Last week, Baseball America named Blue Jays southpaw Ricky Tiedemann their top left-handed pitching prospect heading into the 2024 season. Tiedemann also sits high up on MLB Pipeline’s latest list, ranking as the No. 1 Blue Jays prospect and coming in No. 31 overall; among lefties, only Kyle Harrison of the Giants ranks higher.
Similarly, Tiedemann came in as the No. 2 LHP prospect on Just Baseball’s latest Top 100 list, trailing only Robby Snelling of the Padres.
The California product has worked his way up the minor league ladder since being drafted in 2021, spending most of last year at Double-A with the Fisher Cats before a late-season promotion to Triple-A Buffalo to cap things off with one start for the Bisons.
Unfortunately, Tiedemann dealt with a biceps injury that limited him to just 44 innings last season, including his rehab starts. The ailment hampered what could have been an even greater breakout campaign for the southpaw, which had some believing an end-of-year call-up was possible as the Jays pushed for the playoffs.
Overall, Tiedemann put forward a 3.68 ERA across 15 starts (four levels) while producing a 1.227 WHIP and a 16.8 K/9. He spent most of the 2023 campaign at Double-A New Hampshire, where he tossed 32 IP in 11 starts.
Following his injury-plagued season, the Blue Jays had their top prospect head down to the Arizona Fall League to get some more reps, where he made four more starts and allowed just five earned runs through 18 innings to the tune of a 2.50 ERA. This impressive showing, which included 23 strikeouts, earned Tiedemann AFL Pitcher of the Year honors.
Where Does Tiedemann Fit In Next Season?
Heading into the 2024 season, the Toronto Blue Jays have a set rotation outside of the No. 5 spot, where some question marks remain.
The group is led by 2023 AL Cy Young finalist Kevin Gausman and boasts Chris Bassitt, José Berríos, and Yusei Kikuchi to round out the top four. Bassitt set a career-high with 200 IP last season, while the latter two impressed with bounce-back campaigns.
Alek Manoah is currently the front-runner for the fifth spot, but after his dismal performance last year (5.87 ERA through 87 1/3 innings), there is some room for competition, especially if he struggles out of the gate this spring.
Outside of Manoah, the Blue Jays do not possess a lot of starting pitching depth at the higher levels of the minors.
Tiedemann is certainly one of the top contenders for a chance to pitch in the big league rotation, and joining him will be newcomer Yariel Rodríguez, Bowden Francis, Mitch White (out of MiLB options), Wes Parsons, Paolo Espino (non-roster invite), and Chad Dallas. The club could also throw Nate Pearson back into the mix, but his checkered injury history might mean the ship has sailed on his time as a starter.
This group doesn’t possess the most experience or the highest floor, especially if the Jays decide to keep Francis in the bullpen at the big league level and even more so if White is DFA’d and subsequently selected on waivers. Moreover, adding Rodríguez into the mix will lead to further intrigue; the jury is still out on how the Jays plan to use him in 2024 considering he did not see any game action outside of the World Baseball Classic last year.
For Tiedemann, this spring will be one of the biggest of his career. He will be competing with Manoah and the rest of the aforementioned group for the fifth rotation spot, yet after his difficult season last year, the odds may not be in his favor.
Outside of Manoah (who lost a year of development time when COVID-19 canceled the 2020 minor league season), the Jays have not been known to bull-rush pitching prospects to the big leagues since Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro took over. Given his recent biceps injury, a return to Triple-A would help Tiedemann get some innings under his belt, especially with just one Triple-A start on his resume heading into this season.
Tiedemann has yet to break the 100 IP mark in a single campaign since the draft, and the Jays could try to limit his innings in 2024 to protect his arm for the future.
Manoah seemed to wear down by the end of last season (including needing injections in his throwing arm), and the Jays may be wary of rushing Tiedemann down the same path. They could also limit his innings by having him work out of the bullpen this year, but that doesn’t seem beneficial for the player, considering he projects as a clear starter moving forward.
Tiedemann Will Likely Start the Year at Triple-A
Should he go back to Buffalo and continue to dominate, Tiedemann will likely be the next pitcher in line if Manoah struggles at the big league level or an injury befalls one of Toronto’s other starters — especially if the Jays decide Rodríguez needs a year in the bullpen after not pitching competitively in 2023.
Kikuchi is set to reach free agency following the 2024 campaign, opening another spot in the rotation for which Tiedemann and Rodríguez can compete next spring.
A mid-season call-up for Tiedemann seems more likely than the youngster making the Opening Day roster, but stranger things have happened, especially since the rumor mill has Manoah as a potential trade chip after the Rodríguez signing.
While that idea is nothing more than speculation at this time, should Tiedemann perform well in big league camp, he will certainly put himself on the big league radar sooner rather than later.