In-Person Scouting Notes, Headlined by Blue Jays Lefty Ricky Tiedemann
I just returned from a 10-day trip to Florida that began in the Tampa area, progressed through the southwest part of the state, and ended in Jupiter and West Palm Beach. During the trip, I saw a mix of extended spring training, Florida State League and amateur baseball, though there were times when I passed on the latter in order to see more games. For instance, the first morning I woke up in the Tampa area I could have headed north to Gainesville for part of the University of Tennessee at Florida series, but that would have meant driving five hours round trip and giving up an extended/FSL double up on at least one of those days, and probably two of them.
Instead I stayed in town and saw five games during my first three days away. I spent my first morning at Blue Jays extended spring training watching them play the Tigers. While a few guys from Detroit’s extended group are mentioned on the Tigers prospect list (the younger Wilmer Fenelon, Leonard Iverson, J. D. McLaughlin), the lone new player who I’d like to call attention to is switch-hitting SS/3B Abel Bastidas, who won’t turn 19 until November. Bastidas has a well-composed 6-foot-2 frame, and he showed some pretty advanced pitch recognition in just a few at-bats, making a mid-flight adjustment to a couple of offspeed pitches, showing at least average bat speed, and laying down average run times. I didn’t see enough defensively to have a real opinion about Bastidas’ ability to play shortstop, but this is a well-rounded, projectable, switch-hitting infielder who everyone should be keyed-in on during the extended/Complex League period.
Eric Pardinho started the game for Toronto and sat 90-91 mph with below-average secondary stuff. It’s nice that he’s healthy and pitching but it’s fine to move on from considering him a prospect at this point. Similarly (I’m getting the bad news out of the way here), I left Florida highly skeptical of shortstop Manuel Beltrewho signed with Toronto for $2.35 million in 2021. Lauded for his drive and grit, there isn’t much in the way of tools here.
On to the good stuff, Fort Lauderdale high schooler Irv Carter, Toronto’s 2021 fifth rounder, sat 94-96 mph over two innings of work. He showed three potential impact pitches in the fastball, an upper-80s changeup and a mid-80s slider, but Carter’s arm action is still very long, and while his slider has exciting length, his feel for executing it is not good. This look reinforced his placement of him in the 35+ FV tier as a good, young, developmental prospect who needs significant polish.
That night I continued my Blue Jays looks as their Florida State League (Low-A) affiliate in Dunedin hosted the Twins team from Fort Myers. The starting pitching matchup featured lefty Ricky TiedemanToronto’s 2021 third rounder out of Golden West Junior College (CA), and John Stankiewicz, an undrafted, old-for-level guy who had two dominant outings under his belt entering the evening. Tiedemann began to break out during 2021 instructs, where he showed much more velocity than he had been able to sustain as an amateur. He’s held that into the early portion of 2022 as he mostly sat 95-96 mph this day, and was up to 98.
It took him an inning and a half to find any kind of feel for his fastball but he settled in and was dominant for the latter half of his outing, locating his tailing changeup while consistently blowing his fastball past hitters when he needed to. His slider from him has huge length and horizontal action, so much that it was n’t all that enticing for hitters because it was so obviously a breaking ball out of his hand from him. Finding a viable version of this pitch is going to be key for Tiedemann to hit his mid-rotation ceiling, but the fact that he’s such a strapping young guy (he’s still just 19) who looked strong and athletic enough to work a starter’s share of innings, has a fastball with both bat-missing and grounder-inducing utility, and is a lefty with a good changeup are all favorable traits that enable him to project in a rotation.
Stankiewicz sat 90-91 and executed the heck out of two average breaking balls, which is enough to carve up Low-A hitters, many of whom would still be in extended gearing up for short season leagues under the old minor league structure. Now, rather than spend a second year on the complex, these 20-ish-year-old hitters are facing trait-heavy college arms like Stankiewicz in Low-A and a lot of them can’t dissect breaking balls. While Stankiewicz should be on everyone’s radar because he’s done nothing but dominate pro hitters so far, based on this look his success has more to do with the poor breaking ball recognition of hitters in the FSL than the quality of his stuff. He’s more of a curiosity at this point than someone who would carry real weight in a trade or has imminent big league relevance.
I was back at the Blue Jays place the following day for more extended spring action, this time against the Phillies (I’m saving my notes on the Phils kids for a followup post on this trip). The revelation on this day, and perhaps the most significant, opinion-altering look of the entire trip, was seeing Blue Jays righty Nick Frasso. Coming out of Loyola Marymount, Frasso was an atypical college draftee, with his prospectdom more about projection than present stuff. He showed an arm strength bump early in 2021 before blowing out and requiring Tommy John in June. He’s not even 11 months clear of the surgery and is already back and throwing every bit as hard as he was in 2021, sitting 94-96 mph and touching 97-98 in this short look.
Perhaps more importantly, Frasso’s breaking ball has added power and velocity. Once a loopy, low-80s slurve, Frasso’s slider is now a real mid-80s weapon in the 83-85 mph range. He showed good feel for landing this pitch in the zone for strikes, and he threw one vicious back-foot breaking ball at the end of his outing. He also has a high-spin changeup with lots of horizontal movement, but his feel for that pitch is understandably behind. I’ve moved Frasso from the 35+ FV tier (he had ranked 32nd, with the idea that we wanted to see how he looked coming out of rehab since he was throwing harder prior to blowing out) into the 40+ FV tier on the jay’s listas he now looks likely to be a solid big league reliever given the current state of his stuff, while his developmental context (smaller school prospect with big physical projection, missed reps due to surgery, new breaking ball) allows for abstract projection that might make him an impact big league arm with continued development.
Ben Baggett, a 26-year-old undrafted free agent who barely pitched in college, is a player to know. Baggett was hurt a lot (like, a lot) as an amateur, dealing with multiple foot fractures that kept him from walking for over a year, shoulder inflammation, a Tommy John surgery, unlnar nerve issues, a torn rotator cuff, and finally the pandemic, all before the Blue Jays signed him in February. Baggett had pitched just five innings in any kind of organized baseball over the previous seven years, due mostly to these injuries. In this relief outing, he was 93-95 mph with big carry, often 24-25 inches of vertical movement per the Jays’ TrackMan laptop, and an average low-80s changeup that relies on arm-side action to miss bats. Obviously, a 26-year-old with zero pro performance track record and this sort of injury history isn’t going to be slam dunked on a prospect list, but there’s enough fastball here that Baggett has a real shot to reach the big leagues, which would be an incredible story of perseverance.