Bulked-up Tiedemann earning double takes: 'I feel completely ready to go'

February 16th, 2024

DUNEDIN, FLA. -- On an early Spring Training morning two years ago, a Blue Jays pitching coach leaned in to whisper a question about a third-round teenager who’d never thrown a professional pitch.

“Have you seen ? Dude’s built like a Greek god,” they said.

We were about to witness Tiedemann’s coming out party. He’d used the months since the 2021 MLB Draft to build his body and became a new pitcher almost overnight, one of the Blue Jays’ most jarring and immediate development success stories.

Well, Hercules is back.

The first glance at Tiedemann this spring demanded a double take. Toronto’s No. 1 prospect and the No. 29 overall prospect, per MLB Pipeline, has bulked up after lessons learned in past seasons, keeping his eye a few more miles down the road now. Last year, Tiedemann entered camp around 225 pounds, but he tends to drop 10 pounds naturally with the Florida heat and the demands of Spring Training. This year, he rolled in weighing closer to 240 pounds, which should leave him in the 225 to 230 range for the season.

That isn’t pizza and beer. Tiedemann says that an early DEXA scan -- which analyzes the composition of the body’s muscle, fat and bone -- showed he had put on 19 pounds of muscle for 2024 compared to a year ago. Those are wild numbers, but like Tiedemann showed in those early months coming out of the Draft, he has an abnormal ability to transform his body.

“The way I feel coming into camp, I feel completely ready to go, where last year was more of a ramp-up,” Tiedemann said. “This year, I want to take my time getting into the full go and make sure I’m ready at the right time instead of jumping the gun a little bit.”

That’s the secret sauce for Tiedemann now. He can do remarkable things with a baseball, but look around the league for five seconds and you’ll see that elite arm talent isn’t as rare as it once was. It’s the ability to combine that with health and consistency that makes great pitchers.

Talent is the sexy half of the equation. Seeing Tiedemann light up the radar gun at 99 mph to strike out Javier Báez in Spring Training last year was one of the best moments of camp. There are so many examples of what it looks like when that talent is torpedoed by injuries, though. Just look at Nate Pearson, the one-time ace of the Blue Jays’ future who once ranked higher on Top 100 prospects lists than Tiedemann ever has. His triple-digit heat left eyes bulging, but his body hasn’t always cooperated.

The Blue Jays don’t just want bursts, they want a career. Tiedemann missed a significant chunk of 2023 dealing with a left biceps injury, but he built his total innings up to 62 by the end of the season with a stint in the Arizona Fall League, where he was named Pitcher of the Year.

“If I didn’t go to the AFL, it would be iffy with my inning count this season,” Tiedemann said. “But I think them sending me there and getting more innings at the end of the year put me in a better place this year where they can push me more. That’s obviously what they want, for me to go deeper into games and be more consistent on a weekly basis.”

This requires some mental maturation, which Tiedemann has realized. Yes, it’s fun to throw 99 mph and strike out big leaguers, but it’s a lot more fun to do that every five days, all year, every year. He needs to pace himself now, which can be difficult to tell a Ferrari, but it’s a stylistic change he’s working to embrace after he too often “came out guns blazing” in 2023.

“Last year, I found myself starting to pitch more like a reliever, like a closer,” Tiedemann said, “and not coming in there like a starter who’s trying to get in and out of innings as fast as possible. I was trying to strike everybody out, running up my pitch count at times and losing the batter when I wanted to just get the out.”

The Blue Jays don’t need Tiedemann tomorrow. The No. 5 starter’s job is still up for grabs with Alek Manoah on the inside track while Bowden Francis, Mitch White and Yariel Rodriguez will get looks. Tiedemann has the talent to kick the door down without needing to wait his turn, though. Judging by how he looks here in Dunedin, he might just be able to rip that door off with his bare hands, too.