2013 Indians Top 60 Prospects: #1 SS Francisco Lindor
March 17, 2013
1. Francisco Lindor - Shortstop
Born: 11/14/1993 - Height: 5’11” - Weight: 175 - Bats: Switch - Throws: Right
History: Lindor was selected in the 1st round of the 2011 Draft out of Montverde Academy High School (FL), and had a commitment to attend Florida State but signed with the Indians for $2.9 million. He was the first high school player the Indians selected in the 1st round of the draft since 2001. He was born in Caguas, Puerto Rico and then at 12-years of age his family moved to the Orlando, FL area to help improve his English and baseball skills so he could have a better opportunity to play baseball professionally. In 2009 he helped his Under-16 Team USA squad to a gold medal in Taiwan by hitting .500 with three triples and six steals, in August of 2010 he won the home run hitting contest at the Aflac All-American Game in San Diego’s Petco Park, and in 2011 was a Rawlings First Team All-American. He has some baseball in the family genes as his father played semi-pro baseball in Puerto Rico. He finished last season 13th in the Midwest League in at bats (490), 5th in runs (83), 10th in walks (61), and 13th in stolen bases (27).
Strengths: Lindor is a confident and accomplished special defender that is a no doubt bona fide Major League caliber shortstop prospect. His true ability at shortstop that is so advanced at such a young age is something that is rarely seen, and he has all the intangibles and instincts to be an impact defender that are natural and just not taught. He is effortless in the field and makes things look easy with his excellent quickness, good athleticism, and plus hands and feet. He showcases easy range with very good instincts, a quick first step, and pre-pitch positioning that help him get to a lot of balls most shortstops don’t get to. He has exceptional balance with outstanding footwork when making the pivot on the double play, and has an above average arm with a lightning quick release that is very accurate. His defensive skills are exemplary and he had just 18 errors in 122 games all of last season, which is incredible for an 18-year old playing in a full season Single-A league. He is a Gold Glove caliber infielder that if he stays healthy and continues to progress as expected should be the Indians’ shortstop for many years to come in the very near future.
Lindor’s defense is ahead of his offense, but he really shows a lot of skills and potential with the bat where he could become at least an average bat and maybe even impact quality at the Major League level. He puts up great at bats and has a really professional approach with good instincts for someone his age, and has solid hitting skills with quick, strong hands, good footwork throughout his swing, and above average bat speed from both sides of the plate. He just has a good overall feel for hitting where he uses a line drive approach, works to the middle of the field, controls the zone well, and pounds the gaps. He has some developing power with the ability to drive the ball into the gaps with some authority and even over the wall pull side, and as he gets stronger and refines his swing he could potentially have the average power of a Jose Reyes-type who can knock out 12-17 homers a year and maybe even top out around 20 on occasion.
Lindor brings so many other intangibles and abilities to impact a game beyond his defense and offense. He is an above average runner on the basepaths who is aggressive and has good instincts, and could end up a solid base stealer in the future. He impresses with how hard he works and how serious he takes practice time as he is a baseball rat at the field everyday spending countless hours working on fundamentals and his fielding, and it is unbelievable how consistent he has been so far as a professional with his routines and his preparation. He is very focused on the process and just looks like he has been playing professionally for years. He is very competitive and his makeup is off the charts, and he brings a lot of energy with the upbeat way he plays as he truly looks like he is having fun and is always smiling. He may be a big bonus player as a former first round pick, but he is humble and works just as hard as any other player with his relentless work ethic. He speaks good English thanks to attending boarding school when he came to the states.
Going into last season the Indians knew Lindor’s defense was the real thing and it could play right now at the big league level. The question has always been about the bat as there was a lot of projection involved with it as a 17-year old coming out of high school, and he impressed with the stick in 2012. Personnel inside and outside the organization were fascinated with the quality and consistency of his at bats the entire season. He showed the ability to drive the ball and make consistent, hard contact, had surprising power for a player his size, and really showed a good plan and advanced approach when he stepped into the batter’s box. On the surface, his numbers were not overly impressive, but what made them so special is he was very young and was facing players that were mostly three to four years older than him yet he showed such a good approach and advanced plate discipline skills. To really have a true understanding of his performance you had to have seen him play and monitored him day in and day out, and it is just the consistency with his play and his pre-game work that was outstanding from start to finish last season. He is just so focused on the process and for someone just barely 18-years old last season to be like that just blew people away throughout the industry.
Opportunities: For as impressive as Lindor is, he still has a long way to go. The youth is definitely one of the reasons everyone is excited about him, but there are also a lot of at bats, reps, and seasoning that still has to come before he is Major League ready. Last season he hit .285 with a .778 OPS in 60 games before the All Star break, but he looked worn down in the second half as he hit just .228 with a .633 OPS in 62 games. He needs to learn more about himself as a player and as a hitter and how to play the game with the type of intensity that he plays throughout a full season and not wear himself out. He also needs to work hard on his strength and conditioning program as the extra strength he gets from that along with the natural strength he will gain as he matures should help his body withstand the rigors of a five to six week spring training and six to seven month season.
The Indians really like Lindor’s aggressiveness at the plate, though they want to try and get him to refine his approach a little to tone down on that aggressiveness some so he can draw more walks and is swinging at pitches he can hit. He did a good job last season of trying to stay within his zone and not swing at the pitchers’ pitches, and is a part of his game that he got better at over the course of the year as a hitter. Now he just has to be more consistent with that type of approach, his swing, and his effort level by just playing so he can get the necessary experience. One adjustment he is working on at the plate is hitting more off his back foot in order to stay balanced and improving the consistency of his swing by repeating it better. Most of his defensive miscues are mental lapses, so he just needs to learn what it means to be physically ready for every play day in and day out, learning his internal clock, and learning his physical thresholds. He has still only reached Low-A, and even though he impressed last season and the future looks unlimited, he has a long way to go before he reaches the big leagues, which means a lot of opportunities for injuries and poor performance to derail his career.
Outlook: The Indians certainly found themselves a gem with Lindor as he has unbelievable makeup and maturity and of course natural ability on the field. With the state of the system after recent graduations and trades, the Indians really needed a player like him to carry the torch for the system, and so far he has certainly lived up to expectations and then some. The Indians really did their homework on him as they had followed him for the last two and a half years before he was drafted and did not miss a showcase game in his draft year, so they were well prepared when he fell to them on draft day and was an easy selection as he was one of the top three players on their board going into the draft. He plays so well against any competition he faces and never looks overwhelmed, and he really held his own last season in the Midwest League where he was the second youngest player in the league. He is smooth and the game just comes a little easier to him than most, and he has only scratched the surface of what he can be. At this point the Indians just need to pray he stays healthy as that appears to be the only thing that could prevent him from reaching the big leagues and becoming everything he has been hyped up to become. After playing in his first full season he is now ready to move at a quicker pace. He is expected to open the season at High-A Carolina and spend a majority if not all the season there, and if the bat continues to come he could find his way to Cleveland by the end of 2014 or early part of 2015.
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Ubaldo is gone next year and Masterson is likely gone after 2014. Bauer and Carrasco have TOR potential, but that's it for impact guys likely to pitch at the ML level over the course of Bourn's and Swisher's contracts.
The indians are mostly drafting scouting and signing there own talent without having to part with integral pieces to acquire it. That speaks volumes for the franchise future