The shortened 2020 season has not been shy about giving us plenty of major league pitching debuts. From the dominant performances of Sixto Sanchez, Ian Anderson, and Triston McKenzie, to some of the less heralded stars who had solid big league debuts, like Cristian Javier and Dean Kremer, 2020 has at least given us hope that the future is in good shape – at least when it comes to young, fun pitchers to GIF up.
The latest is Daulton Jefferies, the 37th overall pick by the Oakland A’s in the 2016 MLB draft out of nearby Cal.
Jefferies is starting Game 1 of Oakland’s double-header on Saturday, and if my luck of writing GIF Breakdowns is any indication (I did Anderson and McKenzie) then he could be in for an excellent, head-turning outing against a weak-hitting Texas squad.
Before we get into the outing, a bit about Jefferies. After getting picked in 2016, Jefferies only managed to make three appearances in 2017 and 2018 combined, thanks to Tommy John surgery. He returned to the bump in 2019 and reminded everyone why he was such a heralded selection, posting a ridiculous 93:9 K:BB ratio in 73 innings, with most of his work coming at AA.
I’ll be primarily looking to see how his fastball looks against big league hitters, and how he pairs that with his cutter – which should be a nice weapon against left-handers. His changeup has the makings of a plus pitch as well, and his slider could be a devastating third pitch – although some have reported that the pitch can flatten out over time. Still, his arsenal plus his potentially elite command should make him a fun pitcher to watch today and going forward, if he finds a way to stick in the rotation.
Away we go!
Jefferies began the game with a fastball on the black at 95 miles per hour, which I suspect will be at or near the top end of his velocity in this one.
After three straight fastballs, all at 94 miles per hour, Jefferies went with his first changeup of the game:
Blegh. Not much to see here, at least on this first one anyway.
Jefferies came back with 95 down and away for a foul ball, the kind of location that should keep him around long term:
However, he followed that up with 95 just off the plate and high, walking his first hitter of the game.
The next batter, Isaiah Kiner-Falefa, attempted to bunt Tavares over but instead reached first himself after Matt Olson got the force out at second.
Jefferies then got ahead of Nick Solak with a pair of 94 mile per hour fastballs, which included his first career whiff:
He’s thrown 9 out of 10 fastballs so far, and on an 0-2 count I’d love to see him try to get his first career strikeout with something offspeed here.
Instead we get 94, again, this one catching way, way too much of the plate for an 0-2 pitch. Yikes.
Thankfully, Jefferies followed that up with a really nice breaking ball to get his first career strikeout:
Well, that’s one of the first truly encouraging signs we’ve seen from Jefferies so far, and I can see why this slider holds plenty of appeal.
After missing away with a fastball to Joey Gallo, Jefferies came back with a 91 mile per hour cutter that Gallo swung through.
Jefferies followed that up with a heater high and away for another whiff:
Then, he tried to get a strikeout with another fastball over the zone (not a bad idea) but Gallo took it. At this point, Jefferies has him 2-2 and I want to see him go with his breaker again, but instead he missed with a changeup down in the dirt and then again with a fastball over the plate, putting Gallo on.
With two on and two out, Jefferies goes right down the middle with a 92 mile per hour fastball to Rougned Odor that probably should have broke this game wide open:
Well, Odor didn’t make a mistake the second time. Jefferies came back with a changeup over the plate, and Odor hit this one into the seats to make it a 3-0 game. Yikes.
Jefferies came back with his hardest fastball of the game, 96 up and away to Elvis Andrus.
He’s throwing mad, which doesn’t always bode well. Let’s see if his oft-regarded poise can help him sneak out of this.
And oops. Jefferies once again got way too much of the plate with his changeup, which Andrus slapped for a base hit.
Jefferies has heavily relied on his fastball so far in this contest, and it’s not hard to see why. His changeup is not fooling anyone, and I’d like to see him go back to that slider or cutter more often to get out of this jam.
After getting ahead of Ronald Guzman with a fastball low and away, Jefferies ran a cutter in on his hands that froze him – the exact pitch I was hoping we’d see him attempt to execute when his changeup isn’t working.
Jefferies went over the plate with a fastball for a ball and then came back with the cutter inside again, which Guzman fouled away. And then he got a little greedy and tried to do it again, and this one caught far too much of the plate and was deposited into the seats for the second home run of the inning.
Whoo boy. Jefferies’ secondary stuff just isn’t here right now, and unless that slider shows up in a big way this looks like a short outing for the 25-year-old.
Jefferies threw three straight fastballs to Eli White, before coming back with a cutter off the plate and again with a fastball, which White knocked for a base hit. This isn’t looking good, and Texas is all over his only workable pitch at the moment.
A fastball up, a cutter off the plate, and another fastball below the zone led to a 2-1 count on Jeff Mathis, before another fastball (sheesh) led to a pop-up from the weak-hitting veteran, finally ending the inning.
This was unpleasant, to say the least, and 36 pitches (26 fastballs) and five earned runs is not going to get it done.
If he does get more time, I’d like to see a lot more of his breaking ball and his cutter, as those seem like the pitches that might get him into a groove in inning two.
Jefferies, starting the second inning back at the top of the order, got himself into a 1-1 count with (you guessed it) two straight fastballs to Leody Tavares, before bringing that cutter in on his hands for a foul out.
If there is a positive takeaway from this outing, it is his willingness to go inside with that cutter to left-handers. Especially when his changeup isn’t working (and it’s not) this is a nice weapon for him to have in his arsenal.
Finally, we got to see Jefferies start a hitter off with that slider, and while he missed inside it is a nice change-of-pace pitch for him.
With a mid-90’s fastball, a low 90’s cutter and a high-80’s changeup, the slider at 79 is going to help him keep hitters off-balance, as long as he can avoid the middle of the plate with it.
And that was on display right away, as Jefferies followed up the slider with 94 on the outside black, keeping Kiner-Falefa looking for a quick 0-2 count.
His next two pitches, a cutter and a slider, caught way too much of the plate, but a foul ball and a flyout to left got Jefferies a much-needed quick second out to this inning.
Jefferies still needs that slider to hit the corner, or even miss below the zone, but I’m sure he’ll take any pitch that is getting him outs at this point.
Jefferies came back with a fastball way too high and then a fastball middle and down to Nick Solak to even the count at 1-1. His fastball command is all over the place, and he seems to be trying to change eye level by moving that pitch up and down. Not a bad idea, but his best chance of success long-term is to go with the “BSB” by relying on fastballs up in the zone and his secondaries down. That’s not working for him right now – but I could see a path to him being a workable arm if he can follow that blueprint.
Jefferies’ next offering was a front door slider that caught the inside corner for a called strike.
Ugh. Jefferies followed that nice slider with a fastball up (BSB) but Solak got a lucky poke under the glove of Tony Kemp for a single. This is just bad luck for Jefferies, on a day where he really needed something to go his way.
Jefferies started Gallo off with a cutter too far inside and then a 93 mile per hour fastball in the zone that he is fortunate is still intact. Then came another fastball, this one at 94 and inside, that Gallo hit just out of play and well over the fence for what was nearly the third home run surrendered on the day.
A pair of changeups missed low to follow suit, and then a fastball low and away got him out of the second, and final, inning of Jefferies’ debut.
Ooof. I don’t imagine we will have many “should I drop so-and-so for Jefferies?” type questions this week, especially since there’s a pretty good chance he gets sent back down to the team’s alternate site after this contest is over.
Needless to say, I’m out on Jefferies for this season. However, I still think he has some appeal in dynasty formats. We can’t forget that, coming into today, Jefferies had only thrown 99.1 professional innings since 2016. 64 of those innings were at AA, and he dominated with a 3.66 ERA (3.19 FIP) and a 27.5% strikeout rate.
Still – I’m disappointed in what we saw today. His fastball/cutter/changeup all proved to be very hittable, and with little separation in velocity between the three I think he’s going to get batted around quite a bit – especially with how much of the plate he caught.
The changeup was exceptionally disappointing, considering it’s been marketed as his top secondary, and until that pitch flashes more movement or a bigger velocity separation from his fastball I think he’s going to have to rely on his other stuff.
His slider does have some promise though, and I do think the cutter can be a plus offering as he matures, so there’s no reason to completely panic just yet. It’s one start after all, and really only one bad inning. It happens.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)