Detroit Tigers Top 20 Prospects: No. 13 Alex Faedo

LAKELAND, FL - Alex Faedo pitches during Spring Training. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
LAKELAND, FL - Alex Faedo pitches during Spring Training. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /
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Welcome to the first-ever installment of the Motor City Bengals Top 20 Detroit Tigers prospects. The MCB staff has compiled our prospect lists and we will be releasing our consensus rankings, along with a breakdown of each player, in a series of articles in the coming days. In this article, we look at Alex Faedo, our #13 prospect.

The Detroit Tigers have built an enviable stockpile of pitching prospects that will hopefully allow the organization to eventually emerge from their rebuild. As a matter of fact, the Tigers have done such a good job of acquiring pitching talent that quality prospects lower in the rankings are sometimes forgotten (or at least thought of less often). Alex Faedo is a former first-round pick but isn’t always mentioned when discussing the Tigers’ rotation of the future. He does not have the ceiling of the higher-ranked pitchers in the system but he does have some ingredients which could lead to a big-league future.

Background:

Faedo has been known to the scouting community since his high school days. He was selected by Detroit (yes, they have drafted him twice) in the 40th round of the 2014 draft. Much like many late-round high school selections, he did not sign and instead decided to accept a scholarship to attend the University of Florida.

Faedo was able to break into the rotation during his freshman season at Florida and actually performed quite well. In 12 starts (19 appearances), he went 6-1 with a 3.23 ERA and 59 strikeouts. His sophomore season was nothing short of excellent. He posted a 13-3 record with a 3.18 ERA and 133 strikeouts (in 104 2/3 innings). In the off-season that followed, draft publications were very high on Faedo’s performance, frequently ranking him among the best prospects in the class. His junior year saw him start out slow however as the draft and college baseball playoffs approached he began to round into form. For the season (including the playoffs) he was 9-2 (19 starts) with a 2.26 ERA and 157 strikeouts (in 123 2/3 innings). Just prior to the playoffs the Tigers had seen enough to make him the 18th pick of the 2017 draft. After being drafted, Faedo gave Tigers fans more reasons to be optimistic about his future by dominating the College World Series (CWS). He was named Most Outstanding Player due to a ridiculous stat-line, 14 1/3 innings, 22 strikeouts, 5 hits, and no runs (oh yeah, and Florida won the CWS).

Due to the high workload in college, the Tigers decided to shut him down for the remainder of the 2017 season. Faedo wouldn’t make his debut for Detroit until opening the 2018 season with Lakeland. The results during his debut season were mixed even though he would spend his first professional season split evenly between Lakeland and Erie, a fairly aggressive assignment for a first-year player. More disappointing than the results however was the lack of “stuff” Faedo displayed. His average fastball was down from the mid-90s during his college days to hovering around 90. Even his signature pitch a brilliant two-plane slider lacked the depth and bite it had shown previously. This drop-in stuff is likely the reason he proved very hittable especially during the second half of the year at Erie where he would get tagged for over two home runs per 9 innings on average.

Faedo was sent back to Erie for the 2019 season and would rebound quite nicely. While he was still prone to giving up some hard contact he saw his numbers improve across the board and, more importantly, scouting reports indicated his stuff appeared far more lively. It looked like some off-season improvements to his delivery were paying dividends. In 22 starts, covering 115 1/3 innings, he struck out almost 10.5 batters per 9. His ERA, which approached 5 during the prior season in Double-A, was a much more respectable 3.90 and advanced stats like FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) and xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching) indicated an even better performance (3.57 and 2.96).

Things were beginning to look better for Faedo’s prospect status after the 2019 season. However, the 2020 season was not kind to him. He was invited to spring training (and to me looked quite good in a limited showing, see the video below) but the season was quickly postponed due to the pandemic. When baseball returned Faedo was unable to join the team due to his positive COVID test. After recovering, he joined the team at the alternate site in Toledo but was then shut down in September due to the dreaded forearm strain.  Fears the forearm strain could mean elbow issues were confirmed in December when it was reported Faedo would need Tommy John surgery and would be lost for the 2021 season.

Alex Faedo Strengths:

When Tigers fans do discuss Faedo much of that discussion centers around what he isn’t as a prospect. But, Faedo does have some attributes which give him the potential to have success. His control and slider are both above-average and have helped him to miss a fair number of bats during this minor league tenure, especially during the 2019 season. Most scouting services rate his slider as an above-average pitch, with Fangraphs even rating the pitch as plus (60 on the 20-80 scouting scale).

In addition to his solid slider, Faedo has demonstrated strong command as a professional. He has thrown approximately 66% of his pitches for strikes which indicates an ability to consistently be around the strike zone. During the 2019 season, his K/BB ratio was greater than 5 to 1 which is excellent for any pitcher, at any level. Even in 2018 when he wasn’t quite as sharp, he struck out over 3 times as many hitters as he walked. Faedo isn’t the most athletic pitcher however he does seem to repeat his delivery well which certainly helps with his control. The combination of performance and a repeatable delivery has led Fangraphs to grade his command as currently above-average (55 grade) with the potential to be plus at his peak (60 grade).

Generally speaking, we assume pitchers with large frames will be durable and have the ability to pitch a high volume of innings. If that holds true, and Faedo can return from TJ surgery healthy, his 6’5″, 230 lbs. frame could prove capable of providing lots of innings.

Alex Faedo Weaknesses:

Faedo needs to improve his fastball and changeup to give himself a greater chance at success going forward. His fastball specifically has proven to be very hittable during his time in the Tiger’s system. The pitch sits in the 90-92 range, scraping 94 on occasion, but it is very flat which has led to a lot of hard contact. Faedo has proven to be a bit homerun prone and his fastball appears to be the frequent culprit. Due to the lack of velocity and apparent hit-ability of the pitch most scouting services rate his fastball as fringe-average, giving it a 45 grade. His changeup has shown flashes of being a usable pitch but not often enough to consider it a reliable offering. Both, Fangraphs and Prospects Live believe it is currently below-average (40 grade).

Our take on Alex Faedo:

I want to believe in Faedo. He is a former college star and a first-round pick who has flashed the repertoire to believe he can pitch at the backend of a big-league rotation. But, he had a number of question marks leading into last season, and due to the pandemic, we were not able to see if any of them were fully answered. We did get a glimpse of hope from spring training where in a very small sample (and I mean extremely small) he showed a delivery with a higher arm slot and what appeared to be better movement on his pitches. It would have been great to see him pitch at Toledo last year to see if those improvements stuck.

Now, he is going to miss the 2021 season due to TJ surgery which adds another layer of uncertainty to his future. Assuming his recovery goes as planned (and with TJ at this point there is no reason to assume otherwise) he should be back healthy for 2022 and hopefully, we will get a better read on where he fits in the Tiger’s future. And, if any of these question marks can be answered positively, maybe Tigers fans will have reason to start talking about him more.

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