Jordan Sheffield is a guy I’ve seen throw in Double-A. He has the same question mark a lot of potential Rule 5 Draft targets do. Is he going to throw enough strikes to stick in the big leagues?
Sheffield throws hard. He is a 93 to 96 guy that can occasionally bump it up even more. Sheffield also throws a curve and circle change. The pitches have been refined as he worked as a starter at Vanderbilt and his first two years in the minors. The change up is deceptive and can get LHHs out in front while the curve is what he prefers. The pitch has a big break working 12-6. At times it hangs and is a very hittable pitch. At times it falls off the table and no one can touch it. Sheffield started working in relief last season as he isn’t a big guy and has had some issues staying healthy. With the effort in his delivery, this is probably a really good place for him. Sheffield stands just 5’10”.
In his delivery, Sheffield leans back onto his heel almost the way Kenley Jansen does. It works for Jansen but I think Sheffield isn’t consistent enough with the delivery and it effects his control. He doesn’t seem to have the same posture from pitch to pitch as he comes down the mound. Of course I’m not with Sheffield in bullpens so I don’t know what they’ve tried but I wonder what would happen if his posture and weight distribution were adjusted. Would he throw strikes more consistently?
How inconsistent has Sheffield been? He had a BB/9 rate of 7.65 in Tulsa last year. He also posted 11.47 K/9 and seemed to get through hitters quickly when he was around the zone. He allowed 32 hits in 55.0 innings last year while striking out 74 batters between A+ and AA. The fact that Sheffield gets swings and misses and can dominate when he is in the zone gives you hope that the walks can be cut down to a reasonable number.
Another thing he has going against him is that Sheffield is a fly ball pitcher. In a league where the average fly ball is going 20 to 30 feet further than a fly ball in Tulsa, that could be a problem.
It seems that Sheffield tries to use the whole strike zone to maximize his spin efficiency. With him moving to the pen full time, a team could decide they only want him to work on one or two pitches that he throws best maximizing his time in games. I don’t have the data on his pitches but if I took him, it’s something I would absolutely look into. The Dodgers may be doing this already with him, but I think in AA they are letting him throw more pitches in an effort to gain control on all of them. I don’t know, I’m just hypothesizing.
Sheffield is a gamble, but it is a gamble that doesn’t cost much and could have a big reward to it. With 26 spots, I think it could be easy to stash him away and see only time that was advantageous to his development. Especially for a team that isn’t in their window of contention yet. If the Royals can iron out his control, Sheffield could be the back-end asset the 2021-2025 playoff bullpens need.
Image from MiLB.com taken by Steve Saenz.