Rarely do the Tigers pass on pitching in a big-league draft, no matter at what point they take their first turn.
And nothing changed Monday night during the first round of the 2017 amateur sweepstakes.
Alex Faedo, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound freight train of a starter, was nabbed by the Tigers with the 18th overall pick during the night’s opening selections.
Faedo throws right-handed and has been on the Tigers’ short list all of 2017 as he worked for the University of Florida, polishing his credentials in the nation’s best baseball conference.
The 21-year-old Gators junior has a fastball that can run into the mid-90s, with a big-league slider, curveball, and change-up. He is the brand of pitcher the Tigers will project to hit the big leagues in as soon as two years, which could, conceivably make him part of a future rotation that might well include Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris, as well as prospects Kyle Funkhouser and Beau Burrows.
The Gators remain busy in the NCAA Tournament, with Faedo a star starter. But he entered in relief in Monday’s Super Regional win over Wake Forest, earning a save with three strikeouts in two innings as the Gators advanced to the College World Series.
Faedo is 7-2 in 17 starts, with a 2.60 ERA. He has allowed 89 hits in 107⅓ innings, struck out 132, and walked 35.
A native of Tampa, only a half-hour from the Tigertown complex in Lakeland, Fla., Faedo was first drafted by the Tigers in 2014 as a 40th-round pick out of Braulio Alonso High. He passed on pro baseball and now has a shot at signing a deal with the Tigers that should be around the slotted allocation of $3.2 million.
Baseball America had Faedo listed as its No. 10 prospect. Frankie Piliere, a prominent scout who reports for D1Baseball.com, had Faedo precisely where the Tigers took him — 18th.
The Tigers had their pick of high-horsepower pitchers, and a handful of position players, as they arrived at the 18th slot.
North Carolina prep lefty D.L. Hall was known to have been on the Tigers’ chase list, as was University of Oregon lefty David Peterson. On the position side, the Tigers could have opted for Puerto Rican teenager Heliot Ramos, or a player they were considered to be particularly high on, University of North Carolina shortstop Logan Warmoth.
But it was Faedo who most intrigued, and reassured, Tigers scouts when his name continued to slip into the Tigers’ range.
Faedo was a star from the get-go at Florida and was considered the top talent on USA Baseball’s 2016 Collegiate National Team.
His only red flag sprung last fall when he had minor surgery on each of his knees. And while his velocity dipped a bit following recovery, the Tigers liked what they saw during Faedo’s showcase starts this spring.
Baseball America’s report on Faedo says his work on last year’s USA Collegiate National Team earned plus grades from scouts on his three primary pitches: fastball, slider, and change-up.
“At its best,” Baseball America says, “Faedo’s slider rivals that of North Carolina’s J.B. Bukauskas (taken 15th by the Astros), though it has a bit less power in the 83-84-mph range. He manipulates the pitch’s shape well and can locate it for strikes or as a chase pitch, though at times he gets too cute and throws too many sliders.
“Faedo’s fastball velocity has tended to be average at 88-92 this spring, but he’s pitched in the 92-94 register in the past, and he fills up the strike zone with his heater despite it having plus life.
“He can sink it and cut it, and at times his change-up has similar sinking life and run.
“Faedo’s longer arm action gives scouts some pause,” Baseball America’s scouting report says, “but hasn’t impeded his feel for the strike zone, and he has plenty of track record for clubs picking high to rely on.”
Faedo is the nephew of Lenny Faedo, a shortstop who played 174 games for the Twins in 1980-84.
The Tigers were not finished Monday following their Faedo grab. They were to choose 57th overall in the second round.
Getting to know
Name: Alex Faedo
High School: Alonso High
Home: Tampa, Fla.
Notable: Drafted by the Tigers in the 40th round (1,210th overall) in 2014.