Yankees Top Prospect #6: Justus Sheffield (Starting Pitcher)

The Yankees list of their Top 30 Prospects never ceases to amaze. Hidden beneath the ones that are more familiar, as well as more publicized, like Gleyber Torres, Aaron Judge, Clint Frazier, etc., are others who lie in wait with equally, or in some cases, even more talent than these players. Yanks Go Yard continues its series profiling these young players with a look at their #6 prospect, Justus Sheffield.

When Yankees GM Brian Cashman made the decision to unload and then reload the composition of the team in July of last year, one of the moves he made sent Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians. The return for Miller included not only Clint Frazier but also a young left-handed starter named Justus Sheffield, who was one of two Top 100 Prospects the Yankees acquired in a four-player package.

At 5’10”, Sheffield might be considered undersized in comparison to the trend of pitchers today, who commonly stretch out at six and a half feet. But as we know, looks can be deceiving. MLB.com, for instance, summarizes Sheffield as follows:

“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. A good athlete with a clean and repeatable delivery, Sheffield has battled his control in Class A Advanced and needs to improve the quality of his strikes.”

Although there has been no announcement as yet, Sheffield is probably slated to resume his career at AA Trenton where he had one very impressive start late last season. In that game, he went four innings while striking out nine batters. But, he also walked three cementing the fact that he is still a work in progress.

Justus Sheffield: A Compelling Life Story

But there is more to this young, man who will turn 22 in May, than just his ability to throw a baseball. In a compelling story written by Christian Red, that appeared in the New York Daily News.

We learn, for instance, that Sheffield has an arrest on his record stemming from an incident that occurred when he was 18 and charged with aggravated criminal trespassing and underage drinking, according to a Tullahoma (Tennessee) News report.

And as we know, an event like this in a young person’s life can often become a turning point that leads to a continuous cycle of more crimes and more arrests. Or, it can go the other way and be chalked up to a life experience mistake, never to be repeated again. The latter is the choice that that Sheffield made as his dad, Travis, explains here:

“We’re about 18,000 for the population of Tullahoma, and I would say 17,000 of us know each other,” says Travis Sheffield. “We look out for each other’s kids. (The arrest) put the whole community on the map in a negative way. Justus was crushed. It really hurt him. I hate that it happened, but it made him a better person.” Travis adds that it’s his understanding that Justus fulfilled all of the terms outlined by the court, and that the arrest record has been expunged

Justus Sheffield’s Role Model Choice: David Price

We also learn from the News article that Sheffield has chosen David Price, who is currently starting for Yankees rival Boston Red Sox, as a role model. At first glance, this might seem like an odd pairing since Price stands on the hill at 6’6″, while Sheffield doesn’t even make it to six feet. But Sheffield explains:

“I’ve always looked up to David Price,” says Sheffield. “Ever since (Price) went to Vanderbilt, I really started paying attention to him mechanically, how he carries himself. Just watching him play the game, I love it. He’s like a role model. I’ve talked to him a few times. We’re 40 minutes away from each other, our hometowns (in Tennessee).”

While it’s unlikely that the Yankees will supercharge Sheffield’s march through the minor leagues, a la Joba Chamberlain, a matchup in the future between Sheffield and Price, their pairing would mark the culmination of a dream Sheffield now holds.

The Yankees Plan For Justus Sheffield

For the Yankees, they appear to be bewildered at the moment as to what lies in store for Sheffield as a Yankee. Brian Cashman, and the entire organization needs a chance to observe Sheffield over the course of the 2017 season. Still, Cashman tells the Daily News:

“I would expect (Sheffield) to continue his development. He’s got essentially three levels to conquer – go through Double-A and Triple-A and get to the big leagues, all within a six-month baseball calendar,” Cashman adds. “That’s asking a lot. That would be expecting too much, and for a 20-year-old to boot. We’re not looking at New York for 2017, but again, I’ve had players move faster than their development programs before and I’ve had great players take longer. I would think 2018 would be the more likely scenario to start expecting him to get his foot wet in the major leagues, but I don’t know.”

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2018 is just fine, Brian. We can wait. But in the meantime, Yanks Go Yard will keep you posted on Sheffield’s development in the same way we will for previously profiled Yankees pitching prospects, Chance Adams, Jordan Mongomery, and James Kaprielian.

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