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Jordan Sheffield came to the Rule 5 rescue

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Despite a lengthy injury in 2021, the Rockies got a taste of a reliever that is primed to save the day

Welcome to the 2021 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2021. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.

★ ★ ★

No. 21, Jordan Sheffield: 0.6 rWAR

By committing a roster spot for the ex-Dodger Jordan Sheffield, the Rockies found themselves entering this season with some reliever security—and some relief for the unpredictable. The Rockies turned a Rule 5 draft selection into one of their better performers in the 2021 bullpen.

Sheffield was not protected on the Dodgers’ roster last winter, making him available to be picked up by any of the other 29 MLB organizations willing to put him on their big league list. Colorado took the gamble, taking him in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft just months removed from posting the second-worst bullpen ERA in 2020.

The benefits were rewarded while Sheffield was available:

Jordan Sheffield - 2021

IP ERA WHIP FIP xFIP
IP ERA WHIP FIP xFIP
29 1/3 3.38 1.09 4.23 5.26

There were nine Colorado relievers that pitched more innings than Sheffield in 2021. Three of them had a better ERA: Lucas Gilbreath, Robert Stephenson, and the trade deadline-departed Mychal Givens. Six of them had a worse ERA.

Sheffield’s FIP and xFIP aren’t as impressive as his ERA in 2021, but with a WHIP of 1.09, the Rockies are looking at a reliever that knew how to limit traffic on the base paths.

This is even more impressive when his home ballpark is considered and his rookie status acknowledged. It’s easy to assume Sheffield is more experienced than he actually is, since he was an outsider to an organization that often features homegrown relievers of his age. His MLB debut was this year, which makes that 1.09 WHIP even more noticeable.

In early June, Sheffield was sidelined for extended time due to a lat strain. He did not pitch from June 3-Sept. 5, leaving the Rockies bullpen vulnerable with a limited Triple-A reserve. He pitched 10 innings with the Rockies in the final month of the regular season, allowing five runs with a 1.30 WHIP. His figures were better prior to the injury, but they weren’t much worse upon his return.

Sheffield has been sent to the Arizona Fall League this year to make up for lost work, all in an attempt to get him accustomed to a standard workload in 2022 and beyond. He’s pitched just one inning in 10 games with the Rafters and the reasoning is unknown — it could be a precautionary measure or perhaps a planned-out intermission — but having already proven himself in the big leagues, his future is far more certain than some other Fall Leaguers fighting for a protected roster spot. He’s with the Salt River Rafters to get his work in more than anything.

It’s alarming to see how deep the pitching well is in Los Angeles with Sheffield going unprotected. It’s at least comforting to see the Rockies capitalize on a key feature of minor league checks and balances, however, and equally fulfilling to see Sheffield make the most of his previous regard from his old club.

The Rule 5 draft came to Colorado’s rescue last winter, and the Rockies could see the full reward as Sheffield looks toward a full season of work in 2022.