Atlanta Braves Sign Former First Round Pick Justus Sheffield to Minor League Deal
By Fred Owens
While everyone was sorting out the changes to the 26-man roster last week, the Atlanta Braves signed lefty Justus Sheffield to a Minor League deal.
Cleveland selected Sheffield as their second pick – 31st overall – in the first round of the 2014 Rule 4 Amateur draft. He appeared in four Rookie League games after signing and moved to low-A ball for 2015, making 26 starts and pitching to a 3.31 ERA in 127 2/3 IP,
Sheffield entered the 2016 campaign as a top-100 prospect in baseball on lists from Baseball America (81), Baseball Prospectus (52), and MLB Pipeline (79), and remained a top-100 prospect through 2019.
Most teams hang on to top 100 prospects, but as Cleveland sprinted to the AL championship in 2016, they sent Sheffield and two players to the Yankees for Andrew Miller.
Sheffield made his Major League debut with the Yankees on September 19, 2018, throwing a shutout inning in relief against Boston. He appeared in two more games that year, but the Yankees wanted an experienced starter and sent Sheffield and two players to Seattle for James Paxton.
Below is an excerpt from Baseball America's pre-2020 scouting report.
"When he’s on, Sheffield delivers a plus-power fastball from the left side that sits at 93 mph and touches 97. The key to his (success) is commanding his fastball . . .Sheffield can vary the shape of his above-average mid-80s slider and gained confidence throwing his 84-88 mph average changeup with fade late in (2019). . ."- Baseball America
Sheffield made seven starts for Seattle in 2019 and ten during the Covid-19 madness, when it appeared he’d made adjustments to a delivery BA called effortful, but 2021 saw his ERA jump to 6.83 carried by a 1.842 WHIP. In 2022 Sheffield appeared in six Major League games, five shutout relief outings in April, and one five-inning, five-run start in September.
He started the 2023 season with AAA Tacoma, but gave up 17 hits, walked 11, and struck out only four in 17 IP over 10 games.
Atlanta Braves Expectations
In a perfect world, the Atlanta Braves would sprinkle pixie dust on Sheffield, and he’d locate his pitches and become the number one or two starter scouts envisioned in 2014.
Sheffield turns 27 tomorrow, so he’s a long way from over the hill and has an outside shot at starting. The more pragmatic expectation is that he becomes the pitcher the Indians/Guardians for him in 2016.
Sheffield’s currently assigned to the FCL Braves, along with Chad Pinder, who, as Chris told us, signed yesterday.
That’s a Wrap
The signing of Sheffield adds another power arm with the hope that the Atlanta Braves pitching development crew can reverse his trajectory. The video shows what he can do, Unfortunately, it isn’t likely to produce help for the rotation.
No one is trading Major-League-ready pitching this early in the season, so rotation help will have to come from Dylan Dodd, Jared Shuster, and Michael Soroka gave up three runs in the first and left after four innings last night.