's $20 million contract, despite Morton turning 40 this weekend, anything is possible with the dream rotation. We're going to pretend they didn't do that, or maybe they did but will be comfortable using Uncle Charlie in an extended relief role. In the dream rotation, No. 1 Braves prospect AJ Smith-Shawver will come up in a big way and join Spencer Strider and Max Fried in continuously reminding everyone of the virtues of developing in the Atlanta Braves organization.
Smith-Shawver was a seventh round pick in 2021, but he rocketed to the top of the Braves prospect rankings in less than a year and made his MLB debut only 13 months after starting in Single-A. With 25 1/3 innings pitched in the big leagues, he had 20 strikeouts and gave up 12 earned runs for an ERA of 4.26. It's not ideal, but this year's sample size is far from enough to make a call one way or the other. Strider and Fried are still young, but Smith-Shawver's regular presence on the mound for the Braves would show that Atlanta is still churning out top young talent at a ridiculous clip.