Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
Francisco Lindor is the Indians most prized prospect, easily the highest rated on all major prospect rankings (he comes in 13th overall on MLB.com's recently updated list, the only player in Cleveland's system in their top 100).
Bats: Both Throws: Right
Born: November 13, 1993 in Caguas, Puerto Rico
Acquired: 1st Round pick (8th overall) in the 2011 MLB draft, out of Montverde H.S. (Montverde, FL)
The Indians' first pick in 2011, Lindor was seen as the finest fielder in that draft, with good speed and the potential to develop power as his body matured. After playing in just five games at the very end of the rookie ball season in 2011, Lindor was sent to Lake County in the single-A Midwest League for 2012, a league filled with as much high end talent as any in the minors this year.
In the first-half of the Midwest League season, Lindor put up a slash line of .285/.369/.410, with 14 stolen bases.
Lindor was named to the Midwest League All-Star Game, where he started at SS and batted lead-off for the Eastern Division team, which won 18-2. I attended that game, because I was interested in seeing Lindor in person. You can read a full write up on my day here if you're interested, the short version is that Lindor spent more time signing autographs and talking with fans than any other player and while the importance of a player's work ethic and attitude may sometimes be overstated, Lindor impressed me on both accounts. He's an easy player to root for, in the vein of Jim Thome or Kenny Lofton.
That same week, Lindor was also named to the MLB Futures Game, played in Kansas City during the MLB All-Star break. He was the youngest player named to that contest, generally seen as the marquee event of the MiLB season. He had clearly established himself as one of the premier players to watch.
Lindor's numbers dropped off during the second-half, when he put up a less impressive slash line of .228/.335/.299. He did manage to steal another 13 bases, but those aren't the kind of hitting numbers that make you feel good about a player.
To some extent, pitchers/teams may have figured him out a bit, and it's possible he hit the wall to some extent, but I think it's also worth pointing out that his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) dropped from .330 in the first-half to .261 in the second-half. The MLB average for BABIP is ~.295, which is right around Lindor's .296 BABIP for the full season. Large swings in BABIP are generally due to changes in luck, not changes in skill. Lindor was unlucky in the second-half.
Was he also a bit lucky in the first-half, since that .330 figure is much higher than the .295 average I mentioned? Perhaps. But quick players also have higher than average BABIP. Dexter Fowler leads MLB this season with a .390 BABIP and 24% of all qualified players actually have a BABIP higher than .330 for the 2012 season. With his speed, I would argue Lindor's expected BABIP is close to his .330 figure from the season's first-half.
Whatever you think of the bad luck that may have caused much of Lindor's drop in production, he managed to improve his walk rate after the All-Star break and wound up leading the team in walks and finished 10th in the Midwest League, with 61 of them.
Here are Lindor's full-season stats:
The Midwest League's overall slash line for the year was .254/325/.379. Even with bad luck in the second-half, Francisco Lindor finished the year as an above average hitter as one of the youngest players in the league. Meanwhile, his fielding has lived up to its reputation as sterling and at season's end, Lindor was named as the shortstop for the Midwest League's postseason All-Star team.
Bryce Harper and Mike Trout have given people a different sense of what players can accomplish when they are 19 or 20 years old, and so there are probably some Indians fans who see Lindor's numbers as disappointing, but I think there's a lot to like about what he did in 2012. Harper and Trout look like fully developed men, but Lindor still looks like a kid. His body will fill out, and increased power should come with it. Lindor fully merits his high status among prospects and there's every reason to believe he'll be a key part of the Indians' future.
2013 Plans: Lindor will remain in the minors next season, probably starting in A-ball before moving up to AA at some point. Some will look for a September call up, but I don't expect one. Mid-season in 2014 seems like a more reasonable arrival date for Lindor in Cleveland. He'll be worth the wait.