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Jordan Sheffield’s Triple-A struggle left much to be seen

The call-up of Wynton Bernard pushed one player off the 40-man roster

Welcome to the 2022 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2022. 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.

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No. 29, Jordan Sheffield: 0.1 rWAR

Put yourself in the 2020-21 offseason, with a fresh 162-game season on tap for the first time in over a year. The Rockies jumped in the Rule 5 draft that winter, bolstering a bullpen shortly removed from the Davis/McGee/Shaw saga, with a credible prospect out of a pitching-savvy Dodgers development pipeline.

Jordan Sheffield was the 36th-overall selection by the Dodgers in the 2016 MLB Draft. The brother of big leaguer Justus Sheffield, Jordan also had SEC blood in his veins after two seasons at Vanderbilt. He made it to the College World Series, put five years of pro experience under his belt, was named an Arizona Fall League Fall Star in 2018, and was suddenly — available.

The Rockies scored themselves a pitching product they may have never expected to receive.

The right-hander made his MLB debut with Colorado in 2021, tossing 29 13 innings with a 3.38 ERA. A WHIP around one suggested Sheffield was prepared for Coors Field. After an injury-shortened season, he received an invite back to the Arizona Fall League, earning himself more status to take over a solid workload in 2022.

He has pitched 24 23 innings since then – and all but two of them were with Triple-A Albuquerque.

Triple-A Damage: 22 23 IP, 11.12 ERA

The city of Albuquerque, New Mexico serves as a great primer for pitchers that will soon throw at Coors Field. The elevation is similar, the ball will fly, and an ability to limit baserunners will often lead to better fate.

Sheffield held a 2.294 WHIP with the Isotopes this year, his 20 total walks surpassing his 19 total strikeouts. With veteran arms like Daniel Bard, Alex Colomé and Tyler Kinley anchoring roster spots in the Rockies’ bullpen, there was little room for a suddenly-27-year-old reliever.

Big League Limits: 2 IP, 0.00 ERA

He did make his way to the big league roster for two appearances, and a 0.00 ERA managed to put his big league rWAR above one this year. Sheffield allowed two hits and two walks in a combined two innings; those outings featured plenty of traffic, but they at least featured big pitches to cap them off as scoreless.

August DFA

The baseball world gives, and the baseball world takes: when Wynton Bernard made his celebrated debut this August, it meant one player had to be removed from the 40-man roster.

Sheffield was designated for assignment on August 12.

He would stick around for six more appearances this year, all with Triple-A Albuquerque, allowing six earned runs in five innings. Opposing hitters finished the season hitting .337 against Sheffield in Triple-A.

The Next Frontier

The outlook could remain bleak for the right-hander without a big offseason breakthrough.

Such a breakthrough isn’t a new philosophy; while not a direct comparison, Adam Ottavino turned himself around in the winter of 2017-18 after missing a postseason roster. Yency Almonte was picked up by the Dodgers last winter and turned into a rebranded high-leverage option for a 100-game winner.

Sheffield has family ties in pro baseball; paired with the player development insights he acquired at Vanderbilt (and, grievance aside, with the Dodgers), perhaps a spring training invite could reveal the fruits of some well-intended winter labor.

This would be an ideal circumstance – and perhaps a distant one after a velocity decline and walk percentage increase left him struggling to crack the big league roster.

Sheffield will turn 28 next year. Already older than relievers Lucas Gilbreath and Jake Bird, the clock could be ticking much quicker than other arms.