Meet new Detroit Tigers pitcher Alex Faedo

Tigers pitcher Alex Faedo throws live batting practice during spring training on Tuesday, March 15, 2022, at Tiger Town in Lakeland, Florida.
Tigers pitcher Alex Faedo throws live batting practice during spring training on Tuesday, March 15, 2022, at Tiger Town in Lakeland, Florida. /
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Alex Faedo is finally making his Detroit Tigers debut.

For the second time in two weeks the Detroit Tigers are enlisting the help of a top pitching prospect.

Team officials probably didn’t envision things happening this way, with Beau Brieske making his MLB debut after just 137 minor-league innings, and Alex Faedo called into duty after four rehab outings — only one of which lasted more than 70 pitches.

But these are desperate times for the Detroit Tigers. They were already one of the most injured teams in baseball, with starting pitchers Casey Mize and Matt Manning on the shelf. And then Monday brought news of another injury:

With the club down three starting pitchers, and a Wednesday doubleheader looming, the Tigers didn’t have many realistic options. So Alex Faedo is scheduled to make his MLB debut in game two today.

In some ways it feels too soon. But to Alex Faedo it probably seems like a day that would never come.

The Alex Faedo Story

Alex Faedo first appeared on the radar of Detroit Tigers fans in 2014, when the club selected him with their 40th and final pick of the draft. Faedo was strongly committed to the University of Florida and was never going to sign with the Tigers that year, but Detroit liked him enough that they felt like making it official.

Faedo found quick success in Gainesville, earned All-American votes as a sophomore, and headed into his junior season as a probable top ten pick in the draft. But off-season surgery on both of his knees led to a slow start in 2017, and he slid to the 18th pick, where Detroit happily drafted him again.

He then made Tigers look brilliant with an absolutely dominant performance in the postseason. Faedo gave up one run over 27.1 postseason innings that year (0.33 ERA), allowing just 14 hits and 10 walks, while striking out 44. He led the Gators to their first national championship and earned the Most Outstanding Player award.

Faedo didn’t pitch in pro ball after his heavy workload in college, but he entered the 2018 season as a top-60 prospect to both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline. But he didn’t look like the same pitcher in his first professional season.

The fastball that sat in the 92-94 MPH range in college was now 89-90, and his wipeout slider lost its bite. He still threw enough quality strikes to escape High-A Lakeland with a 3.10 ERA over 61 innings, but Double-A was a rude awakening. Faedo pitched to a 4.95 ERA and allowed a disturbing 15 home runs in just 60 innings for Erie.

He returned to Erie for all of the 2019 season, with his stuff staying about the same, but his numbers improving across the board. He tossed the first seven innings of a combined no-hitter that April, and finished the year with a 3.90 ERA and 134 strikeouts to just 25 walks in 115.1 innings.

Alex Faedo was due to hit Toledo (and probably Detroit) in 2020, but COVID-19 had other plans. He missed Detroit Tigers summer camp when he caught the virus. That led to lost weight, missed training time, and eventually a forearm strain. A few months later he underwent Tommy John surgery, which caused him to miss the entire 2021 season.

On April 9, 2022, Faedo took the mound for his first pitch in a competitive baseball game in 951 days. He made three solid rehab starts for the Lakeland Flying Tigers, and then he was excellent in his Triple-A debut with the Toledo Mud Hens, which happened just a week ago.

What to Expect from Alex Faedo

Alex Faedo appears to be fully healthy now, and his stuff looks a lot like it did in his days with the Florida Gators. Faedo’s long arms and legs make his delivery a bit unorthodox looking, but that may work to his advantage, and it definitely doesn’t prevent him from throwing strikes.

That’s good news, but it doesn’t guarantee Faedo success in the majors. Fortunately, Faedo’s rehab outings in Low-A give us access to his pitch data, so we can get a bit nerdy now.

Faedo’s fastballs are remarkably average in terms of velocity and spin, at least by 2022 standards, with well-below average vertical movement, but good horizontal break. Faedo will likely have more success working his sinker low in the zone, and he could run into trouble if he tries to throw his fastball up too much.

The cutters and sliders listed here are almost certainly the same offering, but they register as different pitches because Faedo is adept at manipulating the speed and depth of his breaking ball. There aren’t many changeups in the big leagues with the same characteristics as Faedo’s, so it will be interesting to see how hitters react to it.

Alex Faedo doesn’t look particularly impressive on paper. But numbers are numbers, and pitching is pitching. Faedo knows how to pitch, and his best asset might just be his willingness to challenge hitters. In that regard, he’s not too dissimilar to Tyler Alexander and Beau Brieske.

Faedo’s breaking ball will probably earn him more swings and misses than Brieske has seen in his two MLB outings, but Faedo is also likely to give up more hard contact. Brieske’s fastball has characteristics that help prevent it from getting crushed when he makes mistakes with his location, but Faedo won’t have that luxury.

Still, Faedo’s pure stuff and pitching ability is plenty good enough to get him through a lineup a few times, and on a cool, damp day against a below-average offense, that might be enough to help the Detroit Tigers get a much-needed win.

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