Lindor Playing at All-Star Level as Midsummer Classic Nears

Charismatic, outgoing, flashy, defensive wizard. Those are all words that can describe Francisco Lindor. They are likely the biggest reasons that his peers voted him into this Tuesday’s All-Star Game despite a two-month struggle at the plate, representing Lindor’s worst hitting slump since he made his Major League debut a little more than two years ago on June 14, 2015.

When Lindor was named to the American League roster via the player’s vote, for this year’s Midsummer Classic, some were surprised. There was little shock that Houston’s Carlos Correa, who edged out Lindor in the 2015 A.L. Rookie of the Year balloting, was named the starter. However, Lindor was picked as Correa’s back up over the likes of the Red Sox’s Xander Bogaerts and the Angels’ Andrelton Simmons. Both of those players are having excellent statistical seasons at the plate – better than Lindor.

Lindor was named to his second straight All-Star squad on June 30, just as his worst full hitting month as a Major Leaguer was coming to a close. The now two-time All-Star hit just .214 in June, following a so-so month of May that saw him hit .248. This all was coming from a guy who, through this April, had only had one full month in the big leagues that was something of a struggle (he hit just .238 last September). That was forgiven as it was his first full year with the Tribe and he did rebound nicely to be one of the club’s hitting leaders during its memorable postseason run. Otherwise, Lindor has been one of the Tribe’s more consistent hitters since the June 2015 promotion.

Lindor hit .313 as a rookie and .301, despite the rough final month of the regular season, a year ago. Clearly, Lindor is very good hitter, making the last two months of this campaign frustrating for both Lindor and fans of the Tribe.

However, just as some questioned his inclusion on Tuesday’s A.L. roster, Lindor has started heating up and reminding fans just what has made him one of the game’s more endearing and more popular players.

Lindor is showing signs of pulling out of his biggest funk in a Cleveland uniform. Entering Saturday night’s game with the Detroit Tigers, Frankie had a .281 batting average in July – quite a bit closer to the high bar he had set for himself in two years. An end-of-the-week hot streak really had the Tribe’s superstar getting back on track. On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, Lindor went a combined 7-for-15 with two doubles, a triple, and five RBI. He was a catalyst for an Indians offense that got back on track with eleven runs in each of the latter two games of that trio. He also added a stolen base and a walk. All told, he was on base half the time that he stepped to the plate in three week-ending contests.

While Lindor’s offensive struggles seemed to come out of nowhere in May and June, even during a very good April the signs of a looming slump may have been present. Lindor’s approach at the plate was a little different in the season’s opening month as he was powering the ball more than going for contact, which is not really what he is known for.

While Lindor did have 12 home runs in 2015 and 15 bombs a season ago, he is thought to be more of a contact guy who gets on base. Instead, he found himself with seven jacks at the end of the season’s initial month. There was no way he was going to end up with the 42 homers that he was on pace for at that point. That’s just not his style. Lindor hit .309 in April. However, as the power started to regress to his normal mean, the batting average was coming down. He blamed the fact that he was trying to pull the ball for more power, rather than using the whole field as he had done throughout the early part of his career.

Lindor has put in a lot of work in the batting cage to get back to being the hitter that he was the last two years and made him an unquestioned all-star just a season ago. That work seems to be paying off as he now has a chance to go into this All-Star break on a hot streak.

It does seem Lindor’s offense is returning after a two-month hiatus. The 2016 Gold Glove and Platinum Glove winner, however, never lost his big defensive presence. His fielding percentage is .982, right where it was last year when he earned the Platinum Glove as the game’s overall defensive player at any position. He has still been turning in those flashy, breath-taking, hit-robbing plays that few in the history of the game have ever been able to.

That glove and flashiness in the field is really what Lindor was known for before being called up the big leagues. A decent bat was simply icing on the cake of a player with as slick a glove as anyone in the game. Highlight shows on television are chalk full of Lindor’s defensive wizardry.

Even while slumping, Lindor never lost the charisma or smile that has made him so well liked in the baseball world. So many players take the game so seriously. Lindor is one to keep things loose and casual, which is important in a clubhouse of an Indians team with high hopes and expectations for how this season should end.

While he has surged at the plate recently, Lindor will still go into Tuesday with one of the worst batting averages among the All-Stars. Heading into action on Saturday night, he was hitting .256 and also had 14 home runs, 43 RBI, and had scored 48 runs, so it is not as if he has been bad this season. He just has not been hitting quite to expectations.

Lindor is a player to look out for in the season’s second half. He could get hot during the year’s final two-plus months. That would really help propel the Indians in their hopes of widening the gap between themselves and the upstart Twins and Royals, who are breathing down their necks right now for A.L. Central Division supremacy. Lindor is certainly an important part of the lofty heights the Indians hope to reach this year.

Lindor, even when not hitting at .300 clip, is a star player thanks to what he does on the field and the energy he brings to a team. Some may wonder if he deserved to be in Miami over other deserving players. He may or may not, but overall, it is hard to argue that Lindor does not deserve to be among the stars at the Midsummer Classic as one of the more popular and important players on an Indians team with real World Series aspirations.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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