This past year was only Justus Sheffield's first full season in the minors, but he was impressive enough -- and his ceiling is high enough -- to easily warrant a top 10 spot in our top Cleveland Indians prospects of 2016 list. He beat our perennial second-place finisher Brady Aiken by a vote of 96 votes (48%) to 57 votes (29%); one of our most decisive polls yet.
Sheffield is a relatively short pitcher at 5-foot-10, but what he lacks in size and potential power he makes up for with accuracy and a variety of solid offspeed pitches. So far in his career, that includes a good curveball and slider, with a changeup that could be another weapon in the future even if it is not there yet. Depending on how well his changeup develops over the next few years, he has the potential to be a No. 3 starter when he hits the majors sometime around 2018.
In Class-A last season, Sheffield walked only 6.9 percent of the batters he faced, while striking out 24.9 of them. He carried a 3.31 ERA and a 2.99 FIP over 127.2 innings for the Lake County Captains, which was enough for him to be named a mid-season All-Star.
Sheffield also ran into some trouble prior to last season when he pleaded guilty to charges of underage drinking and criminal trespass in January after he and two friends broke into a house of a man he believed was "messing around with his girlfriend." As part of a plea deal, if Sheffield remained out of trouble for a year his record would be expunged. January 22 would mark the one-year anniversary of his guilty plea.
With past issues (hopefully) behind him, and the road to the majors clear, the next few years should be bright for Sheffield, who will be 20 when the 2016 season rolls around. MLB Pipeline has him ranked as the Indians sixth overall prospect (third overall pitcher), and John Sickels of Minor League Ball has him ranked sixth as well with a B+/B grade.