Earlier today, the Yankees placed J.A. Happ on the disabled list after he contracted coxsackievirus. As a corresponding move, the team called up Luis Cessa. He will hopefully only need to make a spot start, as Happ isn’t expected to spend too much time on the shelf.
While the Yankees put those roster moves in motion, top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield made a start against the Rochester Red Wings. As he has done for most of the season, the left-hander pitched pretty well. Sheffield battled command early, but he settled in and finished the outing in dominating fashion. Consider his pitching line:
#Yankees top prospect (@MLB No. 28) Justus Sheffield turns in his another strong start for the @swbrailriders & has now allowed 1 ER or less in 5 of his past 6:— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 2, 2018
7 K@Yankees prospects stats: https://t.co/OzMpKwvCkB pic.twitter.com/NGbwWYDRvs
That’s been business as usual for Sheffield. The 22-year-old has spent most of the season with the Triple-A RailRiders, and prior to this afternoon’s start, logged a 2.37 ERA over 68.1 innings. His peripherals look great, too, as he owned an 8.30 K/9 rate and a microscopic 0.26 HR/9. A southpaw who misses bats and limits the home run ball? That’s a pitcher of the Yankees’ dreams.
The case for calling Sheffield up is straightforward enough. He has a significantly higher ceiling than the alternative. At this point, Cessa is a known commodity. He’s a serviceable up-and-down arm, but that’s it. Any time he has a strong outing, it feels like the Yankees got away with something. It’s quite possible that Sheffield right now is the superior pitcher.
Also, Sheffield would give a slumping team a spark. There’s nothing quite as exciting as a top prospect making his major league debut. That gets everyone invested and can serve as a huge morale boost. This club thrived on the injection of youth, with Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres serving as prime examples. If Sheffield came up and absolutely dealed against the Red Sox, you bet the fanbase and squad would get energized. It could truly shake everyone out of the general lethargy beleaguering the team since late-June.
The Yankees, however, want to see more development from Sheffield before he becomes a an option. According to Baseball America, the organization wants him to work on adding velocity separation to his offspeed pitches, particularly his changeup. As an organization, New York operates based on developmental progress, not minor league results.
There’s also the case of timing. The Yankees have to add Sheffield to the 40-man roster, but teams tend to put that off until absolutely necessary. They also may not want to call him up for a spot start, let alone one in the hostile confines of Fenway Park. Remember how the front office explained that they didn’t want to promote Torres unless they thought he was here to stick? That same logic applies to Sheffield. So adding him when Happ expects to return soon probably doesn’t match up to the team’s preferences.
Nonetheless, Sheffield sure seems like a spark that could get the Yankees in gear. He would generate a lot of excitement, in the clubhouse and among the fans. He will be up soon enough. It’s just too bad that he won’t make this weekend’s spot start.