Justus Sheffield, Yankees #2 Prospect

Yankees Reshuffle The Deck: Sheffield Joins Adams In The Back Seat

The Yankees need a starting pitcher to replace Masahiro Tanaka when his turn comes up on Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays. The team reached back to their Double-A team in Trenton, entirely bypassing as many as three potential starters pitching at the Triple-A level in Scranton. What is the message the Yankees are sending?

Among the Top 30 Prospects listed on MLB.com, the Yankees have 18 pitchers and only 12 position players. This is both a tribute to and a recognition that the Yankees have generated quite a bit of congestion among the farm teams at the top of their organization among pitchers.

One fact is known. The Yankees have selected Jonathan Loaisiga to replace Tanaka, and presumably, this is not a one-game call-up, and Loaisiga is there for the long haul until Tanaka is fit and ready to return from a double hamstring injury.

Over the last two to three years, I’ve learned not to question the decision-making process that takes place among Brian Cashman and his staff. So this not to challenge the promotion of Loaisiga, who has made six starts in Double-A and passed all the needed criteria to earn the start, including a remarkable four walks in the 45 innings he has hurled.

Nor is there reason to question this portion of the scouting report that accompanies Loaisiga’s scouting report:

“While Loaisiga is small and skinny, he has surprising power to his three-pitch repertoire. His quick arm repeatedly generates 93-96 mph fastballs that top out at 98 with life down in the strike zone. His low-80s curveball features a high spin rate and his upper-80s changeup has nice fade, albeit with a bit too much velocity.”MLB.com
Chance Adams, Perennial Yankees Prospect
Chance Adams, Perennial Yankees Prospect Photo Credit: The Greedy Pinstripes

Let it be. This is more about the status of Justus Sheffield and to a lesser degree, Chance Adams in the plans of the Yankees for the future. On two occasions, this column has attempted to probe into the Yankees thinking on Adams, mainly with the question phrased to the Yankees – what are you going to do with this guy?

Between the Yankee’s indecision on how best to use Adams (bullpen or starter), together with Adams latest and less than remarkable output (26 walks in 54 innings) at Triple-A Scranton this season, it appears a stalemate is in play.

Adams presently enjoys the status of being the Yankees 4th best prospect according to MLB.com, but what is the value of that, except for the yield it might generate if he were included in a trade in a few weeks for a top-line starter the Yankees will be seeking.

Justus Sheffield continues to support an excellent ERA wherever he pitches in the Yankees system (presently 2.96 in six starts in Triple-A), and yet he has not earned the status of being on the Yankees 40-man roster.  But again the 14 walks in 28 innings have to ring an alarm indicating to the Yankees Sheffield has not (yet) gained the command necessary to pitch in the major leagues. Ergo, Loaisiga gets the nod.

Nevertheless, there are teams who would pop either or both Adams and Sheffield into their rotation yesterday. Drill down more in the Yankees depth chart and the same can be said of Albert Abreu (#3 on the chart), Luis Medina (#5), Domingo Acevedo (#7), and on down the line. And this is not to mention Domingo German, who has made six starts for Jordan Montgomery, who is lost for the season with Tommy John surgery.

The Yankee’s predicament reminds of holding a full house and not betting the hand, and instead, waiting on a better one to come. Prospects are candidates and possibilities, and they are afforded no assurance they will bloom in the future.

If the Yankees had two or three, it would justify coveting them, no matter who called with an offer to secure them in a trade. Complicating that, trading pitchers for pitchers is something teams rarely do, if only because pitching is such a rare commodity.

Clint Frazier in Spring Training
Clint Frazier in Spring Training Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

To reiterate, Brian Cashman is in the driver’s seat and come August 1st the Yankees will have a durable and controllable frontline starting pitcher to sit between Luis Severino and Tanaka when the playoffs arrive. That much is predictable, and the trade pieces including Estevan Florial, Billy McKinney, and Clint Frazier (all position players) are in place to secure that starter.

But maybe this should be a two-fer, and the Yankees should consider adding a combination of those position players, together with the wealth of pitching talent they’ve stockpiled to add not one, but two frontline starters while the gettin’ is good.

After all, CC Sabathia (bless his heart) cannot be counted on for next year. Nor can Montgomery who has incurred a serious surgery, the results of which will not be known until this time next season at the earliest as to when he can rejoin the team at full strength.

Pare the system down. Keep the ones (pitchers) the Yankees like and reap the rewards of trading the ones the team is not sure about. Sheffield and Adams both fit comfortably into that scenario, and the scouts, together with Brian Cashman can figure out the rest.

Risky, yes. But that’s what this business of baseball is all about, especially these days. Because when you are holding all the cards the Yankees have, it would be a pity to at least not play some of them.

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