Justus Sheffield Could Be The Steal of the Yankees Trade Deadline Haul

This post was originally published on Outside Pitch MLB

If the trade deadline went the Cleveland Indians way, Justus Sheffield would have never been a part of the New York Yankees organization.

Sheffield, the Tribe’s fifth-ranked prospect at the time, was a part of the package that would have seen Milwaukee Brewers premiere catcher Jonathan Lucroy suit up for the Indians for their playoff run. But with a no-trade clause in hand, the backstop rebuffed the deal and was later sent to the Texas Rangers.

But the Brewers loss was the Yankees gain. Although Sheffield stayed put for the time being, he ended up joining Indians top prospect Clint Frazier and two additional prospects in a trade for outstanding reliever Andrew Miller.

Frazier originally grabbed the headlines. After all, he’s had his natural tools compared to Mike Trout and his presence on social media made him an instant fan favorite in New York.

Outside of Frazier, Sheffield still wasn’t regarded as the best youngster acquired by the Yankees. Just days prior to the Indians deal, GM Brian Cashman was able to swing impending free agent Aroldis Chapman for a quartet of prospects, including Gleyber Torres, the Chicago Cubs number one youngster.

Frazier and Torres may have taken the reigns as the new number one and two prospects, respectively. But it is Sheffield who is performing the best out of the new crop of young talent.

Sheffield, 20, was a former first round selection, as he was taken with the 31st overall pick back in 2014. After combining for a 12-5 record and a 4.09 earned run average over his first two years, Sheffield entered 2016 as the 81st overall prospect, according to Baseball America.

But before the July 31 transaction, Sheffield struggled to live up to those expectations.

While his 3.59 ERA, 91 hits in just 95 1/3 innings pitched and 93 total strikeouts were considered positives, his 40 walks allowed, 1.37 WHIP and batting average against of .256 were below his predicted numbers. Was Sheffield a disappointment? Not so much. But his former team was hoping for more out of the young hurler.

A change of scenery, however, may have been all that was needed.

The southpaw looks like a future stalwart while pitching for High-A Tampa. Sheffield has started in five games with the Yankees, winning three while dropping just one decision. Over 26 frames of work, he’s surrendered just five earned runs, 10 walks and 14 hits, good for averages of 4.8 hits and 3.5 walks per nine innings. Sheffield has struck out more batters (27) than innings pitched, has a BAA of .157 and is currently sporting an outstanding ERA of 1.73.

Despite standing at 5’10”, size doesn’t matter to Sheffield.

“You’re always going to get people who doubt you just because of your height. It’s what you have on the inside, what you have in your heart that matters,” he told MLBPipeline. “I’m really competitive. I feel like I’m a dog on the mound, that’s how I go about it. I love Toronto’s Marcus Stroman, he’s an example. He has the HDMH — Height Doesn’t Measure Heart — and I love that. That’s pretty cool.

And he makes up for it with his complete arsenal of pitches. Sheffield packs a serious punch with his fastball, as it sits between 92-93 miles per hour but can reach 96 on the gun. The pitch is complemented by a slider (considered the best in the Indians organization), a potent curveball and an evolving changeup.

Does Sheffield have the same ceiling as a top flight starter like James Kaprielian or Luis Severino? Not at this point.

But he has all the makings of a two or three type pitcher in a big league rotation. If Sheffield can develop into that type of player with the Yankees, the organization will have yet another talented youngster to help bring the next dynasty to the Bronx.

Dan Federico is the Editor in Chief for Outside Pitch MLB. You can follow and interact with him on Twitter or contact him via email here

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