Tigers’ humble first-rounder Faedo put champion Gators first
This is the last in a series looking at the Detroit Tigers’ first 10 draft picks.
For a first-round Major League Baseball Draft pick, who's about to have a cool $3 million in his bank account, Alex Faedo really isn't all about Alex Faedo.
The hard-throwing right-hander paid no attention to the proceedings back on June 12, as his Florida Gators had a huge game that night against Wake Forest, in an NCAA Super Regional, with a ticket to the College World Series on the line.
Early in the evening, the Tigers used the No. 18 overall pick to select the Gators' ace, who later in the evening closed out a 3-0 victory with three ninth-inning strikeouts, kicking off the celebratory dogpile.
It was in that dogpile that a couple teammates, a couple of his best buddies, came up for air and said to Faedo:
"Detroit picked you."
"Everyone knew about me being selected, but I didn't know," Faedo told The Detroit News over the phone the other day. "I couldn't really think about it. I was just so happy for my team, the coaching staff, all the Gator fans. It was really cool just to have it happen that day. It's a story, for sure."
A bigger story for Faedo, though, came eight days later, when his Florida team beat LSU to win the program's first College World Series. Faedo was the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, with 22 strikeouts and no runs allowed in his two starts, both absolute gems. He allowed just five hits in 14.1 innings.
Afterward, in typical Faedo fashion, he was doing a live postgame interview on ESPN -- a spotlight most college kids would never turn down -- when he noticed the postgame handshake line was nearing the end. So he left the live interview, bashfully, and joined in on the game-ending tradition.
It was a classy gesture, for sure, not that Faedo thinks much about it.
"I mean, LSU is the mecca of college baseball," Faedo said. "It's a team we play every year, a team I respect as much as any team in the country.
"I didn't want their last thought of me being trying to show them up."
Yes, it's clear the Tigers are getting themselves a good egg -- and one they've known for quite some time, having drafted him out of Alonso High School in 2014, in the 40th round.
They never expected him to sign out of high school, but they started building a relationship, and watched him have a college career for the ages. He was 28-6 with a 2.80 ERA, and had 349 strikeouts in 289.2 innings. This year, as the Friday night starter, he was 9-2 with a 2.26 ERA and 157 strikeouts in 123.2 innings. Plus, one darn big save.
All this from a kid who didn't make his team's starting rotation to start his junior season in high school, even though his dad, Landy, was the head coach. He got one start on the mound as a high school sophomore, only because most of the team was taking the SATs. Perhaps now you see where he learned that it's never all about him.
"He's a good coach," Faedo said. "He wanted to push me."
Faedo, 21, throws a four-seam fastball, and occasionally a two-seamer, that run in the low- to mid-90s. His slider is his out pitch, and he throws it at different speeds. And he throws a change-up that he saw really progress during summer ball before his junior season at Florida, but didn't use it much there. He's looking forward to using that more once he signs his professional contract -- he's flying to Detroit on Monday and likely will get something in the neighborhood of $3.2 million -- and starts playing in games again.
It's worth noting, the Tigers are getting a relatively fresh arm.
His dad shut him down in middle school from pitching, wanting to make sure he didn't overuse that arm. Again, he got just the one start as a high school sophomore. He didn't move into the rotation as a junior until a spring-break tournament.
"I threw a really good game -- that sounds bad," Faedo said, humbly.
And when one of his teammates got suspended, Faedo moved into the rotation for the rest of the year, and then was the ace as a senior. Then, in college his first two years, his innings counts were very modest -- mostly because Florida starters only had to give five or six innings, because of a dominant bullpen. This year, the bullpen depth was decimated by the 2016 MLB Draft, so the weight shifted to the starters. Faedo threw 123.2 innings this year, and 166 total his first two years.
That, no doubt, was a comforting factor when Scott Pleis, David Chadd and Co. pulled the trigger on Faedo during Day 1 of the draft. He's the Tigers' only top-10-round draft pick who hasn't yet signed, mostly because his college season just ended less than a week ago.
‘BP was my specialty’
Interestingly, Faedo wanted to be a hitter, and not a pitcher, after graduating from T-ball to coach pitch. But he realized pretty quickly his skills at the plate weren't a match for all that competition in talent-rich Florida.
"I was a really good BP hitter. If you see my BPs, 'Oh, this guy's a threat,'" Faedo said, laughing. "Tampa baseball is so good.
"I just wasn't the greatest hitter. BP was my specialty."
He never had an at-bat in Florida. In fact, his next at-bat probably will come someday with the Tigers, during interleague play.
He's a candidate to move quickly through the system, unlike the Tigers' last two first-round picks, both high school right-handers, Beau Burrows in 2015 and Matt Manning in 2016. Burrows is at Double A and Manning is at Single A. Although, he probably won't rise as fast as, say, Andrew Miller, who pitched in the College World Series in 2006, then was pitching for the Tigers later that year.
Faedo prefers to start, but says all the right things when asked what the Tigers have in store for him. He'll do whatever it takes to help the team.
After all, it's all about the team. It's never been all about Faedo -- Faedo makes darn sure of that.
"The last few days, they've been pretty cool," said Faedo, who enjoys golfing, fishing and hanging at the beach -- and loves playing basketball, but acknowledged those days are now over. "It was kind of like a storybook ending, at least for my college career.
"That's what we went to school for, to win a College World Series. It all worked out. It was a really special time."
Get to know Alex Faedo, RHP
Age: 21 (Nov. 12, 1995)
Hometown: Tampa, Fla.
Draft: First round, 18th overall ($3,214,600 value; hasn't signed yet)
Fun fact: Faedo has two younger brothers, but they don't play baseball. One is in high school and plays football and lacrosse, and the other is in middle school and plays basketball. "They got their own thing," Faedo said. "They got very board traveling to all my tournaments. I think baseball rubbed off on them the wrong way."