Name: Daulton Jefferies
Height/Weight: 6’0’’, 180
How Acquired: Selected in the Compensation Round A of the 2016 MLB Draft.
The Oakland A’s 2016 second-overall pick saw his season end before it really got started when he had elbow surgery to repair a torn UCL. Can Daulton Jefferies return to the mound and advance up the organizational ladder in 2018?
Jefferies was on the radar as an MLB Draft prospect as far back as his high school days in Atwater, Calif., but the A’s got a close-up look at Jefferies’ draft prospects during his collegiate career at Cal. In three seasons for the Bears, Jefferies posted a 2.73 ERA and a 185:46 K:BB in 221 innings. He also had an impressive stint in the 2015 Cape Cod League and on the 2015 Team USA collegiate squad, which also featured A.J. Puk and Logan Shore.
Jefferies was particularly impressive as a junior at Cal. He got off to a red-hot start and began to receive some top-15 pick draft buzz. Then he was sidelined with what was first vaguely described as a calf issue. While rehabbing that injury, Jefferies developed shoulder soreness. The two injuries limited Jefferies to just eight starts for the Bears, during which he had a 1.08 ERA and a 53:8 K:BB.
Injury concerns dropped Jefferies’ draft stock out of the first round, but the A’s grabbed him not long after with the 37th overall pick (which came in the Compensation Round A). He signed a slightly below slot deal at $1.6 million and reported to Arizona, where the A’s worked Jefferies back into a throwing routine gradually. Jefferies made his pro debut nearly two months after signing with the A’s, a two-inning stint with the AZL Athletics. He would make five starts for the AZL A’s before the end of the year, allowing three runs on 11 hits and two walks in 11.1 innings. Jefferies struck-out 17.
The A’s continued to be cautious with Jefferies during the offseason, and he reported to spring training healthy. He pitched well during the spring, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster for the High-A Stockton Ports as part of their eight-man tandem rotation. Jefferies made his 2017 debut in Stockton on April 9, and he was impressive, allowing just two hits in four shutout innings. His velocity was down a bit in that outing (his fastball sat 89-91 rather than his customary 91-95), but his stuff otherwise looked sharp. (Video from that start below)
Jefferies’ next outing came at San Jose. He ran into all sorts of trouble, allowing five hits and six runs (two earned) in three innings. He developed elbow soreness after that start and was soon diagnosed with a torn UCL. Jefferies had Tommy John surgery in early May and missed the rest of the season. He is currently rehabbing at the A’s minor league complex and has, thus far, had a traditional recovery. He recently began throwing flat-ground sessions and could get on the mound by spring training.
When healthy, Jefferies offers a sinking fastball that runs in on right-handers, as well as a four-seamer that changes the eye-level of the hitters effectively. He generally throws his fastball in the low-90s, but has shown the ability to bump it up to 95 when reaching back for something extra. His fastball command is a strength and he is able to move the pitch through different planes. Jefferies has two potentially above-average secondary offerings: a slurvy breaking ball that is thrown hard and moves late and a change-up that also breaks down towards the hitters’ feet at the last minute.
At 6’0’’, 180, Jefferies has been compared physically to former A’s ace Sonny Gray. Jefferies uses a three-quarters release and is short and quick to the plate. He is an above-average athlete who was a star infielder – as well as a pitcher – in high school. Jefferies has a strong work ethic and has been praised for his competitiveness on the mound.
Tommy John rehabs can be unpredictable, so the fact that Jefferies is progressing well in January doesn’t necessarily mean he will return at the 12-month mark from his surgery. However, if things do progress without major set-backs, he should be pitching in games by June. It is likely the A’s will send Jefferies back to Stockton, where he will be on a close innings and pitch-count throughout the season. He could reach Double-A by the end of the year, but the main focus will be to try to get Jefferies 100-120 innings pitched to set him up for a season without restrictions in 2019.
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