By now, every Indians fan has heard of Cleveland Indians shortstop and top prospect Francisco Lindor.
It’s kind of hard not to know who he is since he has taken the organization by storm since he was drafted in June of 2011. In almost two years’ time, Lindor has established himself as the heir apparent at shortstop for the Indians and one of the best prospects in all of baseball. He’s almost a legend in his own right.
That’s some pretty big hype and expectations for Lindor to fill, but then again Lindor is a different kind of player. He doesn’t accept things just being handed to him because of his natural talent and the big bonus he received when he signed with the Indians. He works as hard as anyone in the entire organization. From outside appearances, he acts like a player that went undrafted and received a minimal signing bonus.
“There is something he does every day and every week that I get fulfillment in sharing,” Indians Vice President of Player Development Ross Atkins said in a recent interview. “He pushed the envelope in the offseason and came in stronger and faster – and is already the strongest and fastest shortstop in our organization. He is stronger and quicker than Asdrubal Cabrera. He is just as committed as any player in our system, and when he is also the most talented that typically ends up as a good equation.”
If one didn’t know any better, the praise that Atkins bestowed upon Lindor may come off as sounding like hyperbole, but there is league-wide agreement about the shortstop’s potential.
Not just from the Indians themselves, but from scouts and executives for other teams. He is just a unique player that has talent pouring out of his body, yet has amazing work ethic and does whatever he can to help his team win on any given night.
At the moment, in six games for High-A Carolina, the 19-year old Lindor is hitting a blistering .458 (11-for-24) with 3 RBI and a league high 5 stolen bases. In his first full pro season last year at age 18 he hit .257 with 6 homers, 42 RBI, 27 stolen bases, and .707 OPS.
The offense is most certainly there and continues to improve, and as Lindor matures it could really flourish. But where he really shines is with his defense. Lindor is an exceptional fielder that plays Gold Glove caliber defense. He shows great lateral quickness, outstanding instincts, good athleticism, and plus hands and feet, and has such exceptional balance and footwork with an above average arm and lightning-quick release that is very accurate.
Seeing how advanced Lindor is at such a young age, the Indians plan to be aggressive with him. Lindor could be on the Major League radar sooner rather than later, so the Indians got an extended look at him with the big league club this spring during spring training.
They loved what they saw.
“He [took] a step forward in spring training and really performed well,” Atkins said. “[He went] into Major League spring training games and was not at all out of his element, which was really encouraging for us to see. He didn’t try to do too much and was not in awe of the environment, and he performed well.”
Lindor himself had a blast with the opportunity the Indians provided him and took a lot from the experience of playing in big league games for the first time, even if they were meaningless.
“It was awesome,” Lindor said. “At first, things sped up on me a little bit, but then the guys helped me and made it a lot better for me. I rolled over on a ball in one at bat and went to the dugout and the guys said don’t worry about it, it will be fine. That helped me a lot having them behind me.”
Lindor played in ten games with the Indians this spring and hit .292 (7-for-24), which is a lot of action for such an inexperienced player. The loss of shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and middle infielder Mike Aviles to the World Baseball Classic helped provide the opportunity to get Lindor playing time, but the Indians planned all along to get him some considerable time with the big league team.
Outfielder Michael Brantley really took Lindor under his wing, and the rest of the Indians players were very receptive to him.
“They are a great group of guys,” Lindor said. “They understand and know what I am going through, and they are trying to help me along the way.”
The experience with the big league club during spring training was but an appetizer of what the main course would be like when Lindor makes it to the big leagues someday. It was a sneak peek into what he is trying to accomplish with all of his hard work and determination.
“Most definitely,” Lindor said. “Whenever you are out there [on the big league field] it helps you realize this is what you are working for. It helps remind you that I am here to make it to the bigs and help the Tribe win a World Series championship.”
Lindor came into the new season in excellent shape. He is up ten pounds from the 175 he weighed in at last season and is now a solid 185 pounds. With the muscle he has added, he looks stronger at the plate, and the hope is it will also help prevent him from wearing down over the course of the season because of the grind and physical demands of the position he plays.
With the season now barely a week old, Lindor is just focused on getting better and doing what he likes best: winning.
“Everything is great and awesome,” Lindor said. “I am enjoying every single second of this. God willing I will be a [Major League] shortstop and continue doing my thing. I just want to win. That’s the main goal. I want to win and I want to get better.”