I’ve had the opportunity to cover the Lake County Captains for over a month now, and I’ve seen some terrible baseball (such as a 10-game losing streak) and I’ve seen some really impressive baseball. But no player has impressed me as much as Francisco Lindor.
You can accuse me of jumping on the Lindor bandwagon, but I’ve seen the kid play day in and day out, and I’m convinced he’s the real deal.
Lindor was the Indians’ first-round pick of the 2011 draft. He’s a shortstop out of Puerto Rico who declined a full-scholarship offer to play for Florida State and spent last season with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers at the mere age of 17, where he hit .316 in five games.
Presently, Lindor is hitting .312 with an .833 OPS, 17 RBIs and a team-leading four home runs in 32 games with Lake County. He has quick hands and quick bat speed and totes a surprising amount of power for a guy with a smaller frame. He’s still growing though, and as he gets stronger, his power will increase. He has a good approach at the plate and shows good discipline for a young hitter, which is just another indication of his natural talent.
The thing is, Lindor’s offensive skills aren’t even his bread and butter. His defense is what has propelled him to become the organization’s top prospect. He’s an instinctive player who moves well to the ball and is quick to react. His fast release makes him a double-play threat and the way he turns two is reminiscent of Omar Vizquel.
The only hitch I’ve noticed in Lindor’s game is his arm, which looks a bit weak at times. This may be due to his footwork, which is still improving. As he perfects his footwork, his balance will complement his arm and put more umph behind his throws to first. In other words, there really is nothing to be concerned about when it comes to Lindor defensively.
The crazy thing about Lindor is that he’s only 18. He’s not Bryce Harper, but he’s got the upside and talent to be just as effective a player – but without the attitude.
Even at just 18 years old, Francisco Lindor is one of the most mature guys in the Lake County locker room. He’s there to play baseball, and few things trump that. He’s humble and quiet, and often times, I forget he’s even in the locker room at all.
There’s a story about Lindor’s days back in Mahoning Valley. Even though he had just been drafted in the first round, he would carry the team equipment and ask his manager what he could do to help around the field and locker room. Believe it or not, not many first-round draft picks will do that.
Captains’ manager David Wallace told me that Lindor has gone above and beyond to exceed his expectations and has showed an unreal level of maturity.
Lindor is all the things you want in a ballplayer. He plays hard, he’s confident but not cocky and most importantly, he still wants to get better. He’s arguably the best player in the Midwest League and he’s already exceeded the organization’s expectations. He’s a premier player, a prime prospect, and an incredibly respectful person.
Though I’ve said Bryce Harper has been great for baseball, I still firmly stand by the belief that a player should show humility. Lindor’s attitude on and off the field is what has impressed me the most. He’s the most mature 18-year-old I’ve met and if I hadn’t previously known he was the first draft pick, I would never have guessed it was him.
The reason I’m telling you this is a demand that you get out to Eastlake to watch Lindor play while you can. Travis Fryman, who does some hitting instruction within the Indians’ farm system, has reportedly said Lindor will remain with Lake County all season. However, Tony Wolters, the shortstop at high-A Carolina, has struggled significantly all season. The fear is that Lindor is young and there is no need to rush him through his development. While this is absolutely true, the results cannot be ignored. If Lindor is no longer being challenged come mid-season, there may be no choice but to promote him. Rushing him at a young age is risky, but remember, Bryce Harper isn’t much older.
It’s obvious to anyone who watches Francisco Lindor play that he loves the game of baseball. He’s quiet and modest, yet his talent on the diamond speaks volumes. As much as I love Asdrubal Cabrera, I’m counting down the days until I see Lindor in a Tribe uniform. But for now, I’m enjoying every game I get to see him in a Captains’ jersey. I recommend you do the same.