After a couple of years of contention (somewhat), it seems as if the Seattle Mariners are going to join the growing number of rebuilding teams.
The Mariners dealt ace lefty James Paxton to the New York Yankees on Monday, initiating the rebuild that had been rumored for a number of weeks.
In return, the Mariners received three prospects, the headliner being Justus Sheffield.
The Yankees top prospect, and the 31st-ranked prospect in all of baseball (per MLB.com), Sheffield enters the Mariners farm system as their clear top prospect.
#Yankees' Justus Sheffield whiffs #Phillies' Tommy Joseph with a slider. @Yankees southpaw is No. 48 on the #Top100Prospects list: https://t.co/TuTZgd5PTS pic.twitter.com/msLFuGaTi9— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) February 25, 2018
Acquired from the Cleveland Indians in the 2016 Andrew Miller trade, Sheffield rose to the top of the Yankees farm system after a series of great seasons both developmentally and performance-wise.
In 2018, Sheffield thrived in the minors, going a combined 7-6 with a 2.48 ERA in 25 games, 20 of which being starts. In 116 innings pitched, Sheffield struck out 123, while allowing just 82 hits and four home runs.
John Sickels ranked Sheffield as the Yankees No. 4 prospect prior to the 2018 season. Here’s what John had to say about the 22-year old lefty midway through 2018:
Personally, I’m pretty high on Sheffield. His upper-90s fastball and plus-slider combo are as deadly of a 1-2 combo as you can ask for in a lefty. His short 5-foot-11 frame makes him a unique talent on the mound, sort of a Marcus Stroman-type, albeit from the different side of the rubber.
Every rebuild has its core player. The Cubs had Kris Bryant. The Astros had Carlos Correa. The Royals had Eric Hosmer. Sheffield (at least for now,) is the Mariners “center of the rebuild”. After trading arguably their top trade piece to get him, the state of the rebuild will depend somewhat-heavily on the performance of Sheffield.
As for the foreseeable future, Sheffield should spend most-to-all of 2019 in the big leagues, unless the Mariners take a Yoan Moncada-esqe approach, in which they exercise serious patience with Sheffield even though he spent time in the major leagues.
Regardless of when he arrives, Sheffield should be an exciting player for many years in Seattle. The first couple of years are looking rough, but it would be no surprise to me if Justus Sheffield was on the mound for the Mariners first playoff game in twenty years in 2021.