Name: Blade Tidwell
Weight: 210 lbs.
Acquired: 2022 MLB Draft, 2nd Round (University of Tennessee)
2022 Stats: 5 G (5 GS), 9.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER (1.93 ERA), 7 BB, 11 K, .191 BABIP (Rookie/Low-A)
A Tennessee native, Janzen 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 it really didn’t matter much, as already had an incredibly array of baseball tools and was considered a high priority follow by scouts and evaluators. He had many suitors, but none were able to meet his pre-draft bonus demands, so he honored his commitment to the University of Tennessee.
The Vols’ Sunday starter, Tidwell led all Tennessee pitchers with 18 starts in 2021, his freshman season. He 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, but unfortunately for him, just prior to the start of the season, it was announced that he 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. After missing roughly two months, he returned to the mound in late March and was handled with a light touch, limited to one-inning stints early on before being allowed to throw multiple innings. All in all, he pitched a total of 39.0 innings over 13 appearances and posted a 3.00 ERA with 31 hits allowed, 11 walks, and 51 strikeouts.
Tidwell was available when the Mets made their second-round selection and the team picked Tidwell with the 52nd overall pick. Roughly two weeks later, he signed for $1,850,000, a few hundred thousand dollars over the MLB-assigned slot value of $1,474,400. He was assigned to the FCL Mets to begin his professional career in mid-August and was then promoted to the St. Lucie Mets after a single appearance. There, he made four regular season starts and posted a 2.16 ERA in 8.1 innings with 4 hits allowed, 6 walks, and 9 strikeouts. In the postseason, he started game one of the Florida State League Division Series and game two of the Florida State League Championship Series, throwing 9.2 scoreless innings with 5 hits allowed, 2 walks, and 13 strikeouts.
At 6’4”, 200-pounds, Tidwell has solid pitching frame. In 2021 and 2022, he showed trouble going deep into games and maintaining his mechanics as he tired, but both seemingly were consequences of the situations he found himself in in both of those years, 2021 after missing a season because of COVID-19 and 2022 because of missing time due to injury. With more pitching experience under his belt, durability should not be a problem going forward.
The right-hander has a little bit of violence in his 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 sometimes gets a bit homer prone, or allows more hits than a pitcher with a repertoire such as his generally does.
Tidwell can light up radar guns with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, topping out at 98 MPH. His four-seam fastball has average-to-above-average spin rates with plenty of backspin and ride when thrown up in the zone. His two-seam fastball sits in the same velocity band with arm-side life and sink.
He has a full array of secondary pitches, led by a slider that is graded plus by scouts and evaluators. The pitch sits in the low-to-mid-80s, ranging 80-86 MPH, averaging 84 MPH. It features 28-37 inches of vertical drop and 5-11 inches of horizontal movement and is used as both a pitch for strikes in the zone and to get batters to chase outside of it. His curveball sits in the mid-70s-to-low-80s, 75-81 MPH, averaging 78 MPH. With slightly above-average spin rates, the pitch features between 48-52 inches of vertical drop and 7-12 inches of horizontal movement. Both tunnel well with his fastball, with his slider at its best sweeping out of the zone and his curveball dropping below it.
His changeup sits in the low-to-mid-80s, averaging 85 MPH, giving it roughly 10-15 MPH of velocity separation from his fastball. The pitch has swing-and-miss potential, but he often telegraphs it by slowing his arm. The pitch right now is most effective down in the zone, inducing weak contact, but could develop into a more bona fide strikeout pitch.
I liked Tidwell a lot prior to the 2022 MLB Draft- and prior to his injury- and was pleasantly surprised when the Mets selected him. The pure stuff is pretty good, and I think he is a guy that will grow immensely from professional coaching, as his pitch philosophy, pitch usage, and control can all use improvement. Call it a gut feeling, but I feel like Tidwell is going to be one of those prospects who flies under the radar because of his injury history and lack of a track record until his resume is undeniable. I’m crossing my fingers.
Tidwell’s stuff sure lived up to its first round reputation after the Mets drafted him in the second. His control was poor, but the high-90s fastball velocity and above average slider were evident. Shoulder injuries are arguably the most scary sort for a pitcher, and Tidwell’s health is going to be a continual question (even moreso than it is for all pitchers in the first place). But the Mets might’ve stolen a fast moving, mid-rotation starter here with an 80-grade name to boot.
Tidwell is the Mets top pitching prospect (non-Kodai Senga edition) by default, but there is a lot to like about him regardless. He has good stuff, hitting the high-90s with his fastball and a solid curveball as his 1-2 punch. So why was one of the top pitching prospects in college taken 52nd overall? Well, he’s barely pitched. A shoulder injury derailed his last season in college, allowing him to throw in only 13 games (nine starts). While the injury risk is obviously there, the upside is there too.