Justus Sheffield is part of the Mariners’ rotation, Justin Dunn could be and Gerson Bautista has an opportunity to be part of their bullpen. Thus, trades Seattle made with the New York teams after the 2018 season could heavily impact their 2020 season-opening staff.
Sheffield, the key return from the Yankees for James Paxton, struggled in both the majors and Triple-A last year, and was busted down to Double-A. Yet Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto said, “Sheff, it’s his time. … We think he is an every-fifth-day starter.”
Sheffield has always possessed a wipeout slider and good velocity, and Dipoto described a changeup that has greatly improved. What has held him back is fastball command, and the Mariners insist there have been marked improvements.
“He is going to pitch this year at 24, but has been on everyone’s radar so long that there is a feeling, ‘Is it ever going to happen for him?’ ” Dipoto said. “He’s only 24. And we are excited about his future.”
Dunn, who along with Bautista were the secondary return behind Jarred Kelenic when the Mets obtained Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, is in play for the rotation. But if recent Tommy John surgery alums Kendall Graveman and Taijuan Walker make it back for opening day, Dunn could be kept to provide length behind one or the other.
For Bautista, the issue also has been fastball command, but, “He has been among the most intriguing guys in spring training so far,” Dipoto said. “He is 97-99 [mph] with a much improved slider. Most importantly for Gerson he is in the strike zone. His stuff is unquestionable. It is some of the best stuff you will see. His future solely will be determined by how often he throws it over the plate.”