The Situation: Cleveland has been among the most disappointing teams in baseball this season, but they still find themselves on the periphery of the race in the AL Central, standing just six games behind the Royals. They’ve also received as little help offensively from the shortstop position as any team in the American League, hitting a feeble .201/.263/.260 thus far in 2015. So to help rectify that situation (now that that the whole super two thing is no longer a factor), Lindor is being brought to the show.
Background: Lindor was considered one of the safest prospects in a loaded 2011 draft class coming out of Montverde High School in Florida, and while there were rumors of him going as high as the second overall pick to Seattle, he ultimately lasted until the eighth pick in the draft. In his four-plus seasons in the Cleveland system, Lindor has posted a career line of .278/.354/.384, but that doesn’t tell the story of just how impressive he’s been in the eyes of talent evaluators across the country. He ranked as the top prospect in the Indians’ farm system this winter, and checked in fourth in the Top 101.
Scouting Report: Lindor’s defensive prowess—we’ll get to that in a second—is one of the main reasons he’s thought of so highly, but the switch-hitting shortstop is far from bereft of offensive ability.
His best tool at the plate is his approach, as Lindor rarely swings at pitches that are outside of the strike zone. While he’s not going to walk 100 times a year he has shown he isn’t allergic to free passes and works counts into his favor. The swing is slightly better from the left side but he has good balance and outstanding barrel control from both sides, and he’s able to put even the most difficult pitches into play, often displaying hard contact to all parts of the field.
Because Lindor’s swing is geared towards contact, he’s not going to put up big power totals, though there’s enough strength and weight transfer to project double-digit homers over a 162 game season. Though even at peak, his power is likely to show up far more in the form of doubles and triples. He’s also a solid-average runner, and while the stolen base totals have dropped at the higher levels, it’s not unreasonable to expect 15 to 20 steals a year.
Where Lindor stands out though is with the glove, and he’s one of the best defenders at shortstop I’ve seen. His instincts in the field are second-to-none; he’s always in position to make the play and his athleticism allows him to make the spectacular look routine. The arm strength is plus and he’s accurate because of his ability to set, though he can get in trouble at times by rushing throws—this is where most of his errors come from. It’s a fine tradeoff when you consider how many hits he turns into outs, though.
Immediate Big League Future: Some people turn phrases like “high floor” and “safe” into negatives. I’m not one of those people. Lindor is going to be a big league regular because of his defensive ability, and when you add in his skills at the plate and on the base paths, you get a guy who’s going to be a star at the major league level for a long time. That said, he’s struggled considerably upon each promotion to a new level, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if that trend continues as he starts his big league journey this week. —Christopher Crawford
Fantasy Impact: When the Indians demoted Jose Ramirez on June 7th, fantasy owners everywhere knew it was only a matter of time before the Mike Aviles Starting Shortstop Experience would be over and Lindor would be getting the call from Columbus. As stated in the scouting report above, Lindor’s glove is light years ahead of his bat at this point, and that is what is of paramount importance to remember for fantasy purposes, particularly in the short-term.
Lindor stole 28 bags in 44 attempts between Double-A and Triple-A in 2014, and swiped nine (in 16 attempts) in 58 games this season at Triple-A Columbus while posting a .346 OBP. Lindor’s legs represent his best chance to make a fantasy impact in 2015, but as evidenced by his 62 percent success rate over the last two years at the minor league level, his base stealing is a work in progress as well, so expectations of monster stolen base totals at the major league level may take some time to materialize.
With Ramirez posting a paltry .487 OPS in his 170 plate appearances at the big league level, the job looks to be Lindor’s for the rest of the season, although Terry Francona could choose to ease the 21-year old into the lineup initially. Even if Ramirez hits his way back to Cleveland, he’s only likely to return in a utility role. Although Lindor hit only two home runs in 259 PA at Columbus this season (after hitting five in 180 Triple-A plate appearances in 2014), his 18 hits for extra bases were double his Triple-A total in 2014, giving him a wRC+ mark of 117 this season, up from the 88 wRC+ he posted in his first taste of Triple-A.
A .260-.270 batting average, a bit of gap-to-gap pop with 12-15 stolen bases over the rest of the season in Cleveland should be within reach for Lindor during his rookie campaign—which should make him rosterable in deeper leagues immediately, and worthy of a $5-$10 FAAB bid in mixed leagues. Lindor’s phenomenal glovework gives him the strong possibility of holding the job for the rest of the season, making him a quality AL-only target, where a $15-$20 FAAB bid is within reason. Lindor remains a strong target in keeper and dynasty leagues, but the type of offensive production that other top prospects of similar pedigree have provided recently isn’t likely to happen in the short-term. —J.J. Jansons
- 90th percentile: .284/.347/.418, 1.9 WARP
- 50th percentile: .239/.296/.347, 0.5 WARP
- 10th percentile: .195/.245/.279, -0.4 WARP
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