Brotherly tandems are nothing new to the amateur prospect world, nor are dynamic one-two punches at a single high school, but Jordan and Justus Sheffield are unique and will bring a lot of attention to Tullahoma (Tenn.) High over the next two years. Jordan, a 2013 righthander, and Justus, a 2014 lefty, are top prospects in their respective classes and recently took the mound at USA Baseball’s Breakthrough Series to show their potential. But this outing would be a little different. At the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, in a game televised on MLB Network, the Sheffield pair was in opposite dugouts.
“It’s weird seeing him across the field in a different dugout, but that relationship is still there,” Jordan Sheffield said. “I still want him to do well even if it’s against us.”
They stood together after the game answering questions, showing the close relationship they have. Both aren’t real tall, but have physicality to their frames. Jordan has about an inch on his younger brother and is lean with broad shoulders while Justus is just a little bit thicker throughout.
The Breakthrough Series is a showcase for high school players from urban areas across the United States. Most of the participants are not regulars on the showcase circuit and this event provides them with an opportunity to be seen by scouts and college recruiters. The event had a slightly different format this year, one that likely set up the brothers’ face off.
In its fifth year, the event has typically had four teams representing the organizations that invited them: the Major League Scouting Bureau, the MLB Urban Youth Academy, Mentoring Viable Prospects (MVP) and the Chicago White Sox. This year, the organizations still selected players, but they were pooled together and drafted onto four different teams: the Giants, Monarchs, Stars and Stripes. Day Two’s first game was televised and featured Jordan Sheffield’s Stars versus Justus Sheffield’s Stripes.
Both took the mound in the fifth inning with Jordan working one inning while Justus tossed two. The elder Sheffield sat 88-91 mph and touched 92-93 with his fastball while also throwing a high-70s curveball. He allowed one hit and one walk in his inning of work. Justus Sheffield was also in the 88-91 range and touched 92 while showing a good curveball in the low 70s. He struck out four, walked one and allowed one hit in two innings.
“I felt pretty good, felt like the ball was jumping out of my hand,” Justus Sheffield said. “I had to follow through a little bit more. I haven’t pitched in a couple weeks so I had to get back into it.”
Jordan Sheffield’s strength is typically in his fastball-changeup combination, but it wasn’t working in the bullpen before he entered so he stuck with his curveball for an offspeed pitch.
Tullahoma High isn’t a particularly large school with about 1,000 students, but the Wildcats already have two alums that went on to be first-round draft picks. Dewon Brazelton went from Tullahoma to Middle Tennessee State where he became the third overall pick in 2002. Two years later, righthander Bryan Morris was picked in the third round, but went to Motlow State (Tenn.) CC for a year and went 26th overall in 2005.
“We’re just a little public school and I was just telling someone the other day, if at some point Jordan and Justus can be first-rounders, we could have four in the span of 20 years,” head coach Brad White said.
White played against Brazelton and coached Morris and believes the Sheffield brothers are more advanced than the other two were at the same age. Brazelton was a late-bloomer, developing into a top prospect after three years of college and White said Morris had the strongest worth ethic of the group, but he sees a bright future for the latest arms to come through the program.
White and his team have one more year with the two at the front of the rotation and the Wildcats are looking to get over a postseason hurdle. The last three seasons they have lost the game that would send them to the state tournament by one run.
“If we make it to state I say we have a really good shot,” Jordan Sheffield said. “It’s just getting there.”
Jordan has committed to Vanderbilt, but Justus won’t tip his hand on his preference yet. He is looking at several Southeastern Conference programs, but doesn’t want want to choose Vanderbilt just because of his brother. For now, they’re focused on improving their game and winning a state championship, but White has issued a challenge that he thinks is necessary for his team to make it.
“My challenge for our team is for everyone not named Sheffield to take it upon themselves to be the man and not expect them to get it done,” he said. “And for my two guys named Sheffield, they have to step up and be leaders. If we can put those things together, we can have a really special team.”
• After standing out for his plate discipline and hustle at the Tournament of Stars and Team USA 18-and-under trials, Ro Coleman (Simeon Career Academy, Chicago) continued to grow on scouts and college recruiters. He checked in at 5-foot-2, 145 pounds, but showed good bat-to-ball skills by not swinging and missing in two games. He said his top three choices for college are Louisiana State, Miami and Vanderbilt. Coleman will be part of an interesting middle infield this spring at Simeon. Shortstop Marshawn Taylor was also at the event and made a very good play, ranging to his left to field a ball behind second base and get the runner by a step.
• Touki Toussaint, a 2014 righthander, is verbally committed to Miami and already jumps out because of his frame. He is 6-feet, 188 pounds with broad shoulders, long arms and big hands. His fastball was 89-91 while his curveball was in the low 70s but remains a work-in-progress at this time. He threw two innings on Day Two and struck out two while allowing only one walk.
• In addition to the Sheffield brothers, several other pitchers showed intriguing arm strength at the event. Righthander Akeem Bostick, a rising senior at West Florence High in Florence, S.C., threw his fastball anywhere from 86-92 mph. He has a lanky build at 6-foot-4 and 176 pounds and is more of a thrower than a pitcher right now, mixing in an occasional curveball in the mid-70s. Righthander Joe Jimenez from the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy has a strong, heavy build at 6-foot-2 and 244 pounds. He has an easy delivery and threw his 88-91 mph fastball from a low three-quarter arm slot. Righthander Devin Williams from Hazelwood (Mo.) West High, threw his 85-88 mph fastball from a low three-quarter arm slot and the pitch showed a lot of late sink and run. He also showed a lot of confidence in his 74-76 mph changeup but his soft curveball needs work. Righthander Orlando Meza from Great Oak High in Temecula, Calif., is a bit undersized at 6 feet and 175 pounds, but repeats his compact delivery well and threw a lot of strikes. His fastball sat in the 87-90 mph range with good run and he mixed in a 75-77 mph slider. Righthander Jeremiah Muhammad from Franklin High in Somerset, N.J., threw his fastball in the 87-90 mph range and will be an interesting follow for the 2014 draft.
• The fastest 60-yard dash times at the event were run by outfielder Denz’l Chapman from Serra High in Gardena, Calif., (6.44 seconds), second baseman Silento Sayles from Port Gibson (Miss.) High (6.52 seconds) and outfielder Matthew McPhearson from Riverside Baptist High in Upper Marlboro, Md., (6.55 seconds).
Contributing: Conor Glassey