The Yankees might make a trade before the August 31 waiver deadline, but a September call-up could provide a boost to the club.
The Yankees recently shifted Justus Sheffield, the team's No. 1 prospect, to the bullpen so that when rosters expand in September, he might make a significant contribution. Sheffield will not come up for a cup of coffee, but rather he'll be relied upon in some fashion to aid the Yankees' push to the postseason.
The skinny on Sheffield
Sheffield has dazzled at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season, pitching to a 2.66 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 80 strikeouts in 84 2/3 innings across 18 appearances (15 starts). He has one deficiency - a slight battle with command (3.8 BB/9) - which has likely held up his promotion.
The 22-year-old throws a mid-90s fastball and utilizes a plus-slider along with a solid changeup. What remains to be seen is how his repertoire might change as he works in shorter bursts out of the bullpen.
Sheffield has already made relief two appearances, working two innings in both and allowing one run in each. He has struck out three batters, but what is most interesting is that he did not walk a batter in either game.
What I find most interesting is the timing of the switch to the bullpen. In my view, the Yankees would have been better off making this change after the trade deadline, so Sheffield's introduction to major league hitting was coming against the groupings of inferior teams they primarily play this month. Dropping Sheffield into his first MLB game action in the middle of a division chase seems a bit more risky.
Further, I wonder if the Yankees might have benefitted from having Sheffield up even earlier as a starter in an effort to determine what route they needed to take to aid the pitching staff before the trade deadline? In other words, was Sheffield an option instead of trading for Lance Lynn?
The Yankees most likely felt Sheffield's command issues were not going to lead to fruitful results, and thus, the current mode of operation.
Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY
How will Yanks use Sheffield?
As Sheffield uses the next week or so to become more acclimated to working up to speed as a reliever, the Yankees will have to figure out how they'll utilize the left-hander. While it seems as if they are using Sheffield for extended appearances in the minors, it would not surprise me if his role with the big club becomes somewhat different.
When the Yankees traded Chasen Shreve, they lost their lone lefty middle reliever. Yes, the Yanks added southpaw Zach Britton, but he's working high-leverage innings, where Sheffield could be used to get out of jams with a left-handed batter at the plate earlier in games.
Sheffield's abilities could play up as a lefty-on-lefty reliever, meaning important outs could be coming his way.
Sheffield has seemed ready to us fans as outsiders since the end of July, but the Yankees have held a differing belief. It is possible the plan all along was to get as many starts under Sheffield's belt until he began to reach an innings limit (he's at 112 2/3 innings this season, and he threw just 98 innings in 2017, not including 20 1/3 innings in the Arizona Fall League), and the best way to reach their goal was utilize him over the final month of the season as a reliever.
The best case scenario for the Yankees is that Sheffield jumps straight into the fold and records important outs through September and potentially October. Minimally, the Yankees' top prospect will reap the benefit of experience at the major league level, complete with an immersion into a pennant race.