If the Braves don't re-sign Max Fried, these 6 aces could replace him

The Atlanta Braves appear unlikely to sign Max Fried to a contract extension. With that in mind, which potential aces could replace him?

St. Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves
St. Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves / Matthew Grimes Jr./Atlanta Braves/GettyImages
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5. Hurston Waldrep is another in-house replacement for Max Fried

Hurston Waldrep probably won't make the Braves Opening Day roster this season, but he is the team's top prospect and the only Major-Leaguer-to-be ranked in the top-100 per MLB Pipeline. Waldrep was a first-round pick in the 2023 MLB Draft and has a fascinating future, as Atlanta could opt to use him as a high-leverage relief pitcher or a starter. He has experience doing both of those things from his time at Florida.

Waldrep made just three starts in Gwinnett last season, but he's on an accelerated timeline to the MLB level. Assuming he starts this season in Triple-A, as well, there's no telling how far he can go.

Waldrep has received comparison to Kevin Gausman, and should start his MLB career in the bullpen much like AJ Smith-Shawver last season. It's a lot to ask for any prospect to replicate the success of Fried, who has made multiple All-Star teams and is set to receive close to $200 million on the free-agent market, if not more. Waldrep is just one pitcher in the Braves system who has the potential to do just that.

4. AJ Smith-Shawver can recover, become Braves ace of the future

While AJ Smith-Shawver made his Braves debut last year at just 20 years old, he is no longer the team's top prospect and isn't ranked in the MLB Pipeline top-100, either. Smith-Shawver struggled in his spot starts with the Braves, but did have some success in the bullpen.

He was forced into action in the NLDS and gave up three home runs to the Phillies in the process. He picked up right where he left off in spring training, giving up two more bombs to Phillies hitters in his 2024 debut.

Smith-Shawver should receive more time in Gwinnett to refine his approach, but he has an upper-90's fastball with impressive breaking stuff to compliment it. Smith-Shawver needs to work on controlling the break on those pitches consistently, or else opposing hitters will sit on that fastball.

He may not become Fried, but Smith-Shawver should have a bright future nonetheless.