sheffield
Photo: MLB

#33

P

Justus Sheffield

Justus Kane Sheffield

Height: 5'10"    Weight: 195

Bats/Throws: Left / Left

Born: 05/13/1996 in Tullahoma, Tennessee

Offseason home: Tullahoma, Tennessee

Acquired: In trade from the New York Yankees, with Erik Swanson and Dom Thompson-Williams, for James Paxton (11/19/2018)

MLB Debut: 09/19/2018

Free Agent after: 2025 season

Twitter handle: @TopSheff42

The principal "get" when the M's traded James Paxton to the Yankees, Sheffield has been highly regarded throughout his time as a pro. At the time of the trade, he was the Yankees' top pitching prospect and thought to be on the cusp of reaching the Majors for good. Then reality set in. "I’ve always been told my stuff was good enough to get guys out," Sheffield said, reflecting on how he was hit around in Triple-A and in a brief big-league callup in 2019. "I just feel like what [was] told [to] me was not getting it done." Starting the season at Triple-A Tacoma, Sheffield went 2-6 with an ugly 6.87 ERA; though he was excellent at Double-A Arkansas after a demotion, when he got brought up to Seattle he was in trouble again (0-1, 5.50, 1.722 WHIP). So, prior to last year's abbreviated season, the big lefty changed things up, taking a page from fellow southpaw Marco Gonzales' book. Sheffield ditched his conventional four-seam fastball in favor of a Gonzales-style two-seamer that has less velocity but more movement, plus he started using a changeup more often. “You can’t just go out there and think you’re going to blow heaters and then get guys out with sliders in the dirt every time,” Sheffield said. “That’s what I thought coming up . . . growing and evolving and learning location is huge.” Having Gonzales as a teammate has been equally huge. “Marco really relies on location over his stuff,” Sheffield said, “and watching him, I’ve kind of learned to [use that approach] in my game. I’ve always been stuff over location, and I’d gotten away with that early on in my career. But just watching him be able to put the ball where he wants to put it and set hitters up and watch him attack hitters, it’s helped me a lot.”

Last year's numbers bear that out. in 2020 Sheff was 5-1 in ten starts, posted a very respectable 3.58 ERA, and dropped his home-runs-allowed rate from 1.3 per nine innings to 0.3. Said manager Scott Servais, Sheffield was "one of the better stories of our season last year. Sheff stepping up and doing what he did, you can dream on that one a little bit.” Sheffield averaged just 5.5 innings per start last season and wants to improve on that this year. “I know they might have the ropes on us with the pitch count early on, but once we're fully going, I want to be out there for at least six innings,” Sheffield said. “I feel like that would be a good goal to accomplish this year.” 

TH, 3/17/21