Daulton Jefferies Talks Pitching (Look Ma, No Seams)

When Eric Longnhagen wrote up Daulton Jefferies for last year’s Oakland A’s Top Prospects list, he cited a “plus, upper-80s changeup and plus command” as the now–25-year-old right-hander’s primary attributes. That combination helped earn Jefferies a cup of big-league coffee last September, and it has him projected as a member of Oakland’s starting rotation for the upcoming season.

Drafted 37th overall out of Cal-Berkley in 2016 — he underwent Tommy John surgery that same year — Jefferies is atypical among young, modern-day pitchers in that he stands just six-foot (and weighs 195 pounds) and is neither data-savvy nor a flamethrower. His fastball sits a relatively pedestrian 93–95 mph, and the spin rates on his array of pitches remain a mystery to him. Then there is the strangest thing of all: Jefferies features a no-seam repertoire.

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David Laurila: What is your full repertoire, and what is your best pitch?

Daulton Jefferies: “I have four- and two-seam fastballs, a changeup, a slider, and a cutter. My best pitch is my changeup.”

Laurila: What makes it effective?

Jefferies: “I think it’s more of a tunneling thing. You want everything to look like a fastball for as long as possible — Gerrit Cole does that really well, [Jacob] deGrom, [Max] Scherzer, all those guys — and mine has good depth. It’s also really hard; it’s like 87 to 90 [mph] and I can run it up to 90 at times. The only time I get in trouble is when it flattens out and basically becomes a straight fastball. Most of the time, it’s my go-to pitch, right-on-right. It’s my baby.”

Laurila: It sounds a little like Zack Greinke’s power changeup.

Jefferies: “Zack Greinke is probably my favorite pitcher to watch. I’ve spent hours on YouTube watching him. We have the similar speeds for our changeups, so he’s someone I can idolize a little bit.”

Laurila: Do you know what the spin rate is on your changeup?

Jefferies: “I have no idea what the numbers are on any of my pitches. I’ve been put on the Rapsodo maybe one time and never really got any information. I just know that I grip it, throw it as hard as I can, and it drops. I don’t really know … a lot of guys ask me how I throw my changeup, and I show them my grip, which is a very unorthodox grip. I don’t use seams on any of my pitches — I don’t really touch seams — so they’ll be like, ‘What the heck is this?’

Laurila: Your fingers aren’t on the seams?

Jefferies: “Correct. No-seam changeup, no-seam fastball, no-seam slider, no-seam cutter.”

Laurila: You’re being serious?

Jefferies: “Yes. Everyone is kind of shocked when I tell them, because they’ve never heard of it before. Playing shortstop growing up and through high school, I never really even thought about it. I would just grab the ball and throw it, and I think that’s where it came from. I was never taught otherwise, to maybe grab a seam or something.”

Laurila: What about your slider? Is it even possible to throw a good breaking pitch without gripping a seam?

Jefferies: “Yeah. I mean, it’s a little inconsistent, but I’ve had some success with my slider. I’ve tried different grips, but for some reason nothing feels more comfortable than than being off a seam. I’m open to any suggestions from my teammates and coaches, but I’ve never really gotten much, so this is what I’m sticking with.”

Laurila: A few years ago a pitcher told me that he got great movement on a no-seam changeup he’d been working on, but he couldn’t command it well enough to throw in games. You’re known for having plus command.

Jefferies: “Yes, and when I’ve shown guys my grip, they’ll fiddle with it and try to make it their own. They’ll like it, but once they get on the mound it doesn’t correlate to what happens when they throw it in catch-play. But I’ve done it for so long that it’s just natural to me.”

Laurila: Are there ever issues with the balls you’re throwing in games? Some might be tackier while others might be smoother.

Jefferies: “The big-league balls are a little slicker than minor-league balls — they’re tighter — but I got pretty used to throwing those in mini-camp and in spring training. With the minor-league ball, I kind of got spoiled because I could grip it so easily, but again, when I got up to the big leagues I already had that familiarity.”

Laurila: I’m intrigued by the idea that anyone would keep his fingers off the seams when throwing pitches.

Jefferies: “I mean, there have been times where I’ve grabbed the seams when I’m playing catch, just it to see how it feels, but it just doesn’t feel as natural as it does with no seams. I might be like the only person in baseball that does that.”

Laurila: What have your pitching coaches said about it?

Jefferies: “The first time I threw a bullpen with the A’s — this was in the minor leagues — my rehab pitching coach, Craig Lefferts, asked me how I grip the ball. This was my fastball. I showed him, and he looked at me like he’d just seen a ghost or something. He had no idea what was going on. He said, ‘Let’s try this with a seam,’ but I told him that it just doesn’t feel natural. As long as my control was good, they weren’t really going to say anything about it. I think if my control tapered away or something went wrong, they would probably step in. So far that hasn’t been an issue.”

Laurila: You were taken pretty high in the draft. Your signing scout and the club’s scouting director must have known how you grip your pitches?

Jefferies: “No. Lefty was the first one to know. He told our coordinator, Gil Patterson, who thought it was really funny and awesome. I’m not sure how many people in the organization actually know. But yeah, I’m a no-seam guy. Basically, every every person I’ve interacted with about it has called me a weirdo, or a freak. In a nice way, of course.”





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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TrevorCap
1 year ago

Someone needs to get grip pictures of this, because this is both absurd and incredible.