Despite some of the best raw stuff in the Dodgers’ system Jordan Sheffield had an uneven 2017 season that failed to upgrade his prospect status. Sheffield saw a sharp decline in his strikeout rate with no corresponding drop in walk rate, further casting doubt on his ability to remain a starter. Nevertheless, Sheffield received a promotion to Class-A Rancho Cucamonga late in the season, and should face little competition for a rotation spot with Quakes again in 2018.
What Sheffield lacks in stature he makes up for in athleticism. A square built 5’10, Sheffield may not look the part of a power arm until you take in arm speed, which is near the top of the system.
“I’ve been knocked for my height since I’ve been growing up. It’s something that pushes me even harder, to prove not only to myself but to everyone else who’s saying that,” he said at Dodger Stadium in December.
Sheffield’s delivery nearly resembles a stretch offering, but he still employs a high leg kick and three-quarters release that show off his athleticism. Sheffield throws with considerable effort, but he was able to hold his stuff deep into starts as a collegian before the dodgers cut back on his workload.
Even with plus athleticism and mechanics he can repeat, Sheffield still struggles with fastball command. His arm speed helps him generate fastballs that reach the mid-90s and climbed higher at times at Vanderbilt. The pitch has late riding life, especially to the arm side. Sheffield shows more command up in the zone, but his height doesn’t give the pitch the typical plane of a tough upstairs riding fastball. Sheffield’s command can really wane when pitching to the outer edges of the plate.
Sheffield’s best offering is a power downer curveball that flashes easy plus. It looks like the Dodgers may have backed him off it some to focus on his fastball and change, but the pitch shows no rust and he commands the pitch the best of the three.
Sheffield said he refined the pitch with then-Quakes pitching coach Kip Wells.
“Toward the end of the season I started working on a curveball versus the slider. It gives more of a different look,” Sheffield said. “If everything is hard, it’s easier to pick up timing.”
His changeup is quite firm but shows some real promise. Like the fastball, he struggles to command the pitch at times, but the horizontal movement on the pitch gives him a different look from his other two offerings. Athletic arms tend to take to changeups fairly quickly and Sheffield fits the profile.
Despite three pitches that grade at least average while flashing plus, Sheffield has yet to produce to the level of his stuff. He has just a 23% strikeout rate in just over 116 professional innings and has been plagued with walks and being too hittable at times. Sheffield showed far more strikeout prowess in college at Vanderbilt, where he was able to pitch just once a week, but the performance hasn’t translated to more frequent but shorter outings in pro ball.
This isn’t to suggest that the Dodgers try an out-of-the-box approach to deploying Sheffield, but instead hint he may find more success with a higher margin of error in the bullpen. The upper levels of Sheffield’s velocity band and the sharpness of his breaking ball could give him closer upside (in the objective sense, not in comparison to an all-timer like Kenley Jansen) if he’s asked to focus just on keeping the fastball in the zone and high while changing eye levels with the curve low.
Additionally, Sheffield’s repertoire still looks light in comparison to other top undersized starters. Similar sized pitchers Marcus Stroman and Sonny Gray will throw five to six different pitches in a given game. That’s not to suggest Sheffield doesn’t have room for more fastball manipulation (cutting or sinking the pitch more), but his current command issues would like compromise any present effort.
Nevertheless, the current makeup of the organization should allow him to continue starting in High-A, but competition could be coming soon. The 2017 draft class is full of similar arms that will be tried out as starters but eventually could fit as relievers, and a few of those could move quickly. Sheffield carries a first-round pedigree, but an organization as analytically inclined as Los Angeles might give that less weight. Sheffield has enough arm talent to break through in 2018 and realize his mid-rotation, high-strikeout ceiling, but another nondescript year could see him moved to the bullpen to refurbish his prospect status.
“Scouts are scouts,” Sheffield said. “I believe in myself and I believe I can be a starter, and that’s something I will strive for.”
2018 top Dodgers prospects list
|17||Jordan Sheffield||RHSP/RP||22.10||HiA||55||45||60||electric arm, + present fastball and CV, athletic||production doesn't match stuff, likely reliever|
|18||Imani Abdullah||RHSP||20.11||LoA||55||45||60||excellent frame, upside, feel for spin on CB||17 a redshirt year, limited exposure, little stiff|
|19||Kyle Farmer||C/3B||27.07||MLB||50||50||45||good feel for hit, offensive profile at C, utility||more productive bench bat then starter, age|
|20||Caleb Ferguson||LHSP||21.09||HiA||50||45||50||K production, 3 pitch mix, command, feel for spin||upside more mid rotation, maxed out frame|
|21||Connor Wong||C/2B||21.10||LoA||50||45||50||versatile talent, good athlete for a C, solid power prod||some swing and miss, build not projectable|
|22||Josh Sborz||RHSP/RP||24.03||AA||50||45||50||high floor, command of three pitches, competitive||stuff has backed up this season, likely reliever|
|23||James Marinan||RHSP||19.06||ROK||50||40||55||projectable frame, flashes + SNK, chance for +CH||slurvy BB, more middle than upper rotation upside|
|24||Devin Smeltzer||LHSP||22.08||HiA||50||45||50||high pitchability, 3 pitch mix, throws nothing straight||fringe avg velo, 4th or 5th starter ceiling|
|25||Matt Beaty||1B/LF||24.11||AA||50||45||50||excellent feel for hit, career production, game pop||limited ceiling, future defensive home|
|26||Andrew Sopko||RHSP||23.08||AA||50||50||45||3 pitch mix, pitchability, command, deceptive||velo can be fringy, bottom rotation upside|
|27||Ariel Sandoval||CF/RF||22.05||HiA||50||35||60||livey athlete, raw power, arm, 2nd half production||too raw at plate, noisey set-up, high swing and miss|
|28||Tim Locastro||SS/2B/CF||25.09||AAA||50||45||45||good bat to ball skills, high steal rate, versatile||fringe pop, stretched at SS and CF, upside|
|29||Jake Peter||2B/SS||24.11||AAA||50||45||45||fluid LH swing, arm strength, versatile||utility/bench upside, ? on overall pop|
|30||Yaisel Sierra||RHRP||27.01||AAA||50||40||50||good velo, SL will flash +, quick arm||command, incon. release, FB can be straight|
|31||Wilmer Font||RHSP/RP||27.10||MLB||50||40||50||excellent K production, rise on FB, + SL||age, previous command issues, upside|
|32||Ibandel Isabel||1B||22.09||HiA||50||30||60||++ raw power, physical build, strength||huge swing and miss, poor defender, raw|
|33||Mitchell Hansen||CF/RF||21.11||SS||45||40||55||chance for 5 tools, upside, projectable frame||struggling to break full season, swing and miss|
|34||Errol Robinson||SS||23.06||AA||45||45||50||smooth infield actions, throwing arm, solid athlete||better long speed than SB threat, off. ceiling|
|35||Johan Mieses||RF/CF||22.09||AA||45||40||55||impressive arm, defensive ceiling, raw power||serious swing and miss concerns|
|36||Omar Estevez||2B/SS||20.01||HiA||45||40||55||added defensive versatility, some feel for hit||production stagnated at Hi A, power potential|
|37||Donovan Casey||CF/RF||22.01||SS||45||45||50||twitchy athlete, production, solid bat to ball skills||ceiling more 4th OF than starter, power ceiling|
|38||Edward Paredes||LHRP||31.06||MLB||45||45||45||K production, tough on LHH, + SL||age, one pitch reliever, LOOGY upside|
|39||Rob Segedin||3B/LF||29.05||MLB||45||45||45||hit vs lefties, gets most of tools, avg pop||bench bat upside, limited defender, upside|
|40||Drew Jackson||SS/2B||24.09||AA||45||40||50||elite athlete, + to ++ speed and arm strength||offense improving but limited ceiling, utility upside|
|41||Wills Montgomerie||RHSP/RP||22.10||LoA||45||40||50||spin rate, durable build, flashes + velo and CV||uneven production, command wavers|
|42||Cody Thomas||RF||23.06||LoA||45||35||55||great build, good athlete, chance for above avg pop||still raw, swing and miss concerns|
|43||Jesen Therrien||RHRP||25.00||AAA||45||45||45||SL flashes +, good command and K production||TJ wipes out '18. middle relief/ROOGY upside|
|44||Carlos Rincon||RF||20.06||SS||45||35||55||big raw power, physical upside, bat speed||pretty raw offensively, serious swing and miss|
|45||Kyle Garlick||CF/RF/LF||26.02||AA||45||45||45||productive, feel for hitting, avg pop||4th outfielder profile, age, fringe speed|
|46||Luke Raley||LF/RF||23.06||HiA||45||40||50||muscular build, chance for above avg pop||just avg bat speed, possible swing and miss|
|47||Luis Paz||1B/C||21.09||SS||45||40||50||power production, bat speed, strong build||? on ultimate defensive home, avg athlete|
|48||Riley Ottesen||RHRP||23.05||LoA||45||40||50||good velo, will flash + SL, arm speed||poor college production, likely reliever only|
|49||Rylan Bannon||3B||21.11||SS||45||45||45||college/pro production, good feel for hit, game pop||skills over tools, ceiling, possible utility upside|
|50||Leo Crawford||LHSP||21.01||LoA||45||40||50||solid production, command of 3 pitch mix||fringe velo, not as projectable, likely back end|
|51||Zach Reks||LF/RF||24.05||HiA||45||45||45||feel for hit, on base skills, productive||- power, age, 4th OF profile|
|52||Romer Cuadrado||LF/RF||20.08||SS||45||35||55||excellent frame, chance for + raw power||development lagging behind age, swing and miss|
|53||Ryan Moseley||RHRP||23.06||LoA||45||40||50||chance for ++ snk, big groundball potential||struggles with command, results don't match stuff|
|54||Jared Walker||3B/RF||22.02||LoA||45||40||50||+ size/athleticism combo, chance for hit/power, + arm||raw, buggy whip swing, error prone in IF|
|55||Zach Pop||RHRP||21.06||NA||45||40||50||good life/velo combo on FB, solid build, poss. CH||mid relief profile, SL loses shape in low slot|
|56||Corey Copping||RHRP||24.03||AA||45||45||45||good SL, bulldog mentality, decent production||FB velo avg to fringe, middle relief ceiling|
|57||Shea Spitzbarth||RHRP||23.06||AA||45||45||45||agressive mound demeanor, arm strength, CV||middle relief upside, maxed out frame, size|
|58||Layne Somsen||RHRP||28.10||AA||45||45||45||tough overhead BB, production, athletic||limited mid relief ceiling, age, avg FB velo|
|59||Tony Gonsolin||RHRP||23.11||HiA||45||40||50||arm speed, flashes + SL, solid K production||lithe build, not quite late relief upside|
|60||Alfredo Tavarez||RHSP/RP||20.04||LoA||45||35||50||king sized frame, arm strength, K production||still raw mechanically, repeating arm slot, command|
|61||Aneurys Zabala||RHRP||21.03||LoA||45||40||50||will flash ++ arm strength, some feel for spin||relief profile, command, limited physical upside|
|62||Michael Boyle||LHSP||23.11||HiA||45||40||45||pitch movement, pitchability, 3 pitches||no plus pitch, fringy velo, #5 starter/swingman|
|63||Jefrey Souffront||2B/3B||20.11||ROK||45||35||50||some feel for hit, quick bat, mature plate approach||distance from the majors, build not projectable|
|64||Jacob Amaya||SS/2B||19.02||ROK||45||35||50||chance to stick at SS, good athlete, some feel for hit||distance from majors, offensive ceiling|
|65||Ronny Brito||SS||19.00||SS||45||35||50||infield actions, long athlete, chance to hit||? on overall offensive potential, far from majors|
|66||Logan Crouse||RHRP||21.04||LoA||45||35||50||size, projectability, athleticism in delivery, arm action||Fringy present velo, lots of projection left|
|67||Chris Mathewson||RHSP/RP||21.10||HiA||45||40||45||SNK/SL mix, solid production, command||back of rotation, middle relief upside, fringe velo|
|68||Adam Bray||RHSP||24.11||HiA||45||40||45||durability, feel for spin, good command||fringe starter upside, upside, avg K potential|
|69||Brian Moran||LHRP||29.06||AA||40||40||45||funk in delivery, tough in LHH, K potential||limited ceiling, fringe velo, age|
|70||Nolan Long||RHRP||24.02||HiA||40||40||45||long frame, athletic for size, FB flashes +||long levers to control, command, likely reliever|
|71||Mike Ahmed||1B/3B||26.02||AA||40||40||45||productive in '16, swing plane, avg pop||bat speed, age, limited upside|
|72||Nathan Witt||RHRP||21.11||ROK||40||35||50||good build, projectable, arm strength||project arm, distance from majors, relief upside|
|73||Travis Taijeron||LF/RF||29.02||AAA||40||40||45||good career power production, physical build||age, defensive upside, swing and miss concern|
|74||Jacob Scavuzzo||LF||24.02||AAA||40||40||45||solid tool profile, still a chance for upside||game going backward, struggling hit tool|
|75||Max Gamboa||RHRP||22.04||ROK||40||35||50||excellent arm strength, + to ++ velo, good frame||production does not match stuff, incon. SL|
|76||Dean Kremer||RHRP||22.03||HiA||40||40||45||decent athleticism and frame, K production, sink on FB||was hit hard in HiA. Homer prone, no + pitch|
|77||Moises Perez||2B||20.08||LoA||40||40||45||loose athlete, some feel for hit||offensive ceiling, lower on defensive spectrum|
|78||Isaac Anderson||RHSP/RP||24.07||HiA||40||40||45||versatile arm, some SNK on FB, avg SL||no plus or above avg tool, low ceiling, taxi arm|