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2022 Mets Draft profile: Blade Tidwell

With their second-round selection in the 2022 MLB Draft, 52nd overall, the Mets selected Blade Tidwell, a right-handed pitcher from the University of Tennessee.

A Tennessee native, Blade Tidwell helped lead Loretto High School to three straight state tournament appearances, including a TSSAA Class A State Title in 2017 when he was a freshman. A two-way player, he hit .557 with 6 home runs and 15 steals in his junior season in 2019 while going a perfect 8-0 in 53.0 innings pitched, striking out 107. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he was not able to play much organized baseball in 2020, his senior year, but he impressed on the scouting circuit the summer after his graduation, just prior to going off too Tennessee. His fastball, which had sat in the high-80s-to-low-90s in his junior season, was now sitting in the low-to-mid-90s and touching 97 MPH. His curveball, which often got slurvy and loopy, had tightened up with some additional velocity and was showing power and bite.

Tennessee’s Sunday starter, the right-hander led all Tennessee pitchers with 18 starts in 2021, his freshman season. The newly-minted Vol posted a 3.74 ERA in 98.2 innings, allowing 84 hits, 30 walks, and 90 strikeouts. His ten wins were second in program history for a freshman, behind only R.A. Dickey.

A draft-eligible sophomore, Tidwell came into the 2022 season one of the top college pitching prospects in the class. Unfortunately, just prior to the start of the season, it was announced that Tidwell would miss the start of the season due to a shoulder injury. According to Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello, the right-hander was experiencing soreness in his shoulder stemming from stiffness in the area. It was an ongoing issue that Vols trainers and doctors were aware of and tracking but was healing slowly. It was not severe enough to necessitate surgery to fix but would take time to resolve itself on its own.

Tidwell finally returned to the mound in late March and was slowly eased back into things. Coach Vitello used him in short appearances earlier on, and then began stretching him out over multiple innings by mid-April. The highwater mark of his season came on June 3, when he pitched seven-plus scoreless innings against Alabama State, scattering three hits, walking none, and striking out seven. All in all, Tidwell appeared in 13 games, starting 9 of them. He posted a 3.00 ERA in 39.0 innings, allowing 31 hits, walking 11, and striking out 51.

At 6’4”, 200-pounds, Tidwell should have a solid pitching frame. In 2021 and 2022, he showed trouble going deep into games and maintaining his mechanics as he tired, but both certainly were consequences of the situations he found himself in in both of those years, and with more pitching experience under his belt, durability probably won’t be a problem going forward.

The right-hander has a somewhat violent delivery, throwing from a high-three-quarters arm slot with a quick, whippy arm and long action through the back. He is more of a control-over-command pitcher as a result; he often misses his spots, but stays in the zone, which explains why he was a bit homer prone in 2021 or why his hits per nine rate is as high as it is for a player with a repertoire such as his.

Prior to his shoulder injury, Tidwell’s fastball sat in the mid-90s, 93-95 MPH, topping out at 97 MPH with arm-side life. The shoulder issues he experienced earlier in the year did not have any kind of impact on his ability to throw hard or maintain it in the innings he was able to throw for Tennessee, as the right-hander was sitting in that same velocity band and hitting 97 MPH. Whether or not the shoulder soreness is a sign of some kind of deeper problem is unknown at this point.

Tidwell complements his fastball with a slider, curveball, and changeup, the former of which is his best pitch. It tunnels well with his fastball and features late, sharp break, sitting in the mid-80s. The pitch features high spin rates, ranging from 2,500 to 2,800 RPM over the course of the spring, and generates a high number of whiffs. He is able to throw the pitch for strikes in the zone and outside of it, to get batters chasing. He doesn’t throw his changeup or curveball very often, mainly using the pitches as equalizers against left-handed batters, throwing them to his arm-side to get left-handed batters chasing away. The changeup sits in the low-to-mid-80s and is a firm pitch, but surprisingly got a fair amount of swings-and-misses in 2022, possibly due to the fact that he maintains his arm speed well and does not tip off the pitch. His curveball sits in the mid-70s and features 12-6 break, making it much more effective when he is able to get on top of the ball.