Even though many of fans in attendance at Camelback Ranch often flock to the main fields to catch the Dodgers‘ primary action, there’s plenty to see on the back fields, including the big leaguers who are moving a bit slowly, as well as the prospects who did not garner invites to the major league side of camp.
We’ve been talking about pitching quite a lot lately, and inside those conversations, we’ve been discussing a group of starting pitchers who may successfully be converted into relievers sometime down the road. We have even mentioned guys like Josh Sborz, who came into the organization as a swing man, was given the opportunity to start for a few years, and was recently transitioned back to the bullpen again.
At the major league level, Ross Stripling comes to mind straightaway, as the right-hander has settled in as one of the club’s more prominent relievers after being groomed as a starter during his early days on the farm. Presently, righty Brock Stewart could be in the midst of that same transition. During his time in the big leagues last year, Stewart was decent in relief, but often fell apart when drifting into the middle innings of his starts. And regardless of what management’s intentions may actually be, Kenta Maeda could be heading down the exact same path, as made evident by his effectiveness in relief during the 2017 and 2018 postseasons.
Earlier in the week, we mentioned that both Yadier Alvarez and Dennis Santana could conceivably take similar routes. One step below them is another righty, Jordan Sheffield, who may finally emerge during the upcoming season after fighting off injuries and inconsistencies as a starter last season.
The 22-year-old Sheffield is no stranger to the bullpen. In theory, if he settles in early, he could conceivably be another big league relief option towards the end of the 2019 season, or more realistically, sometime during his 2020 campaign.
In 2017, he made 24 combined starts for Low-A Great Lakes and High-A Rancho, compiling a 4.70 ERA with 109 strikeouts over 107-1/3 innings of work. He was instrumental as a starter for Vandy during the squad’s 2016 championship run. In 2015, he made 16 relief appearances for the Commodores, registering a 2.85 ERA with 55 strikeouts over an even 60 innings of work.
Last season, he battled soreness in his forearm that cost him a sold two months of time. The Dodgers brought him back slowly, and to ease his workload, used him as a reliever during the homestretch of the season at Rancho. Despite having a 6.88 ERA for the entirety of the season, his mark was below 4.00 in the nine appearances he made in relief to finish the year. In total, he struck out 44 batters over an even 37 innings of work last season.
Sheffield’s four-seam sits in the mid-nineties, but topped out as high as 98 MPH last year at Rancho. He also features a hard three-quarter slider which sits in the upper-eighties, and a circle change that shows a ton of nasty movement.
Looking ahead to 2019, the Dodgers are hoping the Tennessee native puts together a season which is indicative of the club selecting him as the 36th overall pick in the 2016 draft. There’s no question he has the tools to do so.
Jordan is the younger brother of Mariners left-handed pitcher Justus Sheffield, who was chosen by the Indians with the 31st overall selection in the 2014 draft.