TAMPA — The Yankees have a stockpile of young pitchers on the horizon, with Justus Sheffield and Chance Adams sitting highest on many top-prospect lists. Both obviously have big-league dreams, which they hope come true in 2018.
“I would be lying if I didn’t say I want to be in the Bronx at some point this year,” Sheffield said Wednesday. “That being said, all I can focus on is doing what I can do on the mound and producing.”
Added Adams: “Absolutely. I wish it would’ve happened every year before. But it’s just the way it works out. I just go out there and try to do my work, and when they see what they like, they’ll bring me up if they think I can help the team win.”
The Bombers already have their 2018 rotation filled out in the form of Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery. Chad Green is being stretched out as a starter during the spring, and Brian Cashman has been attempting to add another starter during the offseason via free agency or trade.
But it’s a long season, and things can change. Regardless, both hurlers — who could start 2018 at Triple-A Scranton — continue their respective developments.
Sheffield, an athletic 21-year-old lefty with three-plus pitches, has drawn comparisons to Mike Hampton and projects as a No. 2 or 3 starter. He spent most of last season with Double-A Trenton, going 7-6 with a 3.18 ERA in 17 starts, but was also sidelined by an oblique injury.
Sheffield did pitch in the Arizona Fall League, though, and produced a 3.10 ERA in five starts.
“That was really big for me coming off my injury,” Sheffield said. “I felt really good out there.”
Justus Sheffield says his goal is to pitch on the Yankee Stadium mound at some point this season.
(Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
He is currently working on maintaining his delivery and developing his backdoor slider — a pitch CC Sabathia is extremely successful with.
“I’ve always been throwing it ‘back-foot,’ so being able to have that pitch in my back pocket and being able to pull it out would help me a lot,” said Sheffield, who hasn’t yet been told which minor-league team he’s going to play for.
Adams, a 23-year-old righty, has a bulldog mentality on the mound, and scouts are mixed on whether he ultimately ends up as a starter or reliever. He went 15-5 in 27 starts between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton last season with a 2.45 ERA.
“Whatever I can do to help the team: starter, reliever, doesn’t matter,” Adams said.
Adams is currently focusing on improving his fastball command and developing his changeup with Larry Rothschild. His out pitch is his slider.
“It’s a very important pitch,” Adams said of his change. “Against lefties, everything is going into them, so it’s nice to have something that goes away.”
Sheffield and Adams have also cultivated a friendship.
“I love the way he plays the game and attacks hitters,” Sheffield said.
The two play the popular video-game Fortnite with fellow prospects and Greg Bird, who is said to be pretty good, according to Sheffield.
Sheffield and Adams both got a brief taste of facing big-league hitters in their first big-league camps a year ago. As part of Captain’s Camp, Sheffield said the Baby Bombers went to dinner with Aaron Judge, Tyler Wade and Bird on Tuesday night.
“I’m still going to have the butterflies,” said Sheffield, who retired Hanley Ramirez at Fenway South last spring. “But I feel like I’m ready to face those guys. I feel like I’ve put myself in a spot to compete against those higher-up guys. I’m excited to get it going.”
What doesn’t matter is top-prospect lists.
“To me it’s just a list with a bunch of names,” Sheffield said. “Once you’re out there on the mound, everything is equal.”
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