Player: Justus Sheffield
Drafted by: Cleveland Indians
DOB: 05/13/1996 (Age: 18)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 195 pounds
School: Tullahoma High School (Tenn.)
College Commitment: Vanderbilt
Baseball bloodlines run deep for left-hander Justus Sheffield, as he’s the nephew of former All-Star Gary Sheffield and younger brother to right-hander Jordan Sheffield, who missed most of last spring after undergoing Tommy John surgery and then turned down well above-slot money from the Red Sox as a 13th-rounder in favor of honoring his commitment to Vanderbilt.
While he’s not a hard thrower like Jordan, Justus has emerged as one of the more well-rounded and polished prep left-handers in this year’s class, showcasing advanced pitchability as well as a unique feel for his craft. Serving as Tullahoma’s ace this season, he won 10 games and posted a stellar 0.34 ERA with 131 strikeouts in 61.2 innings.
While he lacks physical projection, his mature, four-pitch mix leaves plenty of room for improvement and eventually should help him carve out a role in the middle of a major league rotation. Yet, with a strong commitment to join his brother next season at Vanderbilt, any team that is willing to take a flier on Sheffield in the early rounds must believe that he’s signable.
Full Scouting Report
Note: Numerical scores are on the conventional 20-80 scouting scale, with the current score first and projected score second.
6’2”, 195-pound left-hander is an above-average athlete; mature build requires little physical projection; delivery involves some effort with a decently sized leg kick and usually efficient mechanics; doesn’t always stay on line with the plate; arm action is loose and repeatable from three-quarters slot, though he does struggle to find a consistent release point at times in a given outing.
Fastball isn’t overpowering but consistently registers at 88-92 mph and at times touches 93-94; doesn’t project to add velocity with physical growth; present feel for pounding zone and getting ahead with pitch; generates good arm-side run.
Good feel for a true curveball that he throws with consistent pace in the high 70s; pitch features hard, 1-to-7 break; present feel for locating it within the zone; tends to telegraph pitch when trying to locate pitch to arm side of the plate.
Slider is the better of his two breaking balls; registers in the low 80s with good depth and tight spin; swing-and-miss potential when thrown off well-located fastball; future plus offering at maturity.
Thrown in the low 80s with some fading action; sells the pitch with fastball-like arm speed and follow-through; highly effective offering when around the zone with his fastball; adept at spotting pitch to arm-side corner of the plate; tends to play up due to his advanced feel.
Plus pitchability of an advanced, four-pitch mix; consistently around zone with full arsenal thanks to simple, repeatable delivery and fluid arm action; consistent strike-thrower.
Present ability to command pitches to arm side but doesn’t show same feel when attacking other side of the plate; clean delivery and athleticism suggest he has the potential for plus command at maturity.
MLB Player Comparison: Hyun-jin Ryu
Sheffield compares to Ryu for his advanced feel of a four-pitch mix and ability to change speeds without sacrificing control, as well as his potential to pitch in the middle of a big league rotation.
Projection: No. 3 starting pitcher
Major Leagues ETA: Late 2016
Chances of Signing: 50 percent
Sheffield, like his brother in 2013, is perceived to have a strong commitment to Vanderbilt, which means he’ll either need to come off the board early or receive a lucrative above-slot bonus to begin his professional career.