First spring look at Tiedemann fuels top prospect's hype

February 28th, 2023

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- On Tuesday afternoon, the Blue Jays witnessed what could be another launchpad moment for the future of the organization.

is the latest conductor of the hype train, one that’s belonged to a steady stream of elite-level prospects over the past five years in Toronto. For so many of those prospects, there’s been one moment where even a casual fan can lean back in their chair and think, “Oh, so this is what it will look like someday.”

For Vladimir Guerrero Jr., that moment came in Montreal, when he launched a walk-off home run in an exhibition game just prior to the 2018 season. The 19-year-old phenom was still a year away, but that famous blast foreshadowed what was to come. For Alek Manoah, it came in March 2021, when in back-to-back outings he struck out 11 Yankees batters over five scoreless innings.

If the coming months go as many inside and outside of this organization project they will, fans will look back on Tuesday’s 6-4 win against the Tigers as that moment for Tiedemann. The 20-year-old lefty breezed through a scoreless inning on just 12 pitches. Tiedemann’s first challenge was veteran Javier Báez, whom he blew away with a 99.4 mph fastball for strike three.

“That was the first time I’ve ever hit 99 in a game,” Tiedemann said with a smile. “If I can have that in my back pocket, I’ll be pretty successful.”

You think so?

Baseball is littered with young pitchers who can touch 99 mph, but what makes Tiedemann special is everything else that comes along with it. To end the inning, Tiedemann got Matt Vierling with a 1-2 changeup that looked like one of his trademark heaters until it plummeted beneath the bat for strike three.

Tiedemann skipped one step to his left and strolled off. He looked like a pitcher in full control of himself.

“He wasn’t amped up. He was under control and poised, which is what you’re looking for in the guy’s first outing,” said manager John Schneider. “He handled it really well. It’s the conversations we have with him -- whether it’s in the office or in the dugout -- where you nod and go, ‘OK, he’s got a really good idea of what he’s doing.’ Then he has the stuff to back it up.”

There’s a coolness to Tiedemann. He’s a California kid who warms up to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Californication.” Meeting with the media after his outing, he bounced eagerly between questions as a pair of ‘80s-style shield sunglasses sat atop his head. Moments later, his family members poured in and he played host, posing for pictures and signing for a mob of fans.

Eventually, Tiedemann will be tested in front of 45,000 fans. He’ll be tested with big league wins on the line and postseason races hanging in the balance. For now, though, he’s nailing the early tests and looking perfectly calm doing so.

“I think that, throughout my life, I’ve been in a good amount of situations like [today],” Tiedemann said. “Obviously not with as many people watching, but I’ve been on the mound in certain situations and it’s been the same. It’s been the same ever since I was little. You’ve just got to keep it the same and the outcome stays the same.”

If Tiedemann can keep doing everything the same, then the sky's the limit. Toronto’s No. 1 prospect is already an incredible success story for the Blue Jays’ player development staff, who took him as a raw but talented teenager out of junior college in the third round of the 2021 Draft. He’s grown up, bulked up and cleaned up his mechanics, all of which has come together to make him one of the game’s top young arms.

The next steps may seem laborious, given the excitement. Tiedemann posted a 2.17 ERA last season across three levels, ending in Double-A, and struck out 117 batters over 78 2/3 innings. He’ll still need to build up that workload -- ideally to the range of 120 innings in 2023 -- and continue to work on the day-to-day routines of being a professional starting pitcher, but Manoah’s rapid rise to the Major Leagues, in particular, can be held up as an example.

Development needs to be handled carefully, especially for a prospect with ace-level potential for the next decade, but there comes a point where talent kicks the door down.

“Everybody has different paths,” Tiedemann says. “I’m looking to make my own in a different way.”