The Athletics announced Monday that right-hander Daulton Jefferies has been outrighted to Triple-A Las Vegas. That indicates that Jefferies, who underwent Tommy John surgery in September and thoracic outlet surgery in June, had already been passed through waivers unclaimed.
Jefferies, 27, was the No. 37 overall draft pick out of Cal Berkeley back in 2016. He ranked among the organization’s top prospects throughout the entirety of his minor league tenure, making his Major League debut with a pair of innings during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and also logging 15 solid innings during the 2021 campaign. Jefferies ranked as high as the Athletics’ No. 3 prospect in 2021, per Baseball America, whose scouting report on the righty lauded his plus changeup and plus command.
The 2022 season looked to be a major opportunity for Jefferies to establish himself in Oakland. The A’s shipped out veteran starters Sean Manaea and Chris Bassitt as part of last offseason’s fire sale, and while Frankie Montas remained on the roster to begin the season, the widespread expectation that he’d eventually be traded as well indeed came to pass. Jefferies was among several younger options the A’s were hoping to evaluate as potential long-term fits on the starting staff, but injuries intervened.
Jefferies made just eight starts in 2022, yielding an ugly 5.72 ERA in 39 1/3 innings. This year’s 92.8 mph average fastball velocity was down a full two miles per hour from his 2020 debut, and by the end of May, he’d been diagnosed with symptoms suggesting thoracic outlet syndrome.
The combination of TOS and Tommy John surgery is a brutal one for any pitcher but is particularly ominous when the two operations are performed in such rapid succession. Matt Harvey is perhaps the most prominent recent example of a pitcher to undergo both operations, and while he resurfaced to produce some seasons as an innings eater, he quite obviously never returned to the peak form he showed early in his career. Every pitcher’s recovery is different, of course, and Jefferies could yet enjoy a recovery and carve out a nice career for himself. A return the mound will have to wait until the 2024 season at the earliest, however, which left little doubt that the A’s would eventually pass the righty through waivers.
Jefferies will spend the entire 2023 season rehabbing from the pair of surgeries, which means by the time the 2024 season rolls around, he’ll have had roughly 19 months to rehabilitate from the two operations. He’ll face an uphill climb to get back into consideration for a spot on the big league pitching staff, but the current rebuild in Oakland suggests that the A’s might still have plenty of open spots and opportunities for Jefferies even a couple years into the process.