CLEVELAND -- The Tribe focused on elite high school talent early in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft -- prospects committed to top-tier college programs like Vanderbilt, UCLA and LSU. Fortunately for the Indians, the call of professional baseball beat out higher education.
On Tuesday, the club signed second-round pick Grant Hockin, a high school right-hander, and third-round selection Bobby Bradley, a prep first baseman. The announcement comes one day after compensatory pick Justus Sheffield, a left-handed pitcher from the high school ranks, agreed to terms on a contract, and the same day they locked up their first-round pick, Bradley Zimmer.
MLB.com's Jim Callis also reports that the club is expected to sign fourth-round pick Sam Hentges on Thursday. Hentges -- another high school arm who pitched a shutout in the Minnesota Class-3A state championship game on Tuesday -- is expected to agree on a $700,000 signing bonus.
"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."
The Indians took Sheffield with the 31st overall pick, which they were allotted after losing pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez to the Orioles in free agency. Earlier this month, the Indians offered a $1.6 million signing bonus to the young southpaw, according to Callis.
Sheffield had already committed to follow his older brother Jordan, a freshman pitcher at Vanderbilt, and play college ball for the Commodores.
"I gave it a lot of thought going into college. Vanderbilt's a great school. They have a great coaching staff," Sheffield said. "It's always been my dream to play professional baseball. Having a brother that's going to Vanderbilt, that's kind of hard to walk away from him. But I spoke with him on the phone for a while and he pretty much told me to go with what my heart tells me what to do."
"We're glad he followed his heart," Grant said, smiling.
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. He went 10-0 with a 0.34 ERA as a senior, notching 131 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings pitched, while also batting .405 as a part-time center fielder.
As an overpowering, big-bodied lefty from the state of Tennessee, Sheffield has naturally drawn comparisons to Rays pitcher David Price -- one of the players he looks up to, as it turns out.
"He's a great role model. He lived about 30-45 minutes away from my hometown. He went to Vanderbilt, I committed to Vanderbilt," Sheffield said. "He's really competitive. I like to compare myself to him."
Hockin, a right-hander from Damien High School in California, is the grandson of Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew.
"We would watch the Home Run Derby with him and Mickey Mantle. So that was fun, just because they would go back and forth with each other," Hockin said. "[He talked] about life, and being the best person you can be. Be humble and stay within yourself."
Hockin went 9-3 with a 1.49 ERA during his senior season, holding opposing batters to a .199 average while registering 99 strikeouts to only 17 walks. He had committed to UCLA, but felt he was more than prepared to take on the challenge of the Minor Leagues.
How did he know?
"I was born ready," Hockin said with a chuckle.
Bradley was late to his own prom because he had been taking an extended batting practice with Grant down in his hometown of Gulfport, Miss.
"I'm glad I was late for prom," Bradley said, laughing.
"I tried to get him to go," Grant said. "He wanted to keep on hitting, so I was going to keep on watching."
Bradley had previously planned on signing with LSU unless he was taken within the first two rounds of the Draft. The Indians, however, offered $912,500 to get the deal done, according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo -- $372,900 over the pick's slotted value.
"LSU always has a great atmosphere, great fans, one of the top programs in the country," Bradley said. "It was hard, but I'm glad I'm an Indian now."
Sheffield, Hockin and Bradley will all fly out to Arizona on Wednesday and begin their professional careers with the AZL Indians. The Tribe has now reached a deal with 23 of its 42 selections in the 2014 Draft.
Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com.