On cusp of big leagues, Tiedemann finding routine in Triple-A

Blue Jays' No. 1 prospect flashes talent in Opening Day start for the Bisons

March 29th, 2024

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- When looked in on his first Triple-A hitter of the season Friday, there was a backdrop of Buffalo fans bundled in toques and winter jackets.

Welcome to the International League. The Blue Jays’ No. 1 prospect is knocking on the door of the big leagues, which always brings some unique challenges through late March and April with the Buffalo Bisons. Temperature at first pitch in the Bisons’ opener against the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate was just five degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit) as the center-field camera rattled in the wind, so the early numbers -- radar readings included -- can be taken with a grain of salt.

Still, Tiedemann flashed the talent that has so many people counting down the minutes until he arrives in Toronto.

Line: 2 2/3 IP, 1 ER (HR), 3 H, 2 BB, 3 K

Pitch Breakdown (65 pitches, 44 strikes)
Fastball (35):
94.3 mph average (seven whiffs on 17 swings)
Sweeper (20): 80.9 mph average (two whiffs on eight swings)
Changeup (10): 84.6 mph average (one whiff on seven swings)

Ideally, Tiedemann would have worked a bit deeper into this game, but there’s plenty of time for these outings to stretch out as the weather warms. The Blue Jays aren’t about to push him up to 100 pitches or seven innings right out of the gate, either.

So many other factors beyond an inning count will go into Tiedemann’s workload this season, but for the sake of a round number, let’s say he has 110 innings to work with. That could grow if everything goes according to plan, but for the time being, the Blue Jays are balancing Tiedemann’s development in Triple-A with maximizing his potential impact in the big leagues later this season.

“He clearly can handle a lot, and it’s exciting to think about him contributing at this level. I am certain he will,” said general manager Ross Atkins. “There’s still an opportunity for him, with his skill set, to dominate and to dominate Triple-A hitters."

Those days will come. There were flashes of it Friday, particularly from Tiedemann’s excellent sweeper and his fastball, which was missing bats. When Tiedemann spots that fastball up in the zone, it’s a beautiful thing, reminiscent of Robbie Ray when he was at his best with the Blue Jays.

Toronto doesn’t need Tiedemann to put up a 1.00 ERA in Triple-A, though. Numbers matter, but only to a certain extent. This is about getting the 21-year-old settled into a regular routine, keeping him healthy and ironing out those final kinks.

“We don’t need to see [dominance] for him to be someone who’s coming here,” Atkins said, “but it’s about getting to a level where his fastball command, his slider usage and changeup usage are at levels where he can do different things to different lineups. He has so much potential, so it’s really important for us to help him maximize that time down there.”

Tiedemann has been echoing this all spring.

It’s cool to throw 99 mph and strike out the first hitter you see, but doing that consistently over 180 innings is a lot cooler.

“Last year, I found myself starting to pitch more like a reliever, like a closer,” Tiedemann said early in camp, “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 talent is so clearly there. No one is questioning whether Tiedemann can cut it in the big leagues, because his stuff has been good enough to get MLB hitters for a couple of years now. It’s about turning that talent into something sturdier and more reliable, which could come quickly.

In a season as important as this one, the Blue Jays need to have their 13 best pitchers on the roster, particularly as they battle injuries. If Tiedemann can stay on this schedule down in Buffalo -- and stay warm -- this organization can’t go much longer without him in that group.