The New York Yankees have been linked to several pitchers so far in early trade rumors. The trade market remains in flux because several teams with pitching assets are still alive in the playoff race as well as there being just a lot of underwhelming talent that is available. Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman has been looking to upgrade the rotation but he will only do so at his price.
The Yankees have been fortunate this season. For the most part their pitching has been good. There have been injuries to Jordan Montgomery and Masahiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray has been ineffective and inconsistent. However, the Yankees’ young arms have filled in and Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga have been pretty good. There is also another option that has emerged in Moosic, Pa. with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders, Justus Sheffield.
Sheffield began the year at Double-A Trenton but after five starts was promoted to Triple-A. He has pitched extremely well and should be an option for the Yankees if the trade market doesn’t offer any low-hanging fruit for Cashman to pick.
Through 10 games (nine starts but the game in which he didn’t start he went six innings) in Triple-A, Sheffield has allowed one run or less in six of those appearances. In fact, he has allowed more than three earned runs in only one start.
Sheffield entered the season as the top pitching prospect, and second overall, in the organization. The left-hander features a fastball that sits right around 95 mph and he can get it up to 97-98 at times. There is good movement with his fastball, featuring a little sink to it. He has become pretty good at controlling his fastball and picking his spots with it compared to last season. Also showing improvement this season is his slider and changeup. His slider generally sits in the mid to upper 80s and he is controlling it with a lot more consistency and getting great movement on it this year. His changeup is still a work in progress but he has shown improvement and should be good enough to keep hitters off balance in the Majors right now. He projects as a number two or three starter but he could get better.
Sheffield isn’t one of those guys that is going to come up and mow down hitters. He does have 49 strikeouts in 51.2 AAA innings but he relies on getting weak contact and ground balls. He is still walking a few batters, 22 in AAA so far, but he works through his jams and shows a mental toughness you like to see in a pitcher. He doesn’t allow one or two mistakes to effect his whole performance. Even with those 22 walks he still owns a 1.16 WHIP thanks to his ability to get those ground balls and his allowing only 38 hits.
The Yankees were panning on letting Sheffield stay the whole year in the minors and work on command. However, Sheffield has proven himself a quick study and is working his way into making himself an option for this season. He isn’t on the 40-man roster but the Yankees can easily create a spot for him by moving Montgomery to the 60-day DL.
If Cashman is going to acquire a pitcher he has to make sure it is an upgrade over what he has. Right now with the market as it is there aren’t many options. Sheffield could be the answer to the Yankees’ pitching problems if the trade market isn’t.
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