Max Fried (ESPN.com)

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Max Fried, an 18-year-old southpaw from southern California, was the No. 7 pick in the first round of the 2012 amateur draft Monday night (6/4/2012), selected by the San Diego Padres. (See video.)

A 6’4″ curveball specialist who modeled his pitch on hero Sandy Koufax‘s, Fried has committed to UCLA but is expected to sign with the Padres.

“Honestly, it’s all a blur,” he told the Los Angeles Times after the draft. “It’s an unbelievable feeling.”

The last player picked so early in an MLB draft was fellow southern California native Ryan Braun, who was the 5th overall selection in 2005. Braun was named N.L. Rookie of the Year just two years later.

Analysts say Fried has the whole package: smarts, athleticism, and a strong worth ethic. One scout called him “perhaps the best left-handed pitching prospect to come out of Southern California in the last 10 years.”

“Fried is cerebral and determined,” Baseball America¬†observed. “His late-season dip notwithstanding, he projects as a potential No. 2 starter in the big leagues with a chance to be a No. 1.”¬†Baseball America says Fried has three good pitches, including a fastball that tops out at 95 mph. But having studied tape of Koufax’s delivery since age 12, “his best pitch is a tight downer curveball in the 74-78 range that rates conservatively as a plus pitch and flashes plus-plus.”

Fried transferred to Harvard-Westlake High in Studio City this year after his prior school eliminated its athletic program. Teamed with fellow first-round draftee Lucas Giolito, Fried went 8-2 with a 2.02 ERA and struck out 105 batters in 66 innings while walking 29. He also hit cleanup, which could come in handy given that National League pitchers bat.

In 2011, the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame named Fried its male high-school athlete of the year.

Fried’s younger brother, Jake, just finished his freshman year at a nearby high school, where he too plays baseball.

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