Jordan Sprinkle was an under-recruited and undersized middle infielder coming out of the California high school ranks. He weighed 158 pounds as a senior in 2019 and knew he would have to earn playing time at UC Santa Barbara.
Sprinkle didn’t receive a chance to play consistently as a freshman at UCSB due to the pandemic in 2020. After working on his skills in the offseason, Sprinkle hoped to carve out a role as a sophomore last year.
Sprinkle received a chance at a starting spot ten games into last season. He excelled in the starting lineup and never relinquished the role, earning numerous accolades, including All-American honors.
“Before the season, I wrote down a few goals, and one of those was breaking the starting lineup,” Sprinkle said. “I was a backup player. I thought I would get some reps, but I didn’t have a starting spot, which was tough because both our starting infielders came back. Both are really good players. To play after our shortstop got injured was incredible.”
Sprinkle’s success last year caught most outside of the UCSB program by surprise. But now entering this spring, Sprinkle is a well-regarded prospect with high aspirations.
Professional scouts project Sprinkle as a potential first-round pick in the 2022 MLB draft. Sprinkle started moving up draft boards during his sophomore year before jumping on scouts’ radars last summer when he competed with the Collegiate National Team.
This season, Sprinkle hopes to lead UCSB deep into postseason play while enhancing his skills on the field.
“To be honest, it has happened so fast,” Sprinkle said. “Just how the year went and reflecting on it, I am so humble. It is a humbling experience. It’s shocking, but I work hard, so it was happy to see some of those results.”
Sprinkle is a 5-foot-11, 180-pound shortstop who has the tools to remain at the position long-term. He has noticeable range and consistently makes more than just the routine plays. His athleticism allows him to move well side-to-side and make plays deep in the shortstop, third base hole. He also has above-average arm strength.
Sprinkle’s defensive tools are his best attributes and have played a key role in his rise as a prospect. He also has experience playing multiple positions.
“I work super hard with our infield coach to become a better infielder,” Sprinkle said. “I feel I have made strides in that area. My ability to develop as a runner and steal bases has also been really good. I’d say my defense is my best tool, but my ability as a runner also is up there.”
Offensively, Sprinkle offers an intriguing power and speed combination for a shortstop. Last year, Sprinkle hit .353 with 18 doubles, two triples, seven home runs and 32 RBIs in 235 at-bats in 58 games. He also was 26 of 31 on stolen base attempts. He showed decent plate discipline with 39 strikeouts compared to 14 walks.
In his first 2½ years at UCSB, Sprinkle has added strength to his frame and refined his skills at the plate. He has simple mechanics and uses a short and compact swing to hit the ball hard.
Right now, Sprinkle is more of a gap hitter. But he does have the skills and potential to develop more power as he matures.
“Last year, my walk rate was fine, but if I could walk more and strike out less, it would be a good thing,” Sprinkle said. “I just need to hit the ball hard in every at-bat. If I can do that, it will keep me from worrying about the results.”
UCSB has qualified for the postseason in each of the last two years of the tournament. The Gauchos are coming off a 41-20 season and NCAA Regional appearance.
This season, the Gauchos hope to build on last year’s success and advance farther in the NCAA tournament. They seek their second-ever College World Series appearance this season, as their only other appearance came in 2016.
“Last year, getting to play in a regional was really fun,” Sprinkle said. “This year, we have our eyes set on that and making it further. Every year, we want to make it to (the College World Series).”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for seven years. He has interviewed 356 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.