Throughout the first two months of the season, Ricky Tiedemann has been on a stretch that seems impossible to maintain.
The fourth-ranked Blue Jays prospect sports a 1.44 ERA with 68 strikeouts in 44 2/3 frames over nine starts this season, with his two most recent outings coming after a promotion to High-A Vancouver. This is the type of dominant stretch that proves a young pitcher has a lot of things already figured out and the challenge is more about finding a way to make that seemingly impossible pace a common occurrence.
A 6-foot-4, 220-pound southpaw from Gold West Junior College in California, Tiedemann is a unique success story after a string of bad luck. He committed to San Diego State but decided to roll the dice on junior college instead to make him eligible for the Draft two years sooner.
The gamble paid off as the 19-year-old, who is younger than every player to open the season on a Northwest League roster, ended up being selected by the Blue Jays in the third round of last year’s Draft.
In the latest Prospect Q&A, the Long Beach, California, native discusses his blistering start to the season with Single-A Dunedin and subsequent promotion. Tiedemann also talks about the lessons he’s learned from his brother, Rangers prospect Tai Tiedemann, the challenges of the ABS and pitch clock in the Florida State League and the transformation of his slider at the organization’s behest.
MiLB.com: You've had an excellent start to the season -- what's been working for you the first couple months?
Ricky Tiedemann: Honestly, I just feel like I have the stuff to compete. Obviously, I made some improvements coming into the season and after I got drafted. So, as long as I'm consistent in throwing strikes and keeping the ball in the zone, I feel like I have a chance to compete with any of the hitters out there.
MiLB.com: Your pitching coach in Dunedin, Drew Hayes, did an interview where he described your stuff as 'not fair.' How does that feel?
Tiedemann: I think after the Draft, we were kind of like speculating whether or not my breaking ball is going to be good. I feel like I worked on that a lot and now it's a good pitch in my mix. I felt like I had a good changeup already. My changeup was like kind of my bread and butter coming into the Draft. After that, I just worked on my breaking ball and now I have a good three-pitch mix to work with. I also gained velocity on my fastball, so I think just having all those dialed in at the same time makes me a pretty uncomfortable at-bat with any hitter.
MiLB.com: You mentioned your pitch mix -- could you detail that?
Tiedemann: I have a fastball, a circle change and a slider. I've always been pretty good with my changeup. That's always been my best pitch like growing up. But developing that slider has kind of put me over the top, I feel like. As long as that's on and that's in the zone, I feel like I can use any mix. I can work backward with guys, I can just traditionally go at them, and they're just going to be uncomfortable no matter what.
MiLB.com: What went into developing that slider?
Tiedemann: I think the Blue Jays are a big sweeper org. They want guys to have good sweep on their slider. Just working out of the complex right after I got drafted for those couple months, I was just working on that a lot. Just throwing it, honestly. The more I threw it, the more I had feel a for it. I didn't really try any new grips. It was just how I was throwing it and where I was releasing it at.
MiLB.com: You had a strange pre-Draft experience with the pandemic -- what was that process like for you?
Tiedemann: Out of high school, I definitely thought I was ready to go. I felt like I could compete at the pro level. But things didn't work out in the 2020 Draft, so I kind of took a chance and bet on myself and decommitted so I didn't have to wait three years at a university. I went JUCO so I can go back in the next year. And it played out well for me. Got my foot in the door, so now it's just competing at this level. And showing that I'm worth it.
MiLB.com: You had the notoriety as an early-round talent, but was that harder to prove at the JUCO?
Tiedemann: Definitely, the junior colleges in California, in general, are a really good level of baseball. There's a lot of bounce back. A lot of D-1 talents that are in the JUCO's in California. I feel like that kind of showed and impressed scouts as well. Even if they know how much talent comes out of California, they should know it's kind of hard to pitch in junior college -- especially at 18 [years old].
MiLB.com: You were dominant in the FSL. What are your thoughts on the ABS system used in the league?
Tiedemann: It was pretty consistent when I was down in the FSL. I'd say the big thing is just when it comes to catching, you don't really have to worry about how your catcher is catching the ball and making it look good and deceiving the umpire. It's all just part of the game now. There's a few rules that they implemented that are different, like the pitch clock and stuff. Like, when I get into the stretch, I feel like I'm a little more rushed from the pitch clock. And these are just things that I have to work on and get a tempo going on the mound so it doesn't really bother you. Even when there are rules that they implemented that are different, it's the same game. If you go out there and you throw strikes, you're going to be successful no matter what.
MiLB.com: Did the pitch clock take you out of your comfort zone at all?
Tiedemann: The fact that you have a timer coming down and you can see a timer behind the catcher that's counting down on you and making sure that you hurry up, it's something you have to get used to. But the more you practice it, say in like bullpens the coach would be timing you and you just keep your tempo throughout your entire bullpen, that stuff helps. All it is is just getting a tempo and speeding the game up for the entertainment of the fans. It's not too hard to get used to, but you definitely have to take it into account.
MiLB.com: What was it like to force a promotion this early in the season?
Tiedemann: It was unreal. The fact that I was only in the FSL for a little bit over a month -- it was amazing that I was able to move that quickly. I mean, I'm definitely blessed to be at a high level right now, but I know that I want to get to the Double-A and Triple-A level as well. All it is now is being consistent, at any level.
MiLB.com: Your brother is a couple years ahead of you in the Rangers system -- what's it like having someone in the family climb the ladder before you?
Tiedemann: Even coming out of high school and JUCO, he kind of taught me what to expect at this level because he knew that I was going to make it there. It's helped me tremendously. I feel like a lot of guys my age that got drafted don't really know what to expect at this level -- what not to do and what to do. But I feel like having him helped me a lot with that, just knowing what to do and how to handle myself, being only 19. So, yeah, he's helped me a lot.
MiLB.com: What does a successful season look like for you in 2022?
Tiedemann: Honestly, I feel like, right now, I'm in a good spot. It's just a matter of continuing it and staying healthy and staying on my routine. As long as I can hold this out through an entire season, I feel like that could be a success for me, just because this is the longest season I've ever been a part of. It's just a matter of holding my entire game throughout an entire year. I feel like that would be a success.
Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for MiLB.com.