Lindor Gives a Glimpse of What Future May Hold
By Mike Brandyberry
It was just for a day yesterday, but it might be a one-day look into the future of the Indians and Francisco Lindor.
Monday the Indians second-rated prospect, behind only Trevor Bauer, started and played the entire nine innings against the Chicago Cubs during the Tribe’s 13-5 victory. Lindor was 2 for 4 at the plate and made several plays at shortstop, making them all look routine.
“He’s such a nice kid,” Indians Manager Terry Francona said in his daily press conference. “He’s always smiling and he has a boatload of talent. He just needs to play because he’s so young. For our staff to get to see him for nine innings is really enjoyable.”
Lindor, and fellow top prospect Ronny Rodriguez, will benefit with extended time in big league camp this spring while Asdrubal Cabrera and Mike Aviles are each playing in the World Baseball Classic. Cabrera and Aviles will be the Tribe’s big league shortstop options this season. Their likely Triple-A shortstop, Juan Diaz, is on the 40-man roster and seeing increased playing time, but cannot play every day until the two big leaguers return.
“We don’t want to overdue Juan Diaz,” Francona said. “We’re walking a fine line. You take advantage of it while guys are gone, but it’s not fair to play a guy every day. It’s still spring training.”
So, while Cabrera leads the Venezuelan team and Aviles aids Puerto Rico, Lindor and Rodriguez will see more time than a normal spring training. Rodriguez, who turns 21 in April, has already logged four at-bats this spring should receive an opportunity soon like Lindor did on Monday. He is likely to start the season at Double-A Akron, one level ahead of where the 19-year old Lindor is slated to start 2013. Lindor will likely begin at High-A Carolina after hitting .257, with six home runs and 47 runs batted in at Low-A Lake County in 2013.
“They say I dictate where I go,” Lindor said during the Indians winter development program. “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.”
Francona used Monday’s game to rest Diaz’s legs and for he and his staff to get a good look at the Tribe’s top position player prospect. Lindor was one of the first players he spoke with after being named Indians Manager on Oct. 6. Since Francona doesn’t like taking veterans on long road trips, like yesterday’s bus ride to HoHoKam Park, he’s given young players a spring opportunity before. To Francona, how they react after the exhibition says as much about the player as their performance during the game.
“The one thing we watch is how they react when they go back,” Francona said. “I tell kids when they go back, ‘the way you behaved here, is the way you behave there,’ because the message is the same, it’s just different people. You find out a lot about people when they go back down.”
Francona was quick to mention that he has no concerns about Lindor’s attitude or demeanor after a couple Spring Training appearances. In addition to Monday’s start, he has appeared in two other games and is 2 for 7 in Cactus League play. While the young prospect is just two years removed from his senior year of high school, Lindor doesn’t feel pressure to perform as a highly-touted prospect might.
“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.”
Lindor received the second largest signing bonus in franchise history after being selected with the eighth overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. He also represented the World Team in the Sirius XM Future’s Game as part of last summer’s All-Star festivities. Lindor replaced Jurickson Profar at shortstop. Profar is currently the highest rated prospect in baseball.
Cabrera’s contract expires after the 2014 season and Aviles has a team option for 2015. If Cabrera left Cleveland via free agency, Lindor could replace the two-time All-Star. The 2015 option in Aviles’ contract creates a situation where he could be the bridge between the two, if necessary.
How many more big league chances Lindor receives this spring is likely dependent on how far Cabrera’s Venezuela team and Aviles’ Puerto Rico team progress in the World Baseball Classic. They are in the same pool with one another and the Dominican Republic. Only two will advance from the pool.
“I don’t want to come out and say I’m rooting for a team to lose, but I’m hoping we get one of those guys back soon,” Francona said.
In the meantime, Tribe fans may get a glimpse of what the future may hold.
Photo: Chuck Crow/Cleveland Plain Dealer