Photo by Kimberly Contreras

Oakland A's 2017 top-50 prospect scouting report: Daulton Jefferies, RHP

Our Oakland A's 2017 top-50 prospects list is out. Now find out more about the players on that list. In this piece, a close look at top-50 prospect Daulton Jefferies. Jefferies' junior season at Cal was marred by injury. Can he stay healthy in 2017?

Name: Daulton Jefferies
Position: RHP
Height/Weight: 6’0’’, 180
Bats/Throws: L/R
Age: 21
How Acquired: Selected in the Competitive Balance Round A of the 2016 MLB Draft

Early in the 2016 college baseball season, Daulton Jefferies was the talk of the NCAA as he mowed down the competition. However, a calf injury led to a shoulder injury and a truncated season for the Cal junior. He fell out of the first round but into the lap of the Oakland A’s at pick 37. Can Jefferies stay healthy enough to reach his potential? For a time this season, there was arguably no better starter in college baseball than Jefferies. The Cal righty went 6-0 with a 1.29 ERA and 47 strike-outs in 42 innings before a calf injury sidelined him in early April. When that injury led to a shoulder strain, Jefferies found himself on the sidelines for most of the rest of the season. He would finish his junior year with just 50 innings pitched.

Before the health issues, Jefferies was projected to be a top-20 pick, so the A’s were happy to pick him up with their comp round pick at slot 37. He signed with Oakland not long after the draft, but the A’s were careful with how they used him during his pro debut season. He didn’t make his debut until August 8 and didn’t throw more than three innings in any of his five starts for the AZL A’s. Jefferies was then invited to A’s fall Instructional League, but Oakland had him focus on conditioning and film work rather than throw during the fall session.

When Jefferies did throw this summer, he was as advertised. In addition to the 1.08 ERA in 50 innings for the Golden Bears, Jefferies allowed just three earned runs in 11.1 innings for the AZL A’s. He dominated Rookie League hitters, as expected, striking out 17 and walking just two.

The A’s caution with Jefferies is not hard to understand. Shoulder injuries are the trickiest ones to manage for pitchers and can ultimately ruin careers. The A’s see a potential above-average big league starter in Jefferies if he can stay healthy, and they want to do everything they can to keep him on the mound.

When healthy, Jefferies can spot his 92-95 MPH fastball to both sides of the plate. He has two potential plus secondary pitches in his change-up and slider. Jefferies is listed at six-feet and may be a touch shorter than that. What he lacks in leverage when throwing to the plate, he gains in arm speed. Jefferies also hides the ball well and he repeats his delivery.

Shortly after the draft, A’s Scouting Director Eric Kubota compared Jefferies to major-league veteran (and one-time A’s unsigned draft pick) Mike Leake in terms of his athleticism and ability to paint the corners on both sides of the plate. A’s Assistant General Manager Billy Owens likened Jefferies to Los Angeles Dodgers’ right-hander Kenta Maeda.

Maeda is also a tremendous athlete with that wiry frame. Seeing Daulton pitch at Cal, it kind of reminded me of Maeda a little bit, Owens said. Hes able to make adjustments on the fly, use that athleticism, throw that Bugs Bunny change-up in any count and dial-up that fastball to 95. With all things being considered, moving forward as he is able to get more innings, hell be a successful pitcher. 

Daulton Jefferies Scouting Video (video by Kimberly Contreras)

The A’s haven’t always had the best luck selecting pitchers with injury questions in the upper rounds of the draft. Fellow Cal alum Tyson Ross, who went to the A’s in the second round of the 2008 draft, came into pro ball with questions about the health of his shoulder. He made the big leagues by 2010 and has been an excellent big league starter when healthy, but injuries have dogged him since his early days as a pro. Recently traded starter Dillon Overton had Tommy John surgery shortly after signing with the A’s, but he was able to reach the big leagues three years after he was drafted, although his stuff has never returned to pre-surgery levels. Hard-throwing right-hander Bobby Wahl saw his draft stock drop in 2013 thanks to injury concerns. He hasn’t been healthy enough to stick as a starter, but Wahl enters the 2017 season as one of the A’s top relief prospects. On the flip side, starters Brett Hunter (7th round, 2008) and Brad Sullivan (1st round, 2003) were also highly touted college starters who signed with the A’s to significant bonuses but neither was ever healthy enough to develop past the Double-A level.

Jefferies was cleared to start his throwing program in November and is on track to participate in spring training. If healthy, Jefferies’ path to the big leagues could be as swift as it was for Ross and Overton. Jefferies will likely be limited to around 110-130 innings this season given his innings total in 2016, but that could be enough innings for him to reach Double-A or Triple-A. It isn’t out of the question to think Jefferies could be in big league discussions as early as the second half of 2018.

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