Tiedemann wins battle of No. 1s in impressive Triple-A debut

Blue Jays' top prospect strikes out 6 in 4 innings as he tries to end year strong

September 23rd, 2023

Nearing the end of a season that has featured a frustrating recurrence of injuries, Ricky Tiedemann made his long-awaited Triple-A debut on Friday night, and it didn’t disappoint.

The Blue Jays’ No. 1 prospect and MLB’s No. 31 overall prospect pitched four innings, affording just one unearned run while striking out six batters in the Buffalo Bisons’ matchup with the Norfolk Tides.

Tiedemann’s start featured a matchup of No. 1 prospects, with Orioles shortstop Jackson Holliday -- the No. 1 overall prospect in MLB, not just Baltimore’s system -- in the leadoff spot for the Tides.

The left-on-left matchup was won both times by the pitcher. Tiedemann got Holliday to ground out to shortstop in the first inning after working a 2-2 count. Then, in the third, Holliday drew a full count before Tiedemann got him to swing uncomfortably on a knee through strike three on a wicked slider.

It’s a marquee matchup to watch for years to come, with both players in the same American League East division for the foreseeable future.

“He’s the No. 1 guy, so you’ve got to go in there with focus and try to attack him early, because if you don’t, he’s going to pick you apart,” Tiedemann said. “But I think I did well with getting ahead and staying ahead and not letting him get too comfortable, so I’m happy with that today.

“I know he’s a good hitter, and we’ll definitely have many more matchups soon.”

Only two hits were allowed on Tiedemann’s watch, both of which were singles. The lone run that scored against him was an odd one and no fault of his own. Tiedemann struck out Orioles No. 4 prospect Coby Mayo for the second out of the first inning, but when catcher Max McDowell popped up to fire or fake a throw to second, he fumbled the baseball. It trickled well behind home plate, allowing Connor Norby, Baltimore’s No. 7 prospect, to score.

Tiedemann was also helped by his defense, though, as Addison Barger, the Blue Jays’ No. 5 prospect, made a great throw on the run in right field to turn a double play at first to end the second inning.

“I loved it. Those are the plays us pitchers need,” Tiedemann said. “When we’re struggling in the zone, those really keep us with good energy and positivity going into the next inning.”

Tiedemann has shown time and time again that when he is healthy, he is one of the most formidable pitchers in the Minor Leagues. He’s ranked the No. 2 left-handed pitching prospect by MLB Pipeline -- trailing only the Giants’ Kyle Harrison, now a Major League contributor -- thanks to a three-pitch arsenal of above-average stuff, including a devastating changeup and a mid-to-high 90s fastball with sinking action.

But this season, he began the year delayed by left shoulder soreness before a bout of left biceps discomfort kept him out of live game action for more than two months. It’s certainly affected how deep he’s been able to get into starts this season: His four innings on Friday were the second most he’s thrown in a start in 2023 after throwing four or more innings in 14 of his 18 outings last season, his first as a professional.

Thankfully, there will be more opportunities for Tiedemann to build up his innings this year, as it was announced on Friday that he will represent the Blue Jays in the Arizona Fall League this season.

“I think the higher-ups in the organization want to see me get deeper into games and add more innings, especially for next year, being more comfortable with a higher amount of innings,” Tiedemann said.

If Tiedemann can carry this momentum into next season and stay on the field, there’s little doubt he’ll be on a fast track to the Majors. The beginning to his second season may not have allowed him to reach Toronto, but he thinks he’s ending it in a good spot nonetheless.

“Even though there are a couple of iffy starts the whole year, I think being able to end the year on a good note when it comes to coming in every week and being able to get your innings, I think that was huge for me, especially since I was bouncing back from injury,” Tiedemann said. “I’m happy with how I ended the year.”