EL notes: Yankees' Sheffield shows laser focus

Trenton left-hander impressing with his preparation, demeanor

Justus Sheffield is 1-0 with a 2.82 ERA and 21 strikeouts over 22 1/3 innings for the Thunder. (Rudy C. Jones/MiLB.com)

By Craig Forde / Special to MLB.com | May 3, 2017 10:00 AM ET

When Justus Sheffield joined the New York Yankees organization last season, it was kind of like starting all over again.

Part of the deal that sent reliever Andrew Miller to Cleveland, the young left-hander didn't know anyone when he joined Class A Advanced Tampa last June and equated the experience to his rookie season.

This time, however, he was plenty familiar with the workings of Minor League Baseball -- he got comfortable quickly and even made his final start of the season with Double-A Trenton, impressing with nine strikeouts in four innings.

"Going in, you don't know anyone," said the Yankees' No. 6 prospect. "You're kind of just having to restart. This process was a lot quicker for me than it was in 2014. ... I had an idea how things worked in the Minor Leagues. It was just a matter of getting around the guys, getting comfortable and letting them know who I am. I felt like it was good for me to get up here and get my feet wet and see how Double-A is."

Sheffield also gained a great deal of comfort with his new organization when it invited him to his first big league camp this past spring, and he took the opportunity to gain some wisdom from those at the big league level while learning what goes into the daily grind to get and stay there.

"I loved it. It was a good experience for me," he said. "It was good to get to know [the players] a little bit and pick their brain and learn from them."

The crash course into Yankeedom seems to be paying off for the game's No. 72 prospect, who is pitching comfortably for the Trenton Thunder. It also helps a great deal that he is all business every fifth day, zeroing in on the task at hand long before he throws the first pitch.

"It's game on," said Trenton pitching coach Jose Rosado. "You can tell once he starts playing catch. Even when we sit down and try to get a game plan on how to attack hitters, you can tell he's all about business as soon as he gets in that room. I love the kid. I think he's got a great future."

Sheffield has lasted five-plus innings in each of his four starts this season, going 1-0 with a 2.82 ERA and 21 strikeouts over 22 1/3 frames.

Video: Justus Sheffield picks up his sixth strikeout

In keeping with the theme, he's gained greater comfort in his changeup, allowing him to work with the pitch in abundance this season while continuing to hone the shape of his slider.

Now at ease in his new organization and more determined with each start, Sheffield knows he can continue to progress by simply doing what he's capable of when called upon.

"I feel like one of the biggest things is patience, sticking with the process and continuing to develop and get better," said Sheffield. "Control the things you can only control because there's only so much you can do in this game. ... That's going out there every fifth day healthy, competitive and giving my team a chance to win that day."

"He works hard for it," Rosado added. "So far, it's been great. It's all positive things that I can say about Justus. He wants to learn. I'm happy to have him on my staff."

In brief

Off-road package: Harrisburg outfielder Andrew Stevenson has hit safely in 12 of his first 20 games this season with nine of those being multi-hit efforts, highlighted by back-to-back five-hit performances versus Hartford. The Nationals' No. 5 prospect has reached base in all eight roads games in which he has appeared and is hitting .472 with a 1.108 OPS away from FNB Field. The former second-round pick entered the season hitting .316 in 92 road games.

Heavy duty: Indians No. 2 prospect Francisco Mejia has been impressive on both offense and defense in his Double-A debut. Behind the dish, MLB.com's No. 2 ranked catching prospect has thrown out five of 10 runners trying to steal on him and has only allowed one passed ball. On the offensive end, he is hitting .333 through his first 17 games with Akron and is tied for third in the league with seven doubles. Mejia, the No. 36 prospect in the game, also notched his first Double-A home run versus rehabbing Orioles closer Zach Britton.

Picking up: After a slow start to the season, Tigers No. 2 prospect Christin Stewart is heating up at the plate in Erie. In his first 11 games, the SeaWolves outfielder hit .237 with a BABIP of just .214. Over the next 11, Stewart batted .318, including a seven-game hit streak and his first four-hit performance since his first week of Rookie ball back in June 2015. There has been an uptick in strikeouts for Stewart, however, who whiffed 14 times over his last 11 games, opposed to the seven K's in the first 11 contests.

Craig Forde is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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