Lindor Leads, Has Fun and Progresses While Being Tribe’s Top Prospect
By Mike Brandyberry
Most highly touted prospects carry the pressure and expectations to develop while analyzing and improving every mechanical aspect of their game. For the Indians’ top prospect, Francisco Lindor, his keys to improvement and development are simple.
“Get better every day and have fun,” Lindor said.
Lindor has been having a lot of fun since the Cleveland Indians selected him out of Montverde Academy in Florida with the eighth overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. He signed with the Indians just minutes before the Aug. 15 deadline—with a $2.9 million signing bonus—and bypassed his commitment to Florida State. But Lindor never has felt pressure as a high, first round draft pick or a player with a large signing bonus.
“At first, it was an honor to be drafted so high and drafted by the Cleveland Indians,” Lindor said. “They gave me a great opportunity and I thank them every day. They let me be a part of the ballclub. As far as pressure, we’re all the same. We all have the same goals: to get better and make it to the bigs.”
While Lindor’s journey to the big leagues is not complete, he already has had several memorable moments during his professional travels. After signing in 2011, Lindor hit .316 in five games with Short Season-A Mahoning Valley. In 2012 (his first full professional season) at Low-A Lake County, Lindor hit .257 with six home runs, 42 RBI and 27 stolen bases.
“It was really fun,” Lindor said. “The great group of guys that we had (at Lake County) was awesome. We all worked together, talked and had fun. At the same time, we were winning. If you can have fun every day and win, it’s the best you can do.”
“I’m always impressed by the combination of his maturity, focus and humility,” David Wallace said. Wallace managed Lindor at Mahoning Valley and in 2012 at Lake County. “He is gifted and talented and works as hard as anyone. He’s not an ‘I’ guy. He says it’s about the team and he believes it and backs it up.”
Lindor was selected along with Indians’ farmhand Jesus Aguilar to play in the Sirius XM MLB Future’s Game as part of the All-Star festivities in Kansas City, Mo., last July. Lindor replaced top prospect Jurickson Profar of the Texas Rangers at shortstop for the World Team, and was 1-1 with a first-pitch single through the right side off Taijuan Walker of the Seattle Mariners. Lindor is second only to Profar on MLB.com’s shortstop prospect rankings; he is the 14th overall prospect.
In addition to his Future’s Game appearance, Lindor also was named a Midwest League All-Star. The 18-year-old Lindor helped lead the young Captains to a 40-30 second half season record in the Midwest League. The Captains won the first best-of-three series against the Bowling Green Hot Rods (TB) before losing in the semifinals in the third and decisive game against the Fort Wayne TinCaps (SD). The playoff experience contributed to Lindor’s year of development and fun.
“It was a great learning year,” he said. “I had an awesome experience and an awesome playoff experience. It’s one of the best things you can get. I had a great group of guys to play with and I really enjoyed the year. It was a learning year and I got better from it.”
Despite being the youngest player on the field during the Captains’ second half surge, but he was also a leader on the diamond and in the clubhouse.
“That leadership role for him comes natural,” Wallace said. “Players follow him because of the player he is but also how hard he works. He loves to laugh but knows when to be serious and to do some work. No one out-works Francisco.”
Lindor headlines a talented group of middle infielders the Indians have throughout its minor league system. While Lindor might be the highest-rated prospect, he is chasing both Ronny Rodriguez and Tony Wolters to the big leagues, both of whom likely will begin the 2013 season at Double-A Akron. Meanwhile Dorssys Paulino thrived in the Arizona League last summer and is expected to replace Lindor as the shortstop at Lake County in 2013. Rodriguez and Paulino signed as non-drafted free agents from the Dominican Republic, while Wolters was a third-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.
At this point, none of the players feels they are competing with one another. For Lindor, he enjoys working with the others and using each other to push their development and growth as players.
“They are a great group of guys, Ronny Rodriguez, Tony Wolters and Dorssys Paulino,” Lindor said. “They are a great group of guys and they are only going to help us. We all help each other get better. We are competing, but not with each other. Hopefully, God willing, we all make it to the bigs. The Indians are in a great position because they have a great group of guys coming their way.”
A year ago, Wolters opened the season as the youngest player at High-A Carolina at only 19 years old. He turned 20 in June. Lindor is expected replace Wolters as the youngest Mudcat this season, only Lindor will be 19 all season. If Lindor does begin the season in Carolina, Wallace will again be his manager for the third straight season.
While nothing will be decided officially in regards to where Lindor begins 2013 until sometime in spring training, he doesn’t let the organization’s decisions affect his play.
“They say I dictate where I go,” Lindor said. “At the end of the day, that’s not my decision. All I control is going out there and doing my best every day, and they will make the decisions. No matter where I go, I’m going to go out there and have fun and do my thing.”
Wherever Lindor begins 2013, scouts, the Indians’ organization and fans will keep a watchful eye on the young phenom. While the Tribe doesn’t appear in a rush to promote Lindor quickly, it is widely speculated that the organization would like to see him ready for a big league opportunity when current shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera becomes a free agent after the 2014 season.
“We love that about Francisco and that his end result is to be in Cleveland and win championships some day,” Wallace said. “He’s eager to learn and doesn’t think he has it all figured out. If he keeps that mindset, not much can stop him.”
Whether it’s being a first-round pick, a top-ranked prospect, Future Stars participant, competing with fellow teammates or the expectation of replacing an All-Star, Lindor doesn’t let the pressure affect his drive to improve.
“I don’t put any pressure on myself,” Lindor said. “I know who I am. I just have to go out and prove to people that I’m capable of doing what the Cleveland Indians believe I can do.”
“At the end of the day, when we make it to the bigs, we want to help the ball club win,” Lindor said.
What could be more fun?