Acquired from the Cleveland Indians as part of the Andrew Miller trade, Sheffield has put up some eye-popping numbers in the Florida State League. Tampa Yankees manager Pat Osborn said he is confident in Sheffield’s ability to command the mound and looks forward to watching him progress.
“You’re talking about a three pitch lefty with all pitches above average,” Osborn said. “Those don’t come around often. He’s definitely another piece we’ve added to this puzzle.”
Earlier this year playing for the Indians organization, the 5-foot-10 lefty dominated the Carolina League with 93 strikeouts in 95.1 innings, a 3.59 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP. Sheffield said he plans to keep it up as he gets acclimated to the FSL.
Sheffield said although he originally had mixed feelings about being traded, he’s excited to be with a new organization and just looks forward to continuing his career with a fresh team.
“I was definitely nervous and excited to get on mound,” Sheffield said of his 11-strikeout Tampa Yankees debut. “But once I got up there everything just kind of fell into place.”
Throughout the transfer, Sheffield has found he hasn’t had to adapt his pitch plan to accommodate to the new league. He typically leads with his fastball that sits around 93-94 but can touch up to 96. In addition to his fastball, he also throws a solid changeup and slider combination.
Osborn attributes much of Sheffield’s success to his confidence, although his stuff certainly plays a role too. Even with only five starts so far with the Yankees, Osborn is sure Sheffield will be able to quickly move himself along the system as he improves his game down the road.
“The whole experience has definitely been a roller coaster,” Sheffield said. “I have my good outings, I have my bad outings. I just learn from every single one of them and try to continue to work as hard as I can.”
Coming into this new organization, Sheffield was nervous and determined to prove himself as a valuable asset to the team, but after just a few starts it seems that he has settled into his new surroundings quite easily.
He said he wasn’t completely surprised by the trade with how well the Indians were doing, so he was prepared and ready for the next move.
Since coming to the Yankees, Sheffield has posted a 1.73 ERA and struck out 27 batters in 26 innings. He’s had a few great games with the Tampa Yankees so far and he is looking forward for seasons to come.
Pitching coach Tim Norton said Sheffield is looking really promising. He had a great first start, and Norton looks forward to working with him moving forward.
“He’s got the arm,” Norton said. “He’s good right now at 20, but he hasn’t logged a lot of innings. He can get a little scattered sometimes, but that can happen to anyone. We’re mainly focusing on consistency with Justus.”
Osborn said the attribute he valued most of Sheffield’s was his confidence. His control on the mound is what set Sheffield apart from the rest and gives him endless amounts of opportunity to make his way up the organization’s ladder.
“He’s the type of guy you want with the ball in his hand in big situations,” Osborne said. “He’s the type of guy that feeds off that stuff. His makeup for me stands out”
Being traded midseason can affect a player’s game, but this doesn’t seem like the case for Sheffield. Norton said the transition between teams seemed smooth. He became a part of the group almost instantly.
“Coming into a new team is like being the new kid at school,” Sheffield said, "walk in and no one really knows what to expect. Hopefully I come out being one of the cool guys.”
Osborn believes that Sheffield is in line for continued success, especially with the way he's been pitching lately, so long as he keeps challenging hitters and being consistent in his game. With five more shutout innings of one-hit ball on Sunday, his fourth start allowing one earned run or less since coming over, that consistency is starting to materialize.
“I just want him to keep doing what he’s doing for now,” Osborn said. “The sky is the limit for this kid. If the changeup really comes along, you’re talking about a guy that can be at the front of a rotation.”