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2023 Dodgers in review: Emmet Sheehan

Sheehan’s debut season was one for the storybooks, and the rookie proved his worth time and time again.

San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Emmet Sheehan’s first season in the majors is an instant classic. He was called up from Double-A Tulsa in mid-June to shore up the Dodgers’ starting rotation, sent to Triple-A for nearly all of August, and, undeterred, pitched his way into a playoff roster spot upon his return. It was a wild ride, and not one that anyone is likely to forget anytime soon.

Sheehan absolutely dazzled in his debut, throwing six no-hit innings against the Giants—just the third pitcher ever to accomplish such a feat in his first major-league game—but still missing out on a win thanks to a shaky bullpen and some weird base running.

In his second start, Sheehan continued making good on his minor-league reputation for solid innings and scorching fastballs with another six solid innings against the Astros, finally giving up his first hit in the third inning.

By the end of July, Sheehan began to show some cracks, giving up 12 runs in 8.7 innings pitched in Week 17 of the season; eight of those came in one game. After the All-Star break, he and fellow rookies Bobby Miller and Michael Grove combined for a 4.71 ERA in nine starts. But there were ups with the downs, and Sheehan recovered for a four-inning save to complete a sweep of the Oakland A’s on August 3.

It wasn’t quite enough to save him, though, and Sheehan was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City to make room for Ryan Yarbrough, who was acquired in a trade with the Kansas City Royals. Up to that point in the season, Sheehan had earned a 5.63 ERA with 30 strikeouts and 18 walks in 38⅓ innings. He threw 56 pitches in his last outing, though, and his unavailability over the weekend—combined with the trade for Yarbrough and Clayton Kershaw’s impending return from the injured list—sealed the deal.

The time in the majors had served him well, though, and Sheehan started off his Triple-A career with six strikeouts for OKC. He matched that number in four innings during his return to the majors a month later, starting a successful campaign to parlay his habit of tossing hitless innings into a postseason spot. Sheehan followed that up shortly afterwards with a career-high 10 strikeouts on September 27. He notched a 3.68 ERA and a 39-percent strikeout rate for the month.

When October rolled around, Sheehan proved to be an essential addition to the postseason roster. He was called in after Kershaw’s disastrous NLDS Game 1 start and, while he gave up three runs, he also recorded 11 outs to get the Dodgers through the fourth inning. While that was all Sheehan was able to do during the Dodgers’ short playoff run, it was nonetheless a critical contribution for a team that struggled to get outs.

As the Dodgers continue to shape their pitching strategy for the season, Sheehan could still play a critical role. He’s able to go long as both a starter and reliever and, while the Dodgers are making significant moves to trade for more experienced pitchers, Sheehan brings more than pure talent to the roster. He’s not only infinitely coachable, but also motivated to find his own ways to improve—a true student of the game in every sense.

Remarkably, he managed to overhaul his game by himself by studying videos of star major leaguers on YouTube during the COVID lockdown that sent him home from Boston College, coming back for the best season of his college career after returning to campus. He’s continued that dedication to learning and research with the Dodgers and takes pitching coaches’ personalized recommendations and analysis as seriously as ever. That dedication could prove to be as valuable an asset as his fastball in 2024.

2023 particulars

Age: 23

Stats: 4-1, 1 save, 4.92 ERA, 4.85 FIP, 13 G, 60⅓ IP, 64 K, 26 BB

Salary: $720,000, pro-rated to roughly $309.677 for his time in the majors.

Game of the year

While Sheehan’s four-inning save and 10-strikeout games were impressive, his most impactful performance came on September 22 against the Giants. He threw 4⅔ hitless innings and not only retired every batter during his first time through the order, but did it with seven strikeouts. Sheehan drove in a run on three walks and a hit batter afterwards, and while that’s certainly a downer, his earlier performance before showed that he was worth postseason consideration—especially since Ryan Pepiot was favored over him for a playoff spot. Both eventually made the roster, but when Kershaw needed to be rescued, it was Sheehan who got the call.

Roster status

Sheehan is on the 40-man roster, and has 80 days of major league service time. He has two option years remaining.