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Dodgers 2018 top prospects: No. 17, Jordan Sheffield

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Jordan Sheffield struck out 109 batters in 107 innings across two minor league levels in 2017.
Photo credit: Tomo San | LA Dodgers

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

RK NAME POS OD AGE LEVEL OVERALL RISK CEILING PROS CONS
RK NAME POS OD AGE LEVEL OVERALL RISK CEILING PROS CONS
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