Ricky Tiedemann’s change-up is part of the reason the Vancouver Canadians southpaw seems to be on a fast track.
The 19-year-old from Long Beach, Calif., who’s in his first full season in the Toronto Blue Jays’ farm system, was added to mlb.com’s Top-100 prospects list (No. 100) and Top-10 left-handed pitcher list (No. 9) on Tuesday.
He made those lists because through eight starts over two levels totalling 39 and two-thirds innings this year, Tiedemann has allowed a mere 14 hits while striking out 62 and walking 15. He has a combined 3-1 record and a 1.59 earned run average.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Tiedemann has shown an ability so far to overpower hitters with a fastball that sits in the 95-96 mile per hour range and has touched 98. He’s also shown an ability to baffle and bewilder rivals with his change-up, an offering than comes in 10-12 miles per hour slower than his hard stuff and tumbles away from right-handed batters.
Tiedemann seems to have a feel for the change-up beyond his years. He’s the youngest player on the C’s and the average age for pitchers in their six-team high-A Northwest League is 23, according to baseball-reference.com.
“I had a pitching coach on my travel ball teams back in the day who taught me how to throw it when I was nine and I’ve held it the same way and thrown it the same way ever since,” said Tiedemann. “I’ve never changed it. No one has told me to hold it differently. It’s always worked for me.”
Tiedemann said his change-up — he throws an old-school circle change, where the index finger and thumb make a circle on the ball and help the pitcher maintain the same arm speed as a fastball — feels the “best it’s ever felt throughout this season,” and is keen on it being called on with regularity.
A Sports Illustrated Fan Nation story listed Tiedemann throwing 27 change-ups compared to 28 fastballs in his second start this season with the single-A Dunedin Blue Jays, for example.
“My change-up has been my best pitch when it comes to having a feel for it in every game,” he said.
Tiedemann, who is slated to make his third start of the season with the C’s on Friday at Nat Bailey Stadium as part of the team’s current six-game set with the Spokane Indians, admits he had to rely heavily on his change-up growing up, explaining that he’s seen a decided uptick in velocity since getting on a training program with the Blue Jays.
He was a 2021 third-round pick (No. 91 overall) of the Blue Jays out of Golden West College, a junior college in Huntington Beach, Calif., and says that his fastball sat at 89-93 mph then.
“Before I got drafted and signed, that was my pitch,” he said of the change-up. “I still have that pitcher’s feel for when I need to throw it and what counts to throw certain pitches in. It’s helpful having that feel from before.”
Tiedemann’s arsenal also includes a slider. He admits it’s a work in progress, something he’s using in games sparingly while he tweaks it in his side sessions.
His chances of advancing and remaining a starter improve if he has three pitches he can consistently throw for strikes. As well, the Blue Jays will want to see how he maintains his velocity as the season plays out. He threw 38 innings in 2021 with Golden West.
“I’ve never pitched this much,” said Tiedemann. “If I can hold my outings the same way, they (Blue Jays brass) are going to he happy.”
He does have someone close he can turn to for advice. Older brother Tai Tiedemann, 26, is a right-hander prospect in the Texas Rangers system. He was an eighth-round Rangers pick in 2016, and he faced the C’s in both 2016 and 2017 while playing for Spokane.
He’s currently a reliever for the Rangers’ double-A Frisco RoughRiders affiliate. The brothers talk “almost every day,” Ricky said.
Vancouver has been a Toronto affiliate since 2011, and this is the second year as their high-A team, the second rung on the now four-level minor-league system. Toronto’s teams at double-A and triple-A are in different leagues than Texas squads, so the brothers wouldn’t square off there. Tai has played winter ball in the Dominican Republic in the past and Ricky is pondering looking into that to have the chance to line up alongside his brother.
“That would be amazing to me. Hopefully we’ll get to play together or against one another one day,” he said.
Tiedemann was ranked No. 92 overall by MLB.com for the 2020 draft coming out of Lakewood (Calif.) high school but was not selected. He admits he couldn’t get the signing bonus he hoped for from a club and told teams he was going to go the NCAA route with San Diego State. He switched gears after that, opting for Long Beach Junior College instead, which made him eligible for the 2021 draft. When Long Beach cancelled spring sports because of COVID-19, Tiedemann pivoted once more, signing on at Golden West.
“Honestly, it didn’t matter,” he said when asked about draft position. “Bottom line is that I was going to have to come out here and show that I can compete and hopefully that’s what I’ve shown so far.”
Michael Buble and kids help Vancouver Canadians crowd sing Take Me Out to the Ball Game
Aces changing places: Vancouver Canadians add two top pitchers but then lose pair as Toronto Blue Jays shuffle farm system
More news, fewer ads, faster load time: Get unlimited, ad-lite access to the Vancouver Sun, the Province, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites for just $14/month or $140/year. Subscribe now through the Vancouver Sun or The Province.