MLB awards watch: NL Cy Young races

The MLB regular season is almost a month old. Without overreacting, who has thrown their hat into the excessively-early Cy Young race in the National League?

*Stats as of April 24. All ranks are NL ranks unless otherwise noted. 

Per usual, many of the names that lead statistical categories early on in the MLB regular season won’t be there at season’s end. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t buy into some of the surprising starts some players have gotten off to.

While most of the league and its fans have locked their eyes on the gaudy offensive numbers that position players have been tossing up, there have been a handful of pitchers who have toed the rubber well to begin the new campaign.

Before you dive into the list, here are some early honorable mentions who didn’t make it: Caleb Smith, LHP Miami Marlins. Jake Arrieta, RHP Philadelphia Phillies. Zach Davies, RHP Milwaukee Brewers. Trevor Williams, RHP Pittsburgh Pirates.

CLEVELAND, OH – APRIL 21: Starter Max Fried #54 of the Atlanta Braves pitches against the Cleveland Indians during the second inning at Progressive Field on April 21, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)

5. Max Fried, LHP Atlanta Braves

3-0, 18 strikeouts (T-63rd), 1.04 WHIP (12th), 1.1 WAR (T-6th) and 1.38 ERA (1st).

The Atlanta Braves surprisingly won the National League East last season. The team added a few pieces this past offseason, however they didn’t add to the rotation as the club is waiting for the plethora of starting pitching talent in their Minor League system to arrive.

Although, one young arm may have already be there. Max Fried has pitched himself into the rotation and he’s been a steady, consistent arm for Brian Snitker.

Of course, at age 25, Fried shows signs of being an inexperienced pitcher. In two starts this season, he has walked multiple batters and has also given up five or more hits in three straight starts.

However, rather marvelously, Fried hasn’t allowed these base runners to score too often. He is more of a throwback pitcher in the sense that he isn’t going to strike out the world. Rather, he pitches to contact and relies on ground balls to get him through starts.

As seen above, Fried has only struck out 18 batters in 26 innings pitched. But when you look at his batted-ball stats, you will see he is inducing grounders and soft/medium contact at a high rate. His ground ball percentage is at 55.3 percent, which is tied for fifth-best in the MLB, and he has the eighth-best medium-contact percentage at 55.1 percent.

Fried primarily throws his fastball, but he has introduced his slider and counteracted that with lower use of his changeup. Yes, as a young pitcher he could be prone to a slump, but for now he has been a stud for the Braves and one of the better starters in the National League.

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