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Justus Sheffield has lived up to his pedigree after being a high draft pick in 2014

Perhaps the best left handed starter drafted since C.C. Sabathia …

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

A few years back, the Tribe's draft philosophy appeared to be risk adverse as many of the upper selections were college players that may not have had high ceilings, but also had high floors.

That philosophy has appeared to shift in the past few years. Evidence to support this is the 2014 draft when in the supplemental round, the Indians selected high school left-handed starter Justus Sheffield with the 31st overall pick. The Tullahoma, Tennessee native was signed after committing to Vanderbilt, and reported the Arizona Rookie League.

Having pitched a full high school season, his usage was limited and he made just eight appearances covering just 20.2 innings. He registered a 2.67 FIP and a 30.9 K% despite a 1.60 WHIP. The front office felt highly enough of Sheffield that he skipped Mahoning Valley (A-) altogether and began the 2015 season at Lake County. It wasn't just the front office that liked him. Prior to the 2015 season, Baseball America ranked him #4 in the Tribe system. John Sickels had him graded as B-/B and the #6 Tribe prospect heading into the season as well.

Sheffield did not disappoint this year. He opened the season with just one unearned run in his first 9.2 innings, allowing just six hits and striking out ten. He had a decent hiccup in his third start, and one more time each in May and June. But after that June 12 debacle (seven runs in just 3.1 innings), he kicked it into a high gear. In his final fourteen games his ERA was just 2.11, had a 662 OPS against, struck out 24% of the batters with just a 6.7 walk percentage.

His strikeout rate wasn't quite as high as in 2014, but he did pitch significantly more innings and dropped his walk rate by almost 40% while his LOB% jumped from 52.9% to 70.2%. He made the Midwest All-Star game and was ranked #11 in the Midwest League at the end of the season by Baseball America.

He averaged just a skosh under five innings per start on the season, which isn't a lot, but that is likely due to strict pitch counts, and it's not uncommon for young pitchers to average few innings per start. His very solid season has him currently ranked #6 for the Indians by in their pipeline. I believe he will have higher grades this offseason from most of the outlets and could potentially crack a few Top 200 lists as well.

I do not foresee the front office being overly aggressive with him in 2016 however. He definitely should open at Lynchburg and only be moved up to Akron if he really forces them to do so. Next year he will still only be 20 years old. My best estimate for his arrival in Cleveland is 2018.










Lake County (A)