By: Rich Arleo
CBS Local Sports, in our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature, profiles one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.
Francisco Lindor, Shortstop, Cleveland Indians
2014 season (Minors): 126 G, 507 AB, .276 BA, 11 HR, 62 RBI, 28 SB, .727 OPS
Drafted in the first round of the 2011 Draft eighth overall as a 17-year-old, Lindor has rapidly risen through the Tribe’s Minor League system, flashing his superior defense and incredible speed all the way from Low A ball through to Triple-A in 2014, and he appears to be on the cusp of the Major Leagues at just 21 years old … though his Indians’ debut won’t come right away.
Cleveland has said that Lindor will at least start the season in the Minor Leagues, and the club has plenty of reasons to do so. Lindor has just 38 games played at the Triple-A level, so the Indians would like to get him just a bit more experience even though his numbers as the Minor League’s highest level were almost right on par with what he was doing at all other levels.
Lindor has some power, though it’s more line drive and gap power, which should be expected for a 175-pound shortstop. On the offensive side, he truly shines on the base paths, as he stole 28 bases in 126 games last year and at least 25 in the previous three years. Lindor does need to work on getting better jumps, and that will come with time, but he was caught stealing 16 times in Triple-A last year. Nonetheless, the speed is there, as evidenced by an inside-the-park home run he hit this spring — one manager Terry Francona said would’ve cleared the wall if not for the wind out in the Cactus League.
As for his defense, Lindor is a star with the glove as well. Some scouts have even gone as far as saying he has the best defense in the Minor Leagues, displaying all the facets one would want in a defender — strong arm, great glove and incredible range.
So what’s keeping him from starting the year with the Indians? Well, aside from the age and inexperience at the high levels of the Minors discussed before, there’s one other factor — Jose Ramirez. While most consider the 22-year-old a placeholder for Lindor, there’s no denying the fact that Ramirez has impressed at the big league level. He hit .262, stole 10 bases and played a strong shortstop in 68 games with the Indians last year, and has been red-hot early on in spring. Through nine spring games, Ramirez is 10-for-29 (.345) with a homer and four RBIs. Meanwhile,
Lindor has been no slouch in the Cactus League, going 8-for-28 (.286) with that inside-the-parker, a triple and three doubles in the same time frame. But with the slightly more experienced Ramirez playing well, the Indians have the luxury of sending their future star down, at least for a little while, to get some more time at the Triple-A level before getting his final test in the big leagues.
Rich Arleo is a freelance sports writer and editor who covers Major League Baseball and fantasy sports. You can follow him on Twitter, @Rarleo.