The Yankees added LHP Justus Sheffield to the 40-man roster for the stretch run on Saturday. The former Indians farmhand has spent the entire month of September pitching out of the bullpen in preparation for his new role for 2018. It was partly a way to keep the athletic lefties innings down, but also gives the Yankees even more depth to finish off 2018.
Justus had a very successful 2018. He began the season in Double-A, but was promoted to Triple-A in early May. He ended the season with 116 total innings only allowing 82 hits while striking out 123 and walking 50. Our very own Ralph Lifshitz (follow him @prospectjesus) was able to get a few looks at the Yankees top prospect in August, and gave a positive review.
The fastball has life, touched 96 the time I saw him, and he has the ability to spot it when he's on. The control of his breaking stuff can come and go, but all three of his offerings are consistently nasty. His slider is a plus pitch that he effectively plants at the back foot of righties, and he’s also adding a cutter which he picked up this spring. The changeup sits 81-85, flashing some fade, dive, and deception due to arm action. He's athletic, but high effort in his delivery to the point of violence in his motions.
Due to the rugged nature of Yankee Stadium, and the AL East in general, with questions about his role, I can't advocate an add in 12 team mixed for now. Next season and beyond is a very different story though. Sheffield has the stuff, makeup, and competitive drive to make it in New York. The biggest issue remains, iffy control that comes and goes. For 2019 Sheffield is very much in the mix for a spot in the rotation, but will likely begin the season in Triple-A.
Matthew Thompson (@mdthompFWFB)
A year ago lines were drawn in the sand and two rival camps emerged: Justus Sheffield the reliever and Justus Sheffield the starter. At the time he utilized a three pitch mix: FB, SL, CHG. All three offerings projected to major league average or better. The slider was particularly impressive sitting 85-88 with late break. There’s some effort in the delivery, but he performs a tightrope act in maintaining good balance and momentum home; in my looks he repeated his delivery well with an athletic burst directly to home. The fastball sat 92-95 and touched 97, and Sheffield used it to both sides and primarily worked off of it. The changeup was a clear third pitch and was typically used down and away to right-handed hitters. His extension looks below average and may eat into his perceived velocity. Checking Baseball Savant extension data is on my checklist of things to do. Rumor has it Sheffield has learned a cutter in 2018. While the Yankees will be using Sheffield as a reliever in the short-term, I believe his compilation of viable major league caliber pitches will make him a mid to back end starter.
Jason Pennini (@JasonPennini)