The Cleveland Indians have a problem on their hands: What are they going to do with shortstop extraordinaire Francisco Lindor if he forces his way in the Indians line-up?
I didn’t say it was a bad problem, did I?
Lindor has been a staple at the top of both the Indians’ prospect charts as well as the major minor league prospect charts since he was drafted in 2011. With Lindor a fixture at Columbus, it’s likely that he won’t spend another year listed as a “prospect.”
The Indians have handled him with kids’ gloves from the start. He’s spent time at each minor league level over his past four seasons, and while he hasn’t spent a full season at each stop, he’s had to earn his promotion every year.
And he’s earned it.
So who is Lindor, for those that haven’t been paying attention? He’s the best defensive player in all the minors, and that’s not hyperbole. He has a plus arm, plus speed, a good eye at the plate, and can hit the baseball. Perhaps his only weakness at this point is power, and his 11 home runs last year between Double A Akron and Triple A Columbus show that there is potential there for growth.
His biggest strength is his make-up, as Lindor has a presence about him that I haven’t seen in years covering the Tribe’s minor league system.
He just stands out on many levels, and this is a player that can impact the Indians line-up in 2015. Seems easy, right?
Nothing ever is.
The Indians currently are solid up-the-middle, with Jose Ramirez taking over for the struggling Asdrubal Cabrera after the Indians dealt him to Washington at the trade deadline. Lindor responded with a .283/.325/.377 slash, while stealing ten bases in 11 opportunities, and scoring 23 runs. While shortstop isn’t his primary position, he proved many of his detractors who said he wasn’t very good at the position, making only four errors in his 235 chances.
Sure, it’s a small sample size, but the front office was more than content with JRam’s performance. While they were very cautious regarding Ramirez publicly, both Terry Francona and Chris Antonetti believed that he was more than able to play the position. Francona noted as much this past week.
“…once Jose Ramirez came up and everybody saw how he played shortstop, they saw why we wanted to make the move (trading Cabrera). We felt we had a chance to get a little bit more athletic at shortstop, and you saw the way Jose played.”
Sure, Francona is a rah-rah sorta manager, but the common thinking regarding Ramirez is that he’s an above average defender wherever he plays, especially at short and second.
While Ramirez is best suited for second base, Jason Kipnis is entrenched at the position, and while he struggled both offensively and defensively last year, he’s not going anywhere. If Lindor is brought up, Ramirez is immediately out of an every day position.
When you take into account Mike Aviles, the Indians top utility player off the bench, he really could be the odd man out.
So what happens if Francisco Lindor is tearing the cover off the ball, and doing everything he can in either spring training or Columbus? He has to come up, right? This is a once-in-a-lifetime prospect, who will be stating his case with authority.
Will they wait until late-May or early June, when the Super Two deadline passes? Will they deal Aviles or Ramirez to bring in assets and free up room for their future superstar? If Kipnis is struggling with performance or injury, could they move Ramirez over and bring up Lindor? Will they wait for an injury to strike and open up a spot?
All are interesting questions, and Mike Hattery and I talk about some of these possibilities, as well as some others in this week’s Podcast.
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