Over the last few seasons, there have been plenty of elite prep baseball prospects living in close proximity to each other. Heck, last year, Dylan Bundy of Owasso (Okla.) and Archie Bradley of Broken Arrow (Okla.) competed against each other for both a state championship and to see who would be the first prep pitcher off the board.
Next year, you won’t have to venture any farther than Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.) to see arguably the two top pitchers in high school in senior right-hander Lucas Giolito and senior left-hander Max Fried, who will be high school teammates for the first time this upcoming season.
The 6-foot-4 Fried was one of the top hurlers in the Golden State at Montclair Prep (Van Nuys, Calif.), but he was forced to transfer after his school decided to discontinue all its sports last summer.
“It was really hard on me,” said Fried. “But coach LaCour, Lucas and the teammates have helped make that transition much easier.”
“Max is a great kid who has made a seamless transition to us” Harvard-Westlake head coach Matthew LaCour said. “He’s a great athlete and his work ethic is off the charts. You wouldn’t even be able to tell he hasn’t been here the whole time when he interacts with the boys. He’s really blended into the fabric of our team”
This summer, Fried participated in the Perfect Game All-American Classic and at the Area Code Baseball Games.
“That was probably my favorite event of the summer,” Fried said of ACG. “It taught me how to stay composed on the mound, not to try to do too much and just relax.”
As for next year, the goal for Fried is simple -- win sectionals and then take his talents -- along with Giolito -- to UCLA.
“Staying close to home was important,” Fried said on picking the Bruins. “But mostly it was the comfort level I felt with (UCLA) coach Savage, and it’s where I felt I would progress the most as a pitcher.”
As for whether or not the Giolito’s commitment to the school had anything to do with his decision, Fried said the decision was “purely coincidental, but it has made the two of us closer.”
One thing that could keep the 6-foot-4 lefty from becoming a Bruin, however, is the draft, for which he’s a potential first-round pick.
“He was 89-95 when I last saw him, with a good curveball and flashed a change,” ESPN.com senior baseball writer Keith Law remarked on Fried. “He has a good above 3/4 slot, although the arm action was a little long and he doesn’t make enough use of his height, yet.”
Fried says the draft isn’t on his mind at all right now, as college is extremely important to him and the event is still six months away.
If you get the impression that Fried is a team-oriented guy, you’d be correct. In fact, he didn’t mention a single individual statistic when asked about what his goals for the upcoming season.
“He’s a guy who leads both by example and vocally,” Giolito said about his teammate. “He’s become my best friend, and I’m so excited to play baseball with him next year and the next three years in college, as well.”
Harvard-Westlake – and Pac-12 – opponents would be wise to take warning.
Christopher Crawford is a regular contributor to Prospect Insider and the founder and executive editor of MLB Draft Insider. Follow him on Twitter @CrawfordChrisV.