When the Indians selected Francisco Lindor 8th overall in the 2011 draft, he possessed a high floor and upside. Drafted out of Montverde, Florida, he was an accomplished shortstop but questions about how long it would take his bat to develop surrounded the young Puerto Rican. In his full season, Lindor has put rest to any doubt whether he will be one of the game’s brightest stars. Coming into 2013 he was ranked 20th by Marc Hulet, 9th by my colleagues at Bullpen Banter, and 8th by myself and early returns suggest he has staked his claim on next year’s top spot.
Lindor projects to be an elite defender, if he isn’t already. While not he’s a burner – his time from home to first is consistently a shade below four seconds, great but not excellent for the position – his defensive range can be attributed to the quickness of his first step, not his speed. His ability to covers yards of dirt in a single step is bolstered by his confidence using his backhand on balls hit towards third base. At 19 years old, his instincts actions at shortstop are remarkable making Mike Newman’s nickname for him – “Bruce Lee Lindor” – oddly fitting.
As one of the Minor Leagues’ best defenders, Lindor’s floor is immensely high. The bar he must clear to be an average hitter at short is well within his reach. In 2012, American League shortstops hit .255/.306/.368. With the 7.5 run positional adjustment granted to shortstops by Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and his defense, Lindor should have no difficultly becoming an average major leaguer.
Lindor is a gap-to-gap switch hitter with an advanced approach and burgeoning power. He prides himself on keeping his game simple. During a game his approach is to keep the ball up the middle of the field and he rarely sells out for power. He recognizes pitches well and infrequently expands the zone. He features more pop with his natural right-handed swing, as he told Dave Laurila in an interview last season.
In batting practice he was the only Mudcats hitter to hit a homerun to left field, arguably the hardest task in the minor leagues. According to Statcorner.com, Frawley Stadium home of the Wilmington Blue Rocks, has a three year weighted park factor for home runs by right-handed hitters of 55. Though, he and his teammates were obviously selling out to clear the wall during their last round of batting practice when his home run was hit.
To develop both swings Lindor takes the same amount of cuts from each side of the plate and keep both swings simple and similar. Though, they aren’t mirror images of one another. From the right hand side his body is slightly open to the pitcher and his leg kick to square his body is exaggerated. From the left, the leg kick is still present, but it is a feature of him closing a more open stance and less pronounced. His load is simple for both swings and his hands get the bat into the hitting zone efficiently. He’s a perfect two-hole with great bat control and a high on-base average.
As I mentioned when I ranked him first on my Top Arizona Prospects List, Lindor is noticeably more muscular now than he was in previous years. This off season he spent two months exclusively strength training and added 10 pounds of muscle. He strengthened his whole body with squats and deadlifts, but he specifically targeted gaining upper body strength. A month prior to Spring Training, he turned his focus to quickness and agility drills. The results of his work with obvious to the naked eye, but he also posted unprecedented strength scores for a middle infielder during Cleveland’s internal testing.
Last season, at 18, Lindor was the youngest player in the Midwest League, five and half months younger than Miguel Sano. During his stint there he posted an above average season offensive, a coup for one so young. Now, in his second full season, he is one of three 19 year olds in the Carolina League (High-A) and using his well-rounded game to dominate the league on offense and defense. Expect the Indians to promote him and demote Ronny Rodriguez after the California-Carolina League All-Star Game on June 18. Should Jurickson Profar, Oscar Taveras and Wil Myers lose their eligibility, Lindor has the inside track at becoming baseball’s next top prospect.