There have been many shortstops that get talked about as prospects in the minor leagues, but the majority of them end up being utility players or second-division starters. That’s just what happens when you play the most demanding position on the infield, as the tools to succeed at the Major League level are higher than perhaps any other position. But for the Cleveland Indians, who already have a pretty fine shortstop in Asdrubal Cabrera, they have someone who just began his minor league career that at this point, could be better than even Cabrera when it’s all said and done.
18-year-old Francisco Lindor, the eighth overall draft pick by the Indians in 2011, was the top high school prospect going into the draft, with many pundits putting him in the discussion with the UCLA pitching duo of Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer as potential #1 picks at one point. This was simply due to the fact that he was a top flight talent at a top flight position, and that even if he couldn’t stick at shortstop, his hit tool would put him as an average Major Leaguer at second base or center field. Baseball America threw a projection of a 60 hit tool (above-average), 40 power (about normal for a shortstop), 55 speed (above-average) with a 65 on defense (plus glove) and a 60 on his arm (above-average).
Considering his standing as the top high school player in the 2011 draft, the Indians were able to get him in to a few games in the New York-Penn League after he signed, where he went 6-for-19 in five games. In 2012, they sent him to their Low-A affiliate Kane County in the Midwest League, and all he’s done in his first 23 games is hit .314/.369/.451 with only 14 strikeouts and earned rave reviews for his glovework. The switch-hitter is doing mainly against lefties, as he’s hitting a ridiculous .462/.462/.654 in his 26 plate appearances versus those who throw of the southpaw persuasion.
Born in Puerto Rico, he’s only 5’11” and listed at 175 pounds, and with a slight frame to build on, he’d have to take on one hell of a growth spurt to move off the six hole. Another plus in his favor is that his work ethic is top of the line, with many coaches and scouts in various reports glowing about how hard he works and how much he continues to get better. Cabrera is signed through 2014 and the Indians already have a budding superstar at the keystone in Jason Kipnis. If Lindor continues to work as hard as he has and flies through the system, the Indians will probably make him the every day shortstop come 2015, even if it means saying good-bye to Cabrera. When you have the ability to potentailly knock off an above-average shortstop at the Major League level, you have a prety special player, and that’s the type of player that Lindor is to the Indians.