2016 Statistics: 25 GS, 125.1 IP, 3.09 ERA 9.3 SO/9, 3.8 BB/9 (A+/AA)
2017 Roster Status: Double-A/Non-40
Justus Sheffield was one of the pile of prospects shipped in by Brian Cashman at this year's trade deadline. Behind outfielder Clint Frazier, he was the second most significant asset acquired in exchange for
weapon of mass destruction reliever Andrew Miller. Consequently, he didn't have much time in the Yankees organization to make a huge impression. Nonetheless, he was very impressive in the handful of starts he made as a Yankees prospect, and his season on the whole was more than enough to spark excitement.
Sheffield is a five-foot-ten left-handed starter who only turned 20 this past May. Most reports cite him sitting around 92-93 with his fastball, with the ability to reach the upper 90’s if needed. He also throws a quality curveball and a functional changeup.
He began 2016 in Lynchburg with Cleveland's High-A affiliate. Sheffield was up to the challenge of facing hitters that were on average three years older than him, posting a 3.59 ERA in 95.1 innings. He did walk 40 batters, but also recorded 93 strikeouts.
After the trade, he was assigned to High-A Tampa, where he continued to thrive. He gave up just six runs across 26 innings, striking out 27 and walking 10. Before the year was out, he was promoted to Double-A Trenton for one final regular season start, in which he struck out nine in four innings without allowing an earned run.
On the whole, his seasonal line ended up being quite strong. His 3.8 BB/9 walk rate was a tad high, but everything else looks excellent for a player that was still a teenager when the season began.
All this was enough to earn Sheffield a bump up in prospect pedigree. Prior to the 2016 season, only Baseball America ranked Sheffield among their top 100 prospects, at 81st. By the time of the trade, he had jumped to 69th on Baseball America's list, and into the top 100 on MLB.com's list. As of now, MLB.com has Sheffield ranked as the number six prospect in what is a loaded Yankee farm system.
Given Sheffield's plus velocity, undersized frame, and less than stellar control (thus far), there will surely be some who believe his future is in the bullpen. While that is certainly possible, he showed plenty of promise as a starter this season, pitching very effectively against much older competition. In all likelihood, he will begin next year with Double-A Trenton. It wasn't easy to part with a star like Miller, who has burned the American League playoffs to the ground, but it will have been worth it if prospects like Sheffield continue to develop like this.