David Fenster

Here's a scouting report on Tampa Yankees left-handed pitcher Justus Sheffield.

The Yankees acquired left-handed pitcher Justus Sheffield as part of a package in the Andrew Miller trade with the Indians at the 2016 trade deadline. Originally drafted by Cleveland in the first round the 2014 MLB Draft out of Tullahoma High School in Tennessee, Sheffield has one of the highest ceilings in a loaded Yankees farm system.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Justus Sheffield
Position: Pitcher
DOB: May 3, 1996
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 200
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

Repertoire. Fastball, Slider, Changeup.

Fastball. Sheffield has a dynamic fastball in nearly every way, plain and simple.  Not only does it have the ability to average 94-96 mph when he's going right [perhaps even a tick or two higher at times] but it moves with the best of them.  It cuts and it runs, and it has late-life explosion as it crosses the plate, and it makes it extremely difficult for opposing batters to barrel up.  That's the good news.  The bad news is all of that movement can be equally as difficult to control let alone command, and that can make consistently getting ahead in counts problematic.  The fastball is really a double-edged sword; the velocity and movement are both in the plus-plus range while the control and command project to be average at best, and sometimes even a bit below average.

Other Pitches. Just like his fastball, both of Sheffield's secondary pitches are plus offerings stuff-wise with the movement they generate but [again] he has a tougher time controlling them in the zone.  It really is pick your poison time with either pitch too as neither is favored over the other.  The changeup is a true power changeup, showing excellent fade and depth even though it's coming in around 85-88 mph.  And the slider, another pitch that sits in the mid-80s, has wicked lateral movement with also a hint of downward bite.  Both pitches are very hard to difficult to hit in the sweet spot but just like his fastball he can go multiple pitches without finding the zone sometimes with either offering. 

Pitching: Sheffield has three plus pitches from a movement and velocity standpoint, and the innate high-level intelligence of seasoned pitch-ability guy too, and that makes him very unique.  He knows how to set up batters with his pitch selection and he has the stuff to get it by batters but because all three pitches move so much he does often times have a hard time throwing the pitches where he wants them, and it can cause extended periods of struggles with walks and higher pitch counts.  An extremely high makeup guy though, one blessed with a second-to-none work ethic, he doesn't get rattled on the mound very much and he is all business both off and on the field.  It's the kind of special character makeup that should allow for significant growth command-wise as he continues to mature and harness his stuff, especially given his special athletic ability too.  That high level of athleticism should not only lead to improved mechanics over time but it works in his favor holding runners and fielding his position too.

Projection. Sheffield has the kind of special one-two punch with his fastball and breaking ball that he could easily slot into the back-end of a big league bullpen someday either as a left-handed setup man or even closer, spots where his mid-90s fastball as a starting pitcher could theoretically average even higher in shorter stints.  In that capacity he is very much akin to former Yankees prospect Jacob Lindgren, especially given his special movement.  However, neither bullpen role would be optimizing what can be a lethal changeup when it's going right.  In fact, with three plus pitches, stuff-wise he has the makings of a front-half of the rotation big league starting pitcher, especially given his ability to sustain his power deep into starts and deep into seasons too.  However, while it's his electric movement that can be his biggest weapon on the mound it does also serve as his biggest downfall at times too and that lack of command can be maddeningly frustrating in various stretches.  So while the stuff is very much Steven Matz-like from the Mets in a lot of ways as a starting pitcher he better compares to former Yankees hurler A.J. Burnett [albeit a left-handed version] as somebody whose stuff projects him to be quite special but whose lack of command could knock him down a peg or two from a consistency standpoint and prevent him from reaching his sky-high true potential.  In fact, ironically he also compares to the very pitcher he was traded for -- Andrew Miller, once a promising starting pitching prospect like Sheffield, who didn't find his better command until he moved to the bullpen.  That could be Sheffield's long-term role too if it doesn't work out as a starting pitcher and therefore gives the organization a number of options.

ETA. 2018. After finishing there last season, Sheffield should see ample Double-A time in 2017 with no real rush to push him forward beyond that this year.  Still looking to harness his command better, he now appears on a one level per year track on his remaining way to the big leagues.

Year Team W L SV IP H BB SO ERA
2016 Trenton 0 0 0 4.0 2 3 9 0.00
2016 Tampa 3 1 0 26.0 14 10 27 1.73
2016 Lynchburg 7 5 0 95.1 91 40 93 3.59
2015 Lake County 9 4 0 127.2 135 38 138 3.31
2014 AZL Indians 3 1 0 20.2 24 9 29 4.79

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