On Wednesday night, Yankees No. 3 prospect, Justus Sheffield, tossed his second consecutive quality start for the Double-A Trenton Thunder and looks prime for his next challenge.
Yankees prospect, Justus Sheffield, is a strikeout machine. In what could have been his final start for the Trenton Thunder before promotion to Triple-A Scranton, Sheffield struck out eight batters over six innings while scattering four hits, one walk and one earned run (three runs in total).
Following a pair of first-inning defensive blunders and a subsequent unearned run that tested the 6’0, 200-pound pitcher’s confidence, Sheffield was able to find his composure and retire the final nine batters he faced.
In Sheffield’s prior start, the 21-year-old left-hander (he’ll turn 22 on May 13) went 5.2 innings, allowed one run and struck out a robust nine hitters.
Following a 7-6 record, 3.18 ERA, 1.361 WHIP and 82:33 K:BB ratio in 93.1 innings pitched at Double-A in 2017, Sheffield began the new campaign in familiar territory, as the Yankees were hoping to see better command of the strike zone while limiting first-inning damage.
It appears Sheffield has received the message loud and clear, as in his last three starts, Sheff has a 25:5 K:BB ratio in 17.2 innings pitched and is tied for the Eastern League lead in strikeouts with 30.
Of the 11 walks Sheffield has issued during his first four starts of the early campaign, six of them came in his first start of the season on a ridiculously cold night in New Jersey.
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Regardless of the fact that we’re still in the first month of the season, Sheffield’s top prospect status has him on the fast-track to the Bronx. Naturally, before the big league pinstripes are donned, he needs to prove himself at the next level.
With a 2.86 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 30:11 K:BB ratio while holding the opposition to a minuscule .165 batting average (.111 vs. lefties) across 22 innings, the Yankees should challenge Sheffield by promoting him to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Yankees manager, Aaron Boone, recently spoke to NJ.com about how impressed he is with Sheffield and his overall expectations for the top pitcher in the farm system.
"“I think he’s going to be a good pitcher for us at some point. So, really encouraging him to see him. He struggled a little bit in spring training. See him now, I think back to back starts where he’s been strong, striking guys out, pounding the strike zone, good to see him off on a good note and continue to work to eventually get to us.”"
Sheffield and his three-pitch arsenal (fastball, go-to slider and changeup) will continue to get better, as the competition he faces also improves.
After 21 starts in Double-A, should Sheffield hit the ground running at Scranton, the possibility remains that the 39th best prospect in baseball could help the big league club sometime this summer.
Since the Triple-A Railriders currently have an open rotation spot for next Tuesday, I fully expect Sheff to get the nod.