August 23, 2012
Prospects Will Break Your Heart
I've (Also) Been Thinking About...
I’ve been thinking about...Francisco Lindor. The precocious talent has cooled at the plate in the second half of his first-full season of professional ball, and when the numbers start to head south, the optimism of the fan can turn in a similar direction. When looking at immature talent at the lower levels of the minors, proper context and perspective are as necessary as radar guns, stopwatches, and bad fashion choices that involve tan pants with pleats and polo-style shirts with moisture wick technology. In the case of Lindor, his recent struggles are only considered “struggles” relative to his first half performance, where the 18-year-old hit for average with a mature approach and some juice in the bat. It’s rare to find such a young player offering such production in a pitcher-friendly league, and it becomes even more impressive when you factor in his defensive responsibilities at a premium defensive position, one that he plays at a very high level. In his first 60 games of full-season ball, Lindor hit .285/.369/.410, with 20 extra-base hits and 14 steals. If you put all the factors together, that performance is nothing short of remarkable.
The point is that Lindor’s first-half performance was so good that his somewhat lackluster second-half performance only appears to be bad. It’s not. It’s really, really good. Given his age, his level of physical developmental, and his body of work, it’s quite common to see the long-season grind on a player who won’t even turn 19 until November. His contact hasn’t been as consistent or as loud, but his plan at the plate remains extremely advanced; Lindor doesn’t often give pitchers an advantage by letting them expand the zone or force him into cheap swings, and he has drawn more walks in the second-half than he's struck out.
For me, Lindor is a top ten prospect in the game and a player that could end up playing in the major leagues for 10+ seasons. I’m not sure if he will be a star, but his floor is remarkably high for an 18 year old, and even if he only develops into a solid major league regular, the teams that failed to select him in the 2011 draft will get to chew on that regret for a decade.
Fun with perspective: Francisco Lindor was selected out of high school with the 8th overall pick in the 2011 draft. Byron Buxton was selected out of high school with the 2nd overall pick in the 2012 draft. Buxton is only one month older than Lindor.
I’ve been thinking about…Cory Spangenberg. Back in March, I was quite smitten with Spangenberg, having spent several days watching him on the backfields of Arizona. I saw something in him that I thought was special, a certain knack for putting the barrel onto the ball. I was pleasantly surprised by his overall athleticism, which is a great attribute to possess, especially when it comes to making adjustments at the plate and in the field. I remember talking to a scout at the time about his [Spangenberg's] hit tool and how I thought he could hit .280+ someday, given the characteristics of the swing and his coordination. The scout countered my aggressive projection with an even more aggressive projection, offering that the hit tool could end up as a 7 on the 2-8 scale, making the former first-round selection a future .300 hitter. Based on this conversation and my own notes, I evaluated Spangenberg for Baseball Prospectus on March 22, 2012: