Earlier this month, MLB.com's Jim Callis reported that the Indians had agreed with Sheffield on a $1.6 million signing bonus -- a clear indicator of how the organization coveted his arm.
"With any of our picks in the first 10 rounds," said Brad Grant, Cleveland's director of amateur scouting, "it's extremely important under the new system to ensure that you're able to sign them, and that you can work towards an understanding. So, I think with any of the picks, obviously there's a lot that goes into it to ensure that they're interested in signing."
A 6-foot-1, 180-pound left-hander out of Tullahoma High School in Tennessee, the 18-year-old Sheffield was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year last season, joining the likes of Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Rick Porcello. However, with a commitment to join his older brother and play college baseball at Vanderbilt, some wondered whether the call of professional baseball was enough to lure Sheffield away from family ties.
But it turned out to be enough.
"The area scout, Chuck Bartlett, he talked to Justus about a week ago," said Travis Sheffield, Justus' father, after Day 1 of the Draft. "The last words Chuck told Justus I believe were, 'I believe in you. You've got to believe in me.' That was it. It's surprising that it's the Indians, but it's not because, when it's those last words, we put them up on the radar."
As a senior, Sheffield went 10-0 with a video-game-esque 0.34 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings pitched. He also spent time in center field for Tullahoma, batting .405 with 13 doubles and 16 RBIs. He was ranked as the 39th-best prospect in this year's Draft class by MLB.com.
"Justus Sheffield is a very athletic left-handed pitcher," Grant said. "He's another guy with a really good track record. He played for Team USA, played in all the showcases over the summer."
The Tribe has signed 19 of its 42 selections in the 2014 Draft.