45 Prospects in 45 Days: Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor
Shortstop Francisco Lindor is Cleveland’s top prospect, a 20-year-old 2011 first-round pick out of Montverde, Florida. Later that summer Lindor saw his first taste of professional ball as a 17-year-old in the Low-A New York-Penn League, and was immediately tested in his first full season in 2012 in the Class A Midwest League. In 2013, at just 19 years of age, Lindor played 21 games in Double A and walked (14) twice as much as he struck out (7). This quick ascent across three levels speaks to Lindor’s maturity and approach, two characteristics scouts rave about that should help him reach the Majors very soon.
Lindor places in the top 10 of all prospects ranked at MLB.com (10th), Baseball Prospectus (6th) and ESPN (6th). All three sources rave about Lindor’s makeup, with BP’s Jason Parks stating:
What makes Lindor special is the ease with which he plays baseball, as he shows an intrinsic feel for all aspects of the game, which could allow his already highly projected tools to play beyond their assumed limitations.
By “assumed limitations” I believe Parks is referring to Lindor’s lack of power or future plus hit tool. Basically, he doesn’t have Javier Baez’s potential at the plate. But Parks says Lindor is likely to reach Cleveland this year and “be a fixture at the major-league level for the next 15 years.”
While Lindor’s offense doesn’t matchup with his defense, he’s a switch hitter with an advanced approach at the plate, which will help against tougher pitchers. Keith Law says Lindor is ready for the Majors now:
Lindor is a plus runner and switch-hitter with a good swing on both sides of the plate; his right-handed swing is a little better, as he keeps his weight back longer, but his platoon splits flipped this year from 2012 and I think he’ll produce against all types of pitching. His feel for the game has always been his greatest strength — he has instincts and game awareness, and when you combine that with soft hands and a plus arm, you get a Gold Glove-type of defender at a critical position.
Lindor doesn’t look like a power hitter but has exceptional lower-half strength and his swing will allow him to eventually get to that power even though he doesn’t finish with a ton of loft. Even at 12-15 homers, which is probably a neutral projection for him, he’ll be an All-Star thanks to grade-70 defense and OBPs up near .400 with plenty of doubles and 20-plus steals a year.
I didn’t include Lindor’s 2011 since it was only 20 plate appearances. Lindor’s six homers in 2012 are his most at any stop, but he hit for more doubles and triples at his next two stops. He might top out at 15 home runs farther down the line, but he should consistently be able to put up good amounts of doubles and triples. His walk and strikeout rates are just marvelous, especially considering his age and (lack of) professional experience.
Only two projection systems are out that project Lindor with a full or close to season’s worth of plate appearances. They don’t project him to do too much in 2014 except excel on the basepaths. I think he’d be able to surpass the 7 percent walk rates and his OBP numbers listed here, though.
Lindor’s currently blocked at shortstop in Cleveland, and seeing that the Indians plan on contending this year it might be far-fetched to think he’ll be up this year. But Asdrubal Cabrera is scheduled to be a free agent after this season, so it looks like Lindor could have the shortstop keys handed to him in a year.
If that’s the case I wouldn’t expect Lindor to be mixed-league relevant yet, at least in roto leagues and 10- or 12-teamers. In deeper mixed head-to-head leagues he could be more valuable then. I see Lindor as similar to Elvis Andrus. Lindor’s shown more pop (.098 Iso compared to Andrus’s .086 in the minors) and better walk and strikeout rates, while Andrus was a bit more active stealing bases. Andrus went .267/.329/.373 for an 82 OPS+ and 33-of-39 on the bases as a 20-year-old rookie. In Lindor’s first full season or extended taste of the Majors I think he’d have similar numbers except with about a .350 OBP and fewer steals.