Blue Jays’ tide could change with this pitcher’s return

May 9th, 2024

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.

TORONTO -- Let’s hit the “reset” button on … again.

Injuries have been a problem for the Blue Jays’ No. 1 prospect, but if you squint, the silver lining this season is that his left elbow injury isn’t something more serious. He’s dealing with “ulnar nerve inflammation,” a far lesser worry than it could have been, and he recently started throwing again at the Blue Jays’ complex in Dunedin, Fla.

This will be a slow build for Tiedemann -- some elements of Spring Training all over again -- but he’s on the road back.

"We'll see where that goes," manager John Schneider said prior to Tuesday's game against the Phillies. "Hopefully, he doesn't have any more setbacks, and we'll probably cross that bridge in another couple weeks when he gets ramped up."

So much has changed over the past six weeks for Toronto. On the prospect front, No. 4 prospect Brandon Barriera is done for the season after undergoing left elbow surgery, No. 10 Kendry Rojas is on the IL and No. 12 Landen Maroudis -- the young right-hander who was already starting to feel like this system’s next Tiedemann -- is down with a right forearm injury. That’s four of the Blue Jays’ top five pitching prospects injured, a nightmare scenario during a season that this organization desperately needs its farm system to have some success stories.

Tiedemann isn’t just the best of the bunch, though, he’s the closest to the big leagues. His injury impacts the Blue Jays directly as their rotation depth continues to erode. Mitch White and Wes Parsons play for other teams now. Bowden Francis lost his rotation job to Yariel Rodríguez, and now both are on the IL. Alek Manoah took over the No. 5 job, but his first start back went very poorly.

If Tiedemann returns, healthy and pitching to his incredible ability, it would mean so much to this organization. The stakes are high … and getting higher.

Timelines are tricky at this point, but let’s be ultra-conservative and paint a world where Tiedemann is healthy and back in Triple-A Buffalo's rotation by mid-June. Even if his return stretches a bit beyond that, Tiedemann could leave himself half the season to work with. This isn’t how the Blue Jays wanted this to work -- at all -- but Tiedemann’s workload concerns would suddenly go out the window. He threw just eight innings with the Bisons before hitting the IL, so if Tiedemann returns on a comfortable timeline, he can be rolled out as a starter for the remainder of the season without much restriction.

Sure, this is the prospect version of saying that a player getting healthy late in the season is “just like a trade addition,” but it’s the reality the Blue Jays are stuck in.

Tiedemann’s talent hasn’t gone anywhere. Whether it’s in a starting role or helping the bullpen down the stretch, this organization still believes he’s fully capable of debuting and helping the big club in 2024. Tiedemann is still the young arm who could change all of this, even if the timeline keeps getting delayed.

Double-A New Hampshire: The lone healthy pitcher among Toronto’s top five pitching prospects? Lefty Adam Macko (No. 9), who owns a 4.70 ERA with 25 strikeouts over 23 innings at Double-A. If Macko can pitch his way to Triple-A this season and set himself up as a potential depth piece in 2025 and beyond, that’s a success. The Blue Jays need to develop more of those.

One other story worth tracking in Double-A: Eric Pardinho, who signed out of Brazil in 2017 for $1.4 million. He’s fallen off the prospect radar over the years after dealing with multiple injuries, but he’s pitching as a reliever now and owns a 2.31 ERA with 16 strikeouts over 11 2/3 innings.

High-A Vancouver: Canadian outfielder Dasan Brown (No. 26) is batting .253 with a .347 on-base percentage, more than enough to let his elite speed and defense play. He’s due for a challenge at Double-A soon, but as long as Brown is reaching base with some level of consistency, he’ll keep a path open to the big leagues someday.

Single-A Dunedin: More Canadian content as lefty Connor O’Halloran, who doesn’t rank on our Top 30 just yet but is making a fine case for the midseason re-rank, is off to an excellent start. The 2023 fifth-rounder owns a 2.63 ERA with 32 strikeouts over 27 1/3 innings. O’Halloran had plenty of NCAA success with Michigan and is carrying that over now after an uneven pro start in ’23, so he could soon earn a shot with High-A.