The fact that we all immediately think of the same handful of guys (Tim Lincecum, Johnny Cueto, Sonny Gray, Marcus Stroman) when trying to list recent pitchers under six feet tall who have experienced prolonged success in big-league rotations tells us how rare they really are. Justus Sheffield, a 5-foot-11 lefty, has a chance to join that unique company in the coming years. He has a plus mid-90s fastball with late life, an above-average slider and an average changeup, but his command still needs some work. A strained oblique limited him to 98 innings -- the lowest full-season total of his career. This led to an assignment to the Arizona Fall League, where he logged a 3.10 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 22 strikeouts over 20.1 innings. Many evaluators who saw him in the AFL said that was the best they had ever seen him pitch. He will start the year at Triple-A, and while he won't be rushed to the majors, he could get there on merit sometime this summer.
Sheffield has been invited to join the Yankees' major leaguers in spring training as a non-roster invitee. The 21-year-old Sheffield has yet to reach Triple-A, so he's not likely to contend for a big-league job this spring. He recorded a 3.18 ERA in 93.1 innings with Double-A Trenton last season, with mediocre strikeout (20.3 percent) and walk (8.2 percent) rates. He could earn a call-up in late 2018 or 2019.
Sheffield (oblique) returned from the 7-day DL on Sunday at Double-A Trenton, giving up two runs on five hits over three innings. While it wasn't the most effective outing and he was limited to just 54 pitches, it's encouraging nevertheless that Sheffield was able to make his return to the mound after being sidelined for two months. The 21-year-old has had a strong first season in the Yankees' system, posting a 3.18 ERA with 82 strikeouts over 93.1 innings over 17 starts at the Double-A level.
Sheffield (oblique) is slated to begin a rehab stint with High-A Tampa, Sean Miller of NJ.com reports. Sheffield hit the 7-day disabled list toward the beginning of July, but he's been working out during that span and is expected to throw off a mound again shortly. The organization is eyeing a return for the prospect before the start of the Double-A playoffs, which would mean Sheffield could be activated within the next couple weeks.
Sheffield was placed on the 7-day DL on Wednesday at Double-A Trenton with an oblique injury, George A. King of the New York Post reports. Sheffield came over to the Yankees organization as part of the return in the Andrew Miller trade, and had posted solid numbers to the tune of a 3.09 ERA and 7.9 K/9 in 16 starts with Trenton. The severity of the injury isn't clear, but the organization will likely err on the side of caution with the 21-year-old and not rush the lefty back.
Sheffield is 1-1 with a 3.28 ERA and 25 strikeouts through 24.2 innings of work at Double-A Trenton. Sheffield had pitched just four innings above High-A coming into this season, so he's off to a solid start for his first taste at the level. The 20-year-old lefty is struggling a bit to keep guys off base, though, as he's allowed 25 hits and 14 walks to combine for a 1.58 WHIP. Acquired by the Yankees as one of the main pieces in return for Andrew Miller last season, Sheffield will likely be treated very cautiously in his new organization and figures to stay at Double-A for the remainder of the season.
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