It can’t be stated enough how important the 2016 trade deadline was for the Yankees’ rebuilding effort. One of the two pitchers acquired, Aroldis Chapman, was back in the team’s custody the very next season, and their other reliever forfeited, Andrew Miller, left a bullpen that still managed the third-lowest ERA- in 2017.
Those trades brought a bounty, one that will likely pay dividends for years to come. We already saw what Clint Frazier could do in limited time, and he will get another crack at it in 2018. Gleyber Torres is one of the top prospects in all of baseball right now, and he will get a chance to nab the third base job in the spring.
There were pitchers too, of course. Al Abreu was acquired in the Carlos Beltran trade and has put up a triple-digit fastball combined with two breaking balls that are rounding into form. The crown jewel of the pitching haul, though, is Justus Sheffield.
Sheffield was also acquired in the Miller trade along with Frazier, and at that time he was the 81st best prospect according to Baseball America. By the beginning of this season, he was ranked as high as 52nd according to Baseball Prospectus.
Sheffield had a fantastic season, ascending up to Double-A Trenton and putting up a 3.18 ERA over 93.1 innings. And, in particular, he had an excellent Arizona Fall League, putting on a showing that earned him both an All-Star appearance and the attention of scouts. About a month ago, a scout had this to say:
Scout the other day on Justus Sheffield's opening AFL start: "That was No. 1 starter-type stuff right there." #Yankees— Josh Norris (@jnorris427) October 12, 2017
Another scout had this to say just a few weeks ago:
Scout who's been in attendance since the start of the AFL: "Justus Sheffield and Albert Abreu are the two best pitchers here."— Dan Federico (@RealDanFederico) October 31, 2017
He did have an injury scare on November 11th after being hit by a batted ball on the left quad, but he seems to be fine. Overall Sheffield had a 3.10 ERA over 20.1 innings in the AFL, with an 0.84 WHIP.
Sheffield’s stuff is not overwhelming, and that’s why he never rocketed to the top of prospect lists, but everything seems to be there to make it in the rotation. He has a mid-90’s fastball with movement, three average-to-above-average breaking pitches, and command that is almost there.
While he has shown a ton of progress, there’s still a way’s to go, and he’s just 21 years-old. He will likely get time at Triple-A, ironing out his command and solidifying his secondary pitches, but there is a small chance we see him at the end of 2018. More likely, it’s the season afterward. Sheffield is now one of the best pitching prospects in an already stacked farm system, and could very soon join a rotation led by Luis Severino, arguably the youngest and most talented Yankees group we’ve seen in our lifetimes.