The Cincinnati Reds have signed left-handed pitcher Justus Sheffield to a minor league contract. Sheffield has pitched in parts of five big league seasons, most recently with the Seattle Mariners in 2022.

Justus Sheffield has not pitched in 2024. During the 2023 season he was in Triple-A with both Seattle and Atlanta. He also made one appearance, on a rehab assignment, in Double-A while with Atlanta. While pitching in Tacoma early in 2023 he posted a 14.04 ERA in 8.1 innings while giving up 16 hits and 11 walks while striking out just four batters. Seattle released him at the end of April.

A week later he signed with Atlanta and spent the first month in extended spring training. On June 9th he was sent to Triple-A Gwinnett. He did pitch better there than he did while in Tacoma, but the results were not good – just better. He made 11 starts and two relief appearances while with the Stripers. In his 54.1 innings he posted a 6.63 ERA with 57 hits allowed, seven homers, 34 walks, and he had 56 strikeouts. Following the year he became a free agent.

After he joined Atlanta’s organization last season they changed up some of his pitch usage. Atlanta had him throw more 4-seam fastballs – though it still wasn’t many of them, going from 1.5% to 8.0%. They also really cut down on his 2-seam fastball rate, dropping from 43.7% with Seattle down to 27.3%. The slider usage dropped from 54.3% to 48.0%. It was the change up that saw big movement in terms of usage. With Seattle in the month he was in Tacoma he threw a change up 0.5% of the time. In the four months he was in the minor leagues with Atlanta he threw it 17.0% of the time. Interestingly, his fastball velocity (on both the 2-seamer and the 4-seamer) dropped off 1.6 MPH after joining Gwinnett.

As noted above, the results were better after joining a new organization, but they were still quite poor. It wasn’t necessarily the quality of the pitches themselves that were the problem as much as it was his inability to throw them for strikes with any sort of consistency. Opponents did find more success against his 2-seamer and change up than they did against his 4-seamer and slider. Perhaps a shift to being more of a 2-pitch guy with just those two offerings could be beneficial – if he can increase the frequency in which he throws his 4-seamer for strikes – last season after joining Atlanta’s farm system it was just 46.8% of the time.

The Reds have assigned Sheffield to the complex level Reds out in Goodyear. Given that he hasn’t pitched in games this year this is likely just to get him ready to join an upper-level club once he gets what is basically a spring training ramp up.

You can see the career stats for Justus Sheffield here.

29 Responses

  1. Nick in NKY

    I seem to remember that Sheffield was a highly regarded prospect at one point; always seems like a decent idea to kick the tires on such a guy and see what he can maybe do. Especially with the seeming regression of Ashcraft and the developing trade market, guys like Sheffield can be found money if they can put together a serviceable repertoire, even if it’s just for a few months. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    Reply
    • MuddyCleats

      A former first rd draft pick and with a Vandy/Coach Johnson connection. His older brother, Jordan, pitched at Vandy, and Justus was a Vandy commit. However, I don’t think he played at Vandy?? Nevertheless, both worked in and with the Vandy Program and Coaching Staff

      Reply
  2. RedsGettingBetter

    When I read the headline was excited for a second, I think it was “the Reds get Garret Crochet” … The Reds and their weird signings…
    This guy should be assign to Chattanooga because triple-A wouldn’t make sense after releasing Bruihl recently with a lot better value…

    Reply
    • BhamRedsFan

      I think it’s fairly obvious Bruihl had some type of release trigger in his contract since he signed an MLB deal 24 hours later

      Reply
    • Jason Franklin

      If the Reds trade for Crochet this early, it would be extra costly. Yet, he is an ace just waiting to be had by a contender. The Reds should gamble if the price is right (even if it is three top 20 guys).

      Reply
    • jmb

      He was highly touted at one time, but never produced in the bigs. With Williamson’s return pushed back, this is just some cheap insurance. But with Richardson not doing so well, Phillips stinking, and Petty hot and cold; with Greene’s and Lodolo’s injury track records; with Abbott’s innings limit; and with Montas sucking, Krall needs to get busy and get a starter or two.

      Reply
      • Hanginwithem

        Agree. Effective MLB level pitching should be priority, now. But hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with signings like this only guarantee a repeat of last year.

    • MuddyCleats

      Agree on Crochet; Reds could us some SP help. Chi Sox Vaughn, Sheets & others might b good adds also?
      Had the privilege to umpire several of Sheffield ‘s LL, Middle School & HS games. He’s a good athlete- good family! Hopefully he can turn things around w/ Cincy

      Reply
  3. MK

    Reds love those former 1st round draft picks. Good signing. Hopefully new sets of eyes and voices can get this guy where ne needs to be.Not much some lose here, minor league pay and coaching time. Might have oldest pitching staff in ACL with Sheffield and Blandino.

    Reply
    • Jason Franklin

      This is slightly off-subject, but remember the whining that Ben Lively did after leaving the Reds? Saying how the team didn’t seem to know what to do with him. Of course, now he is kicking butt for the Guardians.

      Reply
      • DaveCT

        I believe that was Levi Stoudt. That eould be the just DFA’d Levi Stoudt.

      • Jason Franklin

        @Dave … I think I am getting old. My brain not work well no more. 🙂

      • MuddyCleats

        Yeah, unfortunately the Reds don’t have a good track record of turning guys around. In contrast, see Remlinger, Gausman, Wood and Hoffman now w/ Philly. All left Cincy & pitched better.

  4. Mike W

    Another stupid acquisition that will probably be brought up before we know it after sending someone else down that is doing fine. Just play your starting 9 Bell, rotate your SPs and minimize daily usage of your RPs. Leave well enough alone. You’ve managed two weeks in a row as you should have the last 5 years, leaving starting hitters in against left or right handed pitchers. Bunting to sacrifice people over or for a hit. Now just make sure your runners don’t try and steal needlessly and take us out of an inning. Just manage as pro managers do and have done for a long time. It works. You have the parts, let them play. And Red’s front office, don’t piddle around. Don’t waste your time with other team’s cast offs. Develop your own draft picks and let your major leaguers go after W’s ! Let’s go Reds!

    Reply
    • Jonathan

      Mike W – there is no reason to believe that is going to happen. he is going to go to AAA or Extended Spring Training. If he turns out, he could be a big plus. Kevin Gausman, Jake Arrieta, and Michael Wacha have all had their careers turn around by a change of scenery and more development. Some players click with different coaches. No different in the business realm. Different employees perform better under different managers/leaders than others.

      Reply
    • Aaron

      I dont understand what you are trying to say here. You clearly are dissing on Bell and his unwillingness to run the team the way you want it ran (but somehow claiming he is doing it correctly the past two weeks?), but you are also slamming this MINOR LEAGUE signing as if it is directly caused or influenced by David Bell? You go on a rant about how Bell needs to handle the offense, on a post literally about minor league pitching. IF ITS SO EASY WHY AREN’T YOU DOING IT AND MAKING MILLIONS, oh maybe its not that easy….?!

      Your entire last sentence.. so no FA signings ever right? Cant sign people off waivers to fill minor league gaps right? Can only use draft picks, and they BETTER hit even though theyre 18-21 y/o…. My god brother, at least think through it first, maybe you’re not the smartest guy in the room

      Reply
      • docmike

        Some folks on here will try and find any reason to dump on Bell. They probably go onto news sites, find an article about world hunger, and find a way to relate it to David Bell.

  5. Mauired

    Nice depth move. Still 28. Could be a decent relief pitcher.

    Reply
  6. AMDG

    Wow, hard to believe it’s been a decade since Sheffield was a high floor, low ceiling, mid-to-bottom of the rotation draft prospect.

    As a pro, it seems he’s given up too many hits and walks to reach that draft projection.

    L’ville’s roster seems full of older AAA and AAAA types, where Sheffield should fit right in. And who knows, maybe he can pitch well enough to enough to merit a cup of coffee or two in Cincy?

    Reply
    • Aaron

      Never hurts to have those guys who have bounced back and forth their entire career (without much success) but still stick with it in the clubhouse with a bunch of young players who are just like they were back in the day. Plenty of advice to be learned from those who just barely got there and what they wish theyd done different.

      Reply
  7. Steven Ross

    If he pitches in a high level situation and performs well, I’ll be more than mildly surprised. Actually, doubt I ever see him.

    Reply
  8. LDS

    What many characterize as depth moves and justify as everyone does it, I see as Krall still not stepping to the plate. I’m okay with this signing though I doubt he ever amounts to even a decent AAA player. Krall has thus far failed completely at building a competitive ML club. The Reds have their moments and they aren’t boring. Sometimes their little league antics are actually hilarious, particularly their base running, both good and bad. But that’s not winning division titles and playoff games with this approach. Time to bulk up the team and change management. And owners for that matter.

    Reply
    • Aaron

      Theyre 2 games below .500, over 60 games into the season. How is that not competitive? It is quite literally the definition of competitive. Only 4 teams in the NL have a record above .500 (as of 2 days ago may have changed).

      ROY candidate Noelvi Marte is suspended half a season, Matt Mclain is out for the year, CES has been out for a while and still will be, our All-star closer has fallen back to earth, Lodolo has missed multiple starts, Brandon williamson is still hurt in AAA, Friedl broke his wrist, Conor Philips decided to do god knows what and be unplayable…

      That is an absolutely massive amount of production you were planning on to the start the season that literally has to be filled in on the fly. How has he failed? Should he have predicted every single one of those things? All I remember is everyone complaining about too many infielders… looks like its a good thing he kept india and signed Candelario

      Reply
      • LDS

        The Reds were projected no better than 3rd with everyone you mentioned available. And that only 4 teams have records above .500 is the definition of competitive. It’s the definition of mediocrity – some the Castellini Reds have actively pursued and subsequently perfected under Bell.

    • Hanginwithem

      It seems to be a matter of perspective on this site. Some have seen championship teams firsthand and what it took to build them. Others, entire generations, have only the last thirty years or so upon which to build their assessments. Comments, by some, that are meant to be positive and hopeful and expressing faithfulness in the home team come off as sounding like wishful thinking (at best) and the same old excuses (at worst) to others.
      If you’ve seen it and lived it, you know what it looks like and this ain’t it. From the top down, this Reds organization is a far cry from championship level. But I still root, anyway, mostly for the youngsters coming up, that they have long and successful careers. Probably just not here.

      Reply
      • LDS

        Good assessment @Hanginwithem. I’m one of the older fans that remember when the Reds were a serious franchise. As I’ve said before, Castellini makes some of us miss Marge Schott and that’s a terrible indictment of the current ownership. Simple choice, would you rather have Schott, Lou Pinella, and a World Series title, or Castellini and Bell and absolutely nothing beyond wasted careers.

  9. SultanofSwaff

    Looking at stats this morning…..

    Very low BABIPs—Friedl, Espinal. High BABIP—Fraley.

    Hurtubise with an average exit velocity of just 75mph. That’s not gonna cut it.

    Greene’s flyball % has stayed the same, but 19% of those are now infield popups, a dramatic increase year over year.

    Pitching to contact guys—Abbott’s K and BB % are both down, but HR rate is up. Nick Martinez is down in all 3 areas. Montas has a similar K rate as Abbott but he walks batters 3x as often. why? Hitters aren’t chasing his stuff out of the zone like they did in years when he was going well. Suter’s HR rate has returned to his career norm after a one year outlier in Coors field.

    Ashcraft is virtually identical to last year, even incrementally better on groundball and HR rates. His BABIP is up (.311) and the infield hit rate doubled so maybe it’s just a bit of bad luck, but what you likely have is a back of the rotation guy either way.

    Cruz has increased his K rate while significantly decreasing the HR rate. Moll has cut his BB rate in half while increasing his groundball rate to 56%.

    Oddly, Sims’ strand rate is 87%, yet the % of flyballs that go for home runs has exploded to ~18%. The pitch value of his slider is half of what it usually is. Probably doesn’t bode well.

    Buck Farmer could be in for some regression—middling K rate, abnormally low HR rate and above average 86% strand rate….although the babip is .279 so who knows.

    The only thing saving Diaz is the microscopic HR rate. Hitters have cut down on the pitches they swing at both in and out of the zone, which explains the decreased K rate and increased walk rate.

    Reply
  10. Steelerfan

    Actually saw him pitch in Lake County in the mid 2010s when he was still a prospect (and my kids were young enough we had season tickets). Gave up HRs in a park that did not seem to give up a ton, but pitched pretty well and seemed headed towards a career. Also was a good with the fans, throwing balls into the crowd, signing stuff, etc.

    This obviously moves no needles at all, but I wish him well.

    Reply
  11. RedBB

    He’s awful and has no chance of being any good at the MLB level… ZERO

    Reply

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