Amazing to think the Yankees got Justus Sheffield and Clint Frazier — and Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen — in the Andrew Miller deal. Sheffield impressed in his first full season with the Yankees, and might’ve finished in Triple-A if not for an oblique injury that sidelined him for a while. He’s got really good stuff and a competitive mentality that could carry him as a starting pitcher.
Weight: 200 pounds
Acquired: Drafted by Cleveland in the first round (31st overall) in 2014 out of Tullahoma High School in Tennessee. Yankees got him as part of the Andrew Miller trade.
Went 7-6 in 17 starts for Double-A Trenton and had a 3.18 ERA. In 93.1 innings, he allowed 94 hits, walked 33 and struck out 82. He also allowed a few too many home runs with 14. He started strong (2.82 ERA in April), faded a bit (3.67 in May) and then was pitching his best baseball (2.95 in June, 2.08 in July) before being injured. He held lefties to a .217 batting average, while righties hit .276.
This is something a little bit different than what’s been done with this list. Below, Donnie Collins and I discuss why Sheffield comes in at No. 3, what we like about him and what might need some work.
CF: Justus Sheffield comes in at No. 3, and maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like you’re very particular when it comes to southpaw prospects. You hold them to a high standard.
DC: Well, sure. It used to be that you were bumped up a few spots on a prospects list just because you could throw it left-handed. I never understood that. You still better have the stuff to be a starter, the body type, the mentality. The thing about lefties is, right-handed hitters are easier to find. They do have to be a little bit different than right-handers to be the same type of pitcher a right-hander can be. All that said, Sheffield has all you need to be that kind of starter.
CF: Yeah his numbers this spring weren’t great on paper — I think his ERA was north of 11 — but he passed the eye test and Sheffield himself said he was pretty happy with what he was able to do out there. I like that he’s not afraid to pitch in on righties (you can’t be) and I like that he was really working on throwing his slider back door and back foot.
DC: His stuff is great. But I almost like his approach better than that. He has a feel for pitching, a knack for knowing when to go inside and when to go away. My old friend Marc Bombard, the legendary Red Barons manager, used to say those kinds of pitchers were ready to take the next step when they could “put a little on and take a little off” the ball. I think that’s what I didn’t see from Sheffield in the spring at least. But that comes with feel and experience and there’s no reason to think he’s not going to become a more cerebral pitcher quickly.
CF: The stuff is really good, and when he gets that backdoor slider down, it could take him to the next level. I know CC Sabathia was trying to teach him that. Sheffield really hides the ball well, too, which i think is important considering he certainly isn’t the most imposing presence on the mound.
DC: He throws harder than you’d expect a guy that size to throw. You do wonder if he’s ultimately going to be a more typical 90-91 mph guy who is really going to need to spot the offspeed stuff well. He hasn’t done that so far.
CF: He throws harder than you’d expect a guy that size to throw. You do wonder if he’s ultimately going to be a more typical 90-91 mph guy who is really going to need to spot the offspeed stuff well. He hasn’t done that so far.
DC: I don’t know for sure because I haven’t seen a ton of games he has pitched. But I’d almost be willing to bet he has been really confident with that fastball and just tried to sneak it past the wrong hitter at the wrong time in Double-A and got burned. But that’s kind of what I like about him, going back to what I talked about earlier. He trusts his stuff. That’s a good thing.
CF: I caught one of his games at the minor league complex, and it looks like he’s a bulldog on the mound. He was really into the game.
DC: He’s a competitor. Does he need to improve his command? Absolutely. Does he need to get a better feel for the art of it? Sure. But he’s a guy whose going to get there. He doesn’t take no for an answer on the mound, and that’s a good foundation.
15: Ben Heller
14: Jonathan Loaisiga
13: Dillon Tate
12: Domingo Acevedo
11: Thairo Estrada
10: Chance Adams
9: Billy McKinney
8: Domingo German
7: Freicer Perez
6: Albert Abreu
5: Luis Medina
4: Miguel Andujar
3: Justus Sheffield
Associated Press photo