Blue Jays top prospect showing big league stuff as camp winds down

March 22nd, 2024

BRADENTON, Fla. -- is focused on the long haul.

On the heels of the announcement that Bowden Francis would begin the season as a starter for the Blue Jays -- and with one more rotation spot likely open due to injuries -- Tiedemann provided another reminder of how close he is to the Major Leagues, holding the Pirates to one run on one hit (a solo homer) and two walks with five strikeouts in three-plus innings at LECOM Park on Thursday.

When asked about his progression and the likelihood of earning a callup, though, the Blue Jays’ No. 1 prospect -- and MLB Pipeline's No. 29 overall prospect -- was more cerebral than passionate.

“If I had to guess, [the team would] start me out light, so that they can utilize me later on in the year when it really matters, rather than trying to throw me out there in the beginning of the year, then I reach my innings limit and then kind of have to pull back the reins on me,” Tiedemann said during the Blue Jays’ 3-2 win. “I don't think they want to do that, and I definitely don't want to do that. So if we can ramp up the year in the right way so I can get to the Major Leagues later in the year rather than the beginning, [that will be ideal].”

Starting out light here means maintaining a close eye on Tiedemann’s pitch count. The left-hander missed some time with minor left calf and hamstring inflammation earlier in the spring, and while he’s been healthy and progressing since his return, any disruption to a starter’s build-up will likely lead to a delay in their preparation.

Tiedemann threw 50 pitches against the Pirates, showing elite command of all his pitches and touching 98 mph with his sinker. His next start will likely take him up to 60 or 65 pitches, but with four days left in camp, that next start won’t happen in Florida. It’ll most likely take place with Triple-A Buffalo.

“After that, I just continue to go up from there,” said Tiedemann. “Until we reach a point where they think they’ll be able to use me at the higher level.”

Of course, there’s still a chance that Tiedemann will break camp with the Blue Jays, especially since Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman are both recovering from shoulder ailments. Gausman is much farther along in his ramp-up, but he may not be ready in time to slide into the No. 5 spot for the first or second turns through the rotation.

Enter Francis, who was informed on Thursday that he will be a Major League starter to begin the season.

The 27-year-old right-hander was the clear first choice for that role. After posting a 1.73 ERA as a long reliever for parts of last season, Francis showed up to camp ready to build up as a starter. He did so while posting a 3.38 ERA with 15 strikeouts over 18 2/3 innings, all while improving his ability to hold his velocity and mix his pitches through multiple frames.

“That was his goal, that’s what he wanted to do,” manager John Schneider said of Francis’ preparation as a starter. “And the results have been great. I know we always talk about him holding his stuff throughout longer outings, and I think he’s done that. It’s also taught him how to pitch a little bit.”

The Blue Jays have other options in Mitch White and Wes Parsons should they need to cover another starter’s spot early on. Both have big league experience and have shown good flashes this spring, but they’ve also struggled with command and hard contact, so neither looks like a lock right now.

Tiedemann has had his difficult moments in the Grapefruit League, too, as evidenced by the 93 mph sinker he left over the plate for a Bryan Reynolds solo homer in the fourth inning. But his stuff looks Major League ready.

The velocity is just as advertised and the changeup is as deadly as they come. Tiedemann’s added emphasis on his slider has paid off, too, generating plenty of swings and misses as well as called strikes due to some elite movement on the pitch.

He’s also got the confidence to back it all up.

“I try not to think too much about it,” Tiedemann said of a potential callup. “Obviously, it’s just staying healthy, going out there every outing and throwing strikes. That's what they want to see no matter what.

“If I'm in the zone, I think my stuff plays well enough that they're going to need it at some point."