Blue Jays MiLB Pitcher of the Year: Ricky Tiedemann

Sportsnet (credit: Mark Steffens)

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Ricky Tiedemann gets this corner of the internet’s nod as the Blue Jays Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

There were a few candidates who deserve honourable mention (more below), but no Blue Jays pitcher dominated hitters at three levels like the 2021 3rd rounder did.

With his upper 90s velo, low arm slot, and high spin rate, sweeping slider, Tiedemann’s 17% whiff rate led starters in the Blue Jays system by a considerable margin. Tiedemann fanned 117 hitters in 78.2 innings, and hitters at three levels managed only a paltry .149 average against him.

To say that Tiedemann was something of an under the radar prospect before the season began is not an overstatement. He had gone undrafted in 2020, and reports of his JuCo season prior to the 2021 draft were mixed. But he added muscle to his 6’4” frame, and reports out of the Florida Development League had him regularly touching 100. Still, he was something of an unproven commodity, but after overhwhelming hitters at Low A in a half dozen starts, he was on an upward trajectory in the system:

Once promoted to Vancouver, Tiedemann didn’t miss a beat, and after a successful outing at the Futures Game, was on his way to AA, via the pitching lab at the minor league complex.

After the break, the organization decided to limit his innings as he began to wind down his first pro season. Tiedemann pitched only 11 innings over 4 starts with New Hampshire, and then was shut down earlier this month. Despite being drafted by Licey of LIDOM, he won’t be travelling to the Caribbean to pitch this winter.

When asked what was most impressive about Tiedemann’s season, Blue Jays Pitching Devlopment Coordinator said:

Outside of the results, what’s most impressive for me is that he held his velocity throughout the year and during his outings. In his first full season, it’s a testament to how hard he works and how solid his routines are.

All signs point to Tiedemann starting next season at AAA, with a possible mid-season promotion to the bigs. What’s worth keeping in mind is that he didn’t turn 20 until August, and the Blue Jays have been – and will likely continue to be – cautious and gradual with his workload.

It’s always fun to read what other evaluators have to say about Blue Jays prospects, so let’s take a tour….

Baseball America’s mid-season report:

Eric Longehagen of Fangraphs thoughts after taking in a Low A Tiedemann start:

The Athletic’s Keith Law saw Tiedemann toward the end of his season, and was impressed, but not enthusiastically so:

Tiedemann’s delivery is rough for a starter. He starts on the extreme first base side of the rubber, and finishes on that same side of the mound, with a slightly low 3/4 slot that gives him great angle to the slider and makes him very tough for left-handed hitters to pick up, but that all makes it hard for him to locate his fastball to his glove side. He can sweep that slider down and in to righties and get a ton of chases there even from big-league right-handed hitters, but they’ll also be able to creep up on the plate because he’s not going to get the fastball or change to the inner third against them.

If Tiedemann’s velocity is down just because it’s been a long season for him, and he’ll get back to 97-plus next year, then this is top-of-the-rotation stuff, with three pitches you could comfortably grade as 55 (above-average) or better. The delivery works against him though, in control and command. His whole package on Friday reminded me a lot of when I saw Andrew Miller as an amateur, another lefty with a slightly lower slot and a wipeout slider that killed left- and right-handed hitters. Miller ended up in relief for a few reasons, but one major one was that he couldn’t land the slider for strikes enough to adjust when better hitters started laying off of it. I’m not consigning Tiedemann to the bullpen in the future, but I would like to see what happens if the Jays moved him more to the center of the rubber so he could utilize the whole strike zone.

It’s fairly safe to say that while there has been a huge amount of buzz around Tiedemann, it’s still wise to remember the jump from minor league ball to the bigs is canyonesque, and that his ascension to big league top three rotation guy next season is not guaranteed. Still, there’s an awful lot to build on after his first pro season.

Honourable mentions include:

-Dahian Santos, whose 142 strikeouts led the organization;

-Sem Robberse, who gave up some contact at AA, but finished on a high note

-Yosver Zulueta, who should battle for a big league bullpen job as early as next spring

-Jimmy Robbins, who began the year as something of an obscure guy finishing Tommy John recovery, and finished as the best LHP (not named Ricky Tiedemann) in the organization, firing 11 shutout innings over his final two starts.

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