Dodgers' Sheehan finds his groove in AFL

November 1st, 2022

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Pitching into November for the first time as a pro, right-hander Emmet Sheehan spearheaded the first shutout of the Desert Dogs season Tuesday. The Dodgers’ No. 22 prospect delivered his best performance of the Fall League, holding Peoria hitless through the front four frames, finishing with five scoreless en route to a 4-0 victory at Camelback Ranch.

Sheehan compiled four strikeouts, with three of the punchouts leaving Peoria looking. That trio all came against his fastball, which consistently sat in the mid-90s. His performance was a complete 180-degree turn from his prior outing when he recorded just two outs and had six runs charged to his ledger. His arsenal looked much sharper in his fifth turn through the Glendale rotation.

“I think the changeup was definitely huge for me, just playing that off the fastball,” Sheehan said. “Keeping ‘em on their toes, mixing sliders and curveballs in there.

“Everything felt good.”

A season that began with a right shoulder strain has Sheehan pitching deeper into the year than he ever has. Despite that, the righty maintains that he feels fresh and has shown that he is eager to continue stacking positives at the conclusion of a largely successful year.

“I feel like I’ve made some good progress,” Sheehan said. “First few starts were good, and then I had one really rough one last week. Just bouncing back from that was huge. Just telling myself, ‘It happens. It’s not about what you do, it’s about how you react to it.’”

At 6-foot-5, Sheehan boasts a deceptive armslot that can baffle batters. With a long stride toward the dish, L.A.’s sixth-round selection from the 2021 Draft out of Boston College can make his heater play up even quicker.

“I think I keep the ball hidden for a while,” Sheehan said of his motion. “And maybe [it’s because] I throw the ball from a lower slot, the ball still rides a little bit instead of taking off, sinking.”

Over the summer, the 22-year-old found his groove in a role that began as a piggyback pitcher and concluded back in the traditional starting gig: over his final 13 outings for the Loons, Sheehan posted a 1.32 ERA and held opposing batters to a .162 average. Over 54 2/3 frames in that span, he struck out 88 batters and threw 64% of his pitches for strikes.

While Sheehan maintains that he has no preference as it pertains to his role, he has developed a comfort with starting. Los Angeles still hopes to develop the hard-thrower as a potential future member of its rotation, but the power arsenal that he has displayed during the AFL makes him an intriguing relief candidate in the years to come.

Across his 18 outings (12 starts) at High-A, Sheehan posted a 2.83 ERA and 2.18 FIP, even while yielding a .307 BABIP. The .180 opponents’ average against that he compiled ranked him third in the Midwest League among hurlers that worked at least 60 innings at the level.

Sheehan’s final two appearances of the regular season came with Double-A Tulsa, a reward for the success he enjoyed at Great Lakes. That brief taste of advanced talent was a glimpse into what awaited in Arizona, an experience that he says “absolutely” helped him hone in ahead of the final stop of his first semi-full pro campaign.

Glendale garnered offensive thump from former UCLA shortstop Matt McLain -- the Reds’ No. 5 prospect -- who got the scoring started with his first homer of the Fall League in the fifth. Fellow Top 100 prospect Andy Pages (Dodgers’ No. 5) added a knock to raise his AFL average to .317 and collected his ninth RBI for the Desert Dogs in the sixth.