By: Will Burchfield
Ron Gardenhire doesn’t like to single out the names of young players, particularly young pitchers, for fear that the hype will spiral out of control. It invites unfair expectations.
“When you start throwing a name out there, saying, ‘I really like this guy,’ next thing you know — I’ve seen it too many times already — the internet blows up that you love this guy,” Gardenhire told the Jamie and Stoney Show on 97.1 The Ticket.
But when discussing some of the up-and-coming talent in the Tigers organization, Gardenhire broke his own rule. Blame it on Alex Faedo. Detroit’s 2017 first-round draft pick (No. 18 overall) caught Gardenhire’s eye in a brief spring training stint before he was reassigned to minor league camp on Saturday.
“I’m seeing some pretty good-looking young people. Faedo, we just sent him out to let him go pitch more than anything else, but what a nice-looking young man,” Gardenhire said. “I think he’s going to be one of these guys, you can really watch, he’ll probably move fast because he’s been out of college.
“But those kind of guys are what we’re going to be all about later on.”
While the Tigers have yet to make an official announcement, it’s expected Faedo will start the 2018 season with High-A Lakeland. He has the stuff to climb the minor-league ladder quickly.
The 6’5 22-year-old, who was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2017 College World Series after lifting Florida to its first national title, throws a mid-90’s fastball complemented by a wipe-out slider and a changeup that’s coming along nicely.
He made one appearance for the Tigers this spring — his first game action since the CWS — and by all accounts lived up to the billing. It was his slider, which induced a few tantalizing whiffs, that left the biggest impression on quality control coach Joe Vavra, the Tigers’ acting manager that day.
“It looked like a Wiffle Ball. They were swinging right through it like it was invisible,” Vavra told reporters, via The Athletic.
What Detroit’s brass likes most about Faedo is his mental makeup. He elevates his game in big moments, as he demonstrated last spring in the spotlight of the CWS. Scott Pleis, the team’s director of amateur scouting, describes him as a “pure gamer.”
That, combined with a wealth of college experience, could certainly expedite Faedo’s ascension to the majors.
“We don’t want to put a timetable on him, but obviously he’s an advanced guy,” GM Al Avila said after the draft last July. “He’s had a lot of success at the college level. There is no timetable, really, but we feel he’s advanced, as opposed to, let’s say, (Matt) Manning, who came out of high school. There’s two completely different ends here.”
Whenever Faedo arrives in Detroit, and this year isn’t entirely out of the question, the Tigers expect big things.
“We feel he fits obviously at the top of the rotation,” Avila said.
For now, Faedo will go to work in minor-league camp. The Tigers want him to stretch out his arm after resting it for the past several months at the team’s behest.
“We just need him to get over there and start pitching,” Gardenhire told reporters, via the Detroit News. “We don’t need him sitting around and he doesn’t need to be sitting around here. He needs to go get in pitching shape. And that’s what we told him.”
If all goes according to plan, he’ll be back with the big club before long.