When will Toronto's top prospect debut?

January 21st, 2023

This story was excerpted from Keegan Matheson’s Blue Jays Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

In Spring Training, pitchers have a way of quietly complimenting one another.

At the Blue Jays’ Player Development Complex, the main building at the center acts as a hub with fields sprawling out in each direction from it, so it’s not difficult to jump from one field to another as a player or spectator.

There are times when each field will have pitchers facing hitters for live batting practice, but even as players wrap up their days, some will stick around if they see a certain name on the schedule. For a few springs, that was Nate Pearson. Years ago, in prospect camps, that was Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Now, it’s Ricky Tiedemann.

When I walked into Toronto’s prospect camp last February, Tiedemann’s name was the first I heard. First, from a Minor League coach raving about his offseason. Then, from another pitching prospect in the Blue Jays’ organization who’d been watching Tiedemann pitch the past few days.

By the time I ran into MLB pitching coach Pete Walker, he suggested, in passing, that I should watch Tiedemann throw later that day.

Really? The 19-year-old lefty from a junior college who hasn’t thrown a pro inning yet?

Seven months later, Tiedemann wrapped the best season of any prospect in the organization, pitching to a 2.17 ERA with 117 strikeouts over 78 2/3 innings, reaching Double-A. He’s the club’s No. 1 prospect, fully capable of shooting to the upper tier of MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list this season, and will be the story of camp in 2023.

Lesson learned: Things can change quickly.

Heading into Spring Training, here are five prospects to watch closely, beginning with Ricky T.

LHP Ricky Tiedemann (No. 1)
Remember one year ago, when Alek Manoah kicked the door down in Spring Training with a pair of brilliant outings against the Yankees? Manoah was older, with NCAA experience, but it’s Tiedemann’s turn to do the same.

Tiedemann is the total package, an arm with elite upside and a marketing dream. It’s likely he opens the year in Double-A with a quick promotion to Triple-A following if all goes well, and he could push for an MLB debut by mid-season at just 20 years old. Especially with WBC players away from camps, Tiedemann should get some real looks this spring.

SS/3B Orelvis Martinez (No. 2)
This is the year we start to find out who Martinez is. The young Dominican turned 21 this offseason and is coming off a 30-homer year in Double-A where he struck out too often, posting a .286 on-base percentage. Martinez was facing older, more advanced pitching then, so while his prospect stock is certainly trending downward, there’s plenty of time.

RHP Yosver Zulueta (No. 5)
Injuries have delayed Zulueta’s moment, but it’s coming. “Zulu” was the other arm drawing crowds of teammates in camp last season to watch the Cuban righty flirt with 100 mph. A multi-inning relief role makes sense for the gifted Zulueta, and if he can stay healthy, he’ll push for a bullpen spot early this season.

RHP Hayden Juenger (No. 7)
The 2021 sixth-rounder posted a 3.76 ERA over 88 2/3 innings last year working as a multi-inning arm. It’s a fascinating strategy to see emerging in the Minor Leagues as the Blue Jays try to actively develop this type of reliever. He’ll be an option from Triple-A immediately, and could be a high-strikeout option at some point in ’23.

OF Dasan Brown (No. 29)
Speed, speed, speed. But let’s not pigeonhole the Canadian outfielder as just a speed guy.

The 21-year-old uses that speed in the field, where he’s a strong defender, and he posted a cumulative on-base percentage of .383 last season. Brown was 24-of-34 on stolen-base attempts last season, but as long as he’s reaching base at a clip north of .350, his potential is suddenly very tantalizing. Brown will be one of the most exciting prospects to watch in camp this spring.