BBB 2017 Top Prospect Countdown #6: Justus Sheffield

When the Yankees traded star reliever Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians prior to last year's trade deadline, they received quite a prospect package in return. While outfielder Clint Frazier has generated a considerable amount of excitement, 20-year old left hander Justus Sheffield has the potential to be the steal of this deal for the Bombers. It is an indisputable, and aggravating, fact that the Yankees have not developed an above average starting pitcher since the turn of the decade. Sheffield might end up being that guy for the Bombers. The 2014 first round draft pick has an impressive pitch arsenal. Sheffield may be a few years away from sniffing the majors; however, 2017 will still be a big year for the young left hander. As he enters his first full season with the Yankees organization, Sheffield will hope translate his raw talent into dominant numbers in the minors.
Photo via NJ.com
Breakdown:

Coming in at 5'10" and 195 pounds, the BBB's number 6 ranked prospect has the potential to evolve into a force to be reckoned with. Only 20-years old, Sheffield has plenty of time to develop into a front line starting pitcher. Side note, writing about a prospect who is one year younger than me makes me feel quite old, but I digress.

Sheffield was a bit of a sensation during his time playing for Tullahoma High School in Tennessee, throwing two no hitters. In one of these outings, he managed to strike out 17 batters. Granted, this sort of dominance in high school is by no means indicative of MLB success; however, it's definitely an interesting backdrop to his professional career. In light of the talent exhibited by Sheffield in high school, the Cleveland Indians decided to use their 2014 first round draft, and 31st overall, pick on the young left hander. Foregoing a commitment to play college ball at Vanderbilt University, Sheffield was eager to begin his professional career, becoming the first drafted player to sign with a major league team out of the 2014 class.

Baseball America listed Sheffield as their 69th overall prospect in last season's rankings. He was also ranked as the Indians number five prospect. The trade that sent Miller to the Indians was centered around Frazier, but Sheffield and fellow pitchers Ben Heller, and J.P. Feyereisen may end up being the steals. While the latter two are viewed as relievers, Sheffield can make a consequential impact as a starter as he makes his way through the organization's ranks. Throughout the course of his minor league career, Sheffield's numbers have gradually improved, especially after his mid-season trade to the Bombers.

In 2015, Sheffield made 26 starts with Cleveland's Class-A affiliate, the Lake County Indians. He went 9-4 with a 3.31 ERA, striking out 129 in 125.1 innings. Spitting time between Double A and Single A with both the Indians and Yankees in 2016, Sheffield made a combined 25 starts, going 10-6 with a 3.09 ERA. With the Tampa Yankees, however, Sheffield went 3-1 with a 1.75 ERA, striking out 26 in 27 innings of work.

Projection:

Sheffield's three main pitches are his fastball, changeup, and slider. His pitches usually average out at around 93 MPH, but he tops out at 97. Moving forward, the Yankees likely want to see Sheffield get more innings under his belt. He likely won't see the majors for a couple seasons. This could be completely off base, but I'm assuming 2019 would be the best estimate. By that time, the youth many of the Baby Bombers will hopefully have hit their stride, along with a couple of big free agent signings.

Sheffield and James Kaprielian offer the Yankees the best shot at developing some homegrown starting pitching talent. For an organization that has struggled in this department in recent history, I'm pretty confident in these two. Kaprielian, who is only 23, will probably see the majors before Sheffield. The potential this righty-lefty duo could have for the Bombers in a few years is exciting to think about. If Luis Severino ends up figuring it out, the Yankees could have a very formidable homegrown rotation in a few years.

Suffice it to say, Justus Sheffield is a player Yankees fans should be excited about. As much as it hurt to part ways with fan favorite Andrew Miller, the Yankees got a generous package in return. A future stud outfielder, starter, and two serviceable relievers are what we are looking at. For the purposes of this piece, I'm only analyzing Sheffield's potential. Good starting pitching is hard to come by, especially on the left hand side. This year we should see Sheffield work on his secondary pitches in the minors, while at the same time racking up innings and experience.

MLB Comparison: David Price (minus the well-documented playoff struggles, of course).


Article by Steven Eareckson

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