Justus Sheffield

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Justus Kane Sheffield

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Biographical Information[edit]

Pitcher Justus Sheffield, taken by the Cleveland Indians, was the 31st overall selection in the 2014 amateur draft (the pick was compensation for the loss of Ubaldo Jimenez). The scout was Chuck Bartlett. He was represented by agent David Sloane, but the two had a falling out over the amount of Sheffield's $1.6 million signing bonus due Sloane, with the agent eventually suing Sheffield but losing as he had failed to provide proper paperwork proving he was duly registered to represent his client and because he had failed to provide Sheffield with appropriate documents in writing. He is the brother of pitcher Jordan Sheffield; a cousin, Tony Sheffield, pitched professionally from 1992-1996. In the 2013 World Junior Championship, he was roughed up in starts against Cuba and Taiwan but the US rallied to win both en route to the Gold. He won the 2014 Gatorade Player of the Year after going 10-0 with a 0.34 ERA and 131 K in 61 2/3 IP. Gary Sheffield (no relation) won the first such honor in 1986.

Sheffield began his professional career at 18 years old, going 3-1 with 29 strikeouts and a 4.87 ERA in 20 1/3 innings for the AZL Indians in 2014. On January 20, 2015, he was arrested for aggravated burglary and underage drinking. That did not affect his season, however, as he pitched for the Lake County Captains that year and went 9-4 with a 3.31 ERA in 26 starts; he had 138 strikeouts in 127 2/3 innings and earned Midwest League Mid-Season All-Star and MiLB.com Organization All-Star selections. Going into the year, he had been ranked the #4 prospect in the Indians system by Baseball America. Going into 2016, he was ranked the #4 prospect in the Indians system and the #81 prospect in all of baseball by BA. He began the year with the Lynchburg Hillcats. In 19 starts, he went 7-5, 3.59 with 93 strikeouts in 95 1/3 innings. On July 31st, he was traded to the New York Yankees along with OF Clint Frazier and Ps J.P. Feyereisen and Ben Heller in return for closer Andrew Miller.

He was named to the United States team for the 2018 Futures Game. He split that season between the AA Trenton Thunder and AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, going a combined 7-6, 2.48 in 25 games (20 starts), striking out 123 batters in 116 innings. He was called up to New Yankee Stadium on September 17th, one day after Scranton/Wilkes-Barre lost the International League finals to the Durham Bulls. He made his major league debut on September 19th, pitching the final inning of a 10-1 win over the Boston Red Sox. He struggled a bit with his control, loading the bases with one out, but then induced Mookie Betts to hit into a game-ending double play - but not before Betts had curled a ball around the foul pole at New Yankee Stadium, but barely foul. In 3 appearances, all in relief, he gave up 3 runs in 2 2/3 innings. On November 19th, he was the centerpiece of a big trade by the Yankees, heading to the Seattle Mariners alongside lower-level prospects Erik Swanson and Dom Thompson-Williams in return for left-handed pitcher James Paxton.

Thompson-Williams was felled by injuries, and Swanson failed to stick in the starting rotation after putting up awful numbers, but became a valuable bullpen piece before being shipped to Toronto for Teoscar Hernandez prior to the 2023 season. Sheffield also failed to live up to his billing. He spent most of 2019 going between AA Arkansas, AAA Tacoma and Seattle, posting a 5.50 ERA in 8 big league games. He walked far too many batters -- 4.5 per 9 innings -- and also gave up 11.0 hits per 9 innings. He improved in the abbreviated 2020 season, putting up an ERA of 3.58 in 10 starts with the Mariners, cutting his walk rate down to a near-league average 3.3 per 9 innings, cutting his home run rate way down to .03 per 9 innings, and cutting his hits per 9 innings rate to 8.5. He incorporated a two-seam fastball into his arsenal, which had more movement than his old four-seamer.

However, he regressed back to his old numbers in 2021, and spent the year doing the "I-5 Shuffle" between Seattle and Tacoma. In 25 big league games (15 starts), his walk rate, hit rate, and home run rate all were similar to 2019, and his ERA was even higher at a whopping 6.83. He spent most of 2022 with the Rainiers, putting up a massive 6.99 ERA in 24 starts. He did post a 3.86 ERA in Seattle, but in very limited action. (6 games, 1 start, 11 2/3 innings.)

On January 19, 2023, he was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for infielder Tommy La Stella, whom the M's acquired via free agency and who had been DFA'ed himself by the Giants the previous month. Sheffield was outrighted to AAA Tacoma on January 23rd after no other team claimed or traded for him.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Bryan Hoch: "Prospect Sheffield eager for shot at bigs: Left-hander focused on letting results continue to speak for themselves", mlb.com, January 11, 2018. [1]

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