As part of a slew of deadline deals, the New York Yankees brought Justus Sheffield into the fold.When the New York Yankees shipped Andrew Miller to Cleveland on August 1, much attention was garnered in the direction of Clint Frazier. Granted, the 21-year-old has tremendous upside and could very well be a superstar center fielder in the bigs just a few years down the road.
However, plenty of fans approached this deal with a closed mind. Many viewed the transaction as merely a Miller-Frazier swap.
Those people will be the individuals experiencing the greatest deal of surprise when a young left-hander named Justus Sheffield tears his way through the minor league system.
Generally an afterthought in a deal which sent arguably the best reliever in baseball to Cleveland, Sheffield can mean just as much as Frazier — if not more — with regards to the landscape of the franchise.
RELATED: Prospect Profile — Clint Frazier
Dominating his way through his first few starts in the Yankee organization, he has caught the eyes of many.
The 20-year-old was drafted out of high school by the Indians back in 2014, with the Tribe utilizing their 31st pick of the first round to claim him. He caught the eyes of big league clubs when he dazzled to 0.34 ERA coupled with an 11-0 record in his senior season at Tullahoma High School in Tennessee. Over the entirety of that year, he fanned 131 batters in 61.2 innings pitched.
Highlighting his season with a 17-strikeout performance, helping him become the ‘Gatorade National Baseball Player Of The Year.’
He then passed up on a baseball opportunity at Vanderbilt University, was drafted by Cleveland, and assigned to their Arizona affiliate soon thereafter.
Struggling to some extent out of the gates, he began to thrive at the commencement of 2015 with the Lake County Captains of the Midwest League, a Single-A affiliate of the Indians. He spent the entire year with the club, logging 26 starts while pitching to a promising 3.31 ERA and recording nine wins against four losses. Furthermore, he struck out 138 over 127.2 innings, earning himself a promotion to High-A ball to begin 2016.
“Sheffield shows the makings of an above-average three-pitch mix. He’s hit 96 mph with his fastball but usually sits in the 92-93 mph range with late, arm-side life and some sink. His curveball flashes plus and projects as a swing-and-miss offering at the highest level, and he made strides developing his changeup in 2015.” –MLB Pipeline
Starting the campaign with the Lynchburg Hillcats of the Carolina League, he remained relatively consistent for the entire first half. With that said, arguably his two best starts of the season came on July 2 and 19 against the Carolina Mudcats and Willmington Blue Rocks, respectively, likely provoking positive thoughts from the minds in the Bronx.
When the Yankees acquired him, his line stood at 7-5 with a 3.59 ERA, effectively placing him as the seventh-best prospect in the organization and, at large, the most coveted arm.
In his first start with the Tampa Yankees, he absolutely shined. Facing off with the Daytona Tortugas, he fanned 11 and walked one while surrendering merely two hits and one earned run over six brilliant frames. Through three starts with Tampa, he is 2-0 with a 1.04 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP. Sheffield has struck out 17 and walked just 4 over 17.1 outstanding innings.
MLB Pipeline ranks him at number 89 on their top 100 prospects list. Weighing multiple factors, their scouting grades reveal a potentially exciting future:
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 45 | Overall: 55
Evidently, an increase in command can help him complete the package and become one of the foremost young starting pitchers in the game.
As the Yankees’ player development staff continues to work with him, expect him to skyrocket in the minors and make a strong push towards the majors by late 2017 or 2018. If he keeps dominating at the High-A level, he will most certainly start 2017 in Trenton (AA).
Collective minds at Pipeline claim that Sheffield, “Has all the tools necessary to develop into a quality mid-rotation starting pitcher.”
The New York Yankees have arguably the brightest future in baseball, but pitching remains a major question mark. Expect Justus Sheffield to work his way into the mix as a staple in the Bronx.