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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 12 – Francisco Lindor

Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 12 – Francisco Lindor

| On 16, Mar 2019

Baseball fans around the globe can rejoice – there are less than two weeks to go until the start of the 2019 Major League Baseball regular season schedule. Join Did The Tribe Win Last Night as we continue our countdown to Opening Day – BT

Countdown to Opening Day – 12 days

Before players could even comfortably settle into their Arizona homes for the spring, the Cleveland Indians received some unpleasant news at their Goodyear camp when it was announced that a right calf strain would sideline three-time All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor for a seven- to nine-week period, putting his status for Opening Day up in the air.

Getting Lindor back in time for the start of the season, after he injured the calf preparing for the coming year, is far less important than making sure that he is in good health at the end of the campaign for the club’s presumed fourth straight postseason under manager Terry Francona. So while the team has used caution with one of the more significant players on the roster, Lindor is champing at the bit to return to the field, working his way back slowly this week through inclusion in some activities on the minor league side of camp (where he hit a home run in a game against the Cincinnati Reds).

Lindor’s value is well known. While he was recently ranked as the eighth-best player in all of baseball in an ESPN.com piece, the 25-year-old switch-hitter and budding superstar likely deserved a ranking as high as even three, according to the likes of Buster Olney on his “Baseball Tonight with Buster Olney” podcast. Lindor has finished in the top ten in the American League’s Most Valuable Player voting in each of his three full seasons in the Majors, and in his partial season in 2015, he landed a second place finish in the AL Rookie of the Year award voting. As a result, in his first year of arbitration eligibility, Mr. Smile was handsomely rewarded with a pay increase from $623,200 in 2018 to $10,850,000 for the coming season.

Lindor – Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Last season was little different for Lindor than the season before. He appeared in 158 games, the third straight time that he has reached that benchmark in his career. He led the Majors in plate appearances with 745 and led the AL with 661 at bats. He crossed the plate successfully an MLB-leading 129 times and set a new career-high with 183 hits. He slashed .277/.352/.519, with the on-base percentage just over his career average while the slugging mark set a new personal best. He was an extra base machine throughout the year, hitting the third-most two-baggers or more in the league while setting a new high with 343 total bases courtesy of 42 doubles, two triples, and a career-high 38 homers. His 92 RBI were also a new high, as were his 25 stolen bases, and he went on to finish sixth in the AL MVP voting while also making his third All-Star team and winning his second Silver Slugger Award.

Lindor started the year slowly, hitting .245 in April, but he won the AL Player of the Month award in May with a .373 average, a .432 on-base percentage, and a .737 slugging mark after hitting 13 doubles and ten homers while driving in 23 runs in 27 games in the month. He cooled off again in June, but he had another stellar month in July, putting up a .300/.383/.620 slash with nine doubles, one triple, seven homers, and 21 RBI in 25 games. He ended the year with another home run tear in September, hitting nine homers in the final month of the campaign.

His splits led to some interesting trends over the course of the season. He appeared far more comfortable at home, putting up a .304/.374/.567 slash there compared to a .251/.331/.474 mark on the road. He hit for much better power from the left side of the plate, hitting 29 of his doubles and 29 of his homers while hitting .253. His production against left-handed pitching provided a significantly better slash (.343/.423/.583) with 13 doubles and nine homers with an even 24 strikeouts and 24 walks.

Lindor’s time in Cleveland could be coming to an earlier end than many would hope, but that is a concern for a different day. His current contract expires following the 2021 season and after the eye-popping free agent deal signed by a similar player in Manny Machado last month, the odds are stacked against the cost-conscious and penny-pinching Indians to be able to afford to retain his services without sacrificing the well-being of the rest of the team. There is, however, no doubt that Lindor has been among the best of the game since reaching the big league level in the middle of June during the 2015 season.

Over the span of 574 big league games, he has amassed 665 hits while putting up a career.288/.350/.487 slash line. His power production has nearly doubled from his early results, as he has put together back-to-back 30+ homer seasons and 40+ double seasons. On the defensive side, he can be flashy and make some impressive plays, but he committed a career-high 14 errors and his total zone runs took a significant hit compared to his previous efforts, when he was the best in the league in 2015 and 2016. While he had a few handful of defensive mistakes in 2018, he still owns the seventh-best fielding percentage of active shortstops and the 15th-best overall for a career. He has also shown a desire to be a threat on the bases consistently.

Alomar – Gus Chan/Plain Dealer file

While Lindor draws some comparisons to Tribe legend Omar Vizquel for his flashy glove work, he may be a better comparable to another former 12 in Tribe history, Roberto Alomar (1999-2001). Similarly a middle infielder by trade (but almost exclusively a second baseman throughout his career), the switch-hitting Alomar was known for his flashy style of play and great numbers at the plate.

Alomar broke into the Majors in 1988, working as the San Diego Padres’ full-time second baseman. He hit .266 and finished fifth in the NL Rookie of the year voting. His career really began to take off as he was heading out of San Diego, traded with Joe Carter to the Toronto Blue Jays for Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff following his first All-Star campaign in 1990. He would spend five years north of the border and was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner each season, flashing extra base potential, the ability to hit for a high average, a good eye at the plate, and speed on the bases (including a career-high 55 stolen bases in 1993). His time with the Jays was highlighted by three straight playoff appearances, including back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993. He was the MVP of the ALCS in 1992, hitting .423 with a pair of homers and four RBI. He drove in ten runs and stole eight bases in the 1993 postseason and hit .480 in the World Series against Philadelphia.

He signed with the Baltimore Orioles following the 1995 season and helped lead the O’s to the playoffs in 1996 and 1997, where they found competition in the Indians both times. His time in Maryland included three straight All-Star seasons and he also won his second career Silver Slugger award and added two more Gold Gloves to his resume.

Alomar joined his brother Sandy in Cleveland in December of 1998 and would spend three All-Star years (the final ones of his career) in an Indians uniform, putting together arguably his best single season in 1999 when he slashed .323/.422/.533 with career-highs in runs scored (138), homers (24), RBI (120), walks (99), and sacrifices (13, which led all of baseball). He would win two more Silver Sluggers while in Cleveland and three more Gold Gloves and had a pair of top-5 MVP seasons, finishing third in 1999 and fourth in 2001.

The Indians dealt him to the New York Mets as part of an eight-player swap in December of 2001, sending him, pitcher Mike Bacsik, and minor leaguer Danny Peoples to Shea for top prospect Alex Escobar, veteran outfielder Matt Lawton, pitchers Jerrod Riggan and Billy Traber, and first baseman Earl Snyder in an attempt to restock the depleted farm system. Alomar’s career was on the downswing at that point, as he hit no higher than .266 in a single season over the next three years, spending 2002 with the Mets, 2003 with New York and the Chicago White Sox, and 2004 with the Arizona Diamondbacks before a trade back to the Sox. An attempt to keep his career going in 2005 with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays fell short and he retired towards the end of spring training.

Alomar finished his career with a .300/.371/.443 triple slash with 210 homers and 474 stolen bases. He went into the Hall of Fame on his second ballot in 2011, receiving 90% of the vote in what some believe was retribution for his unsightly spitting incident from earlier in his career with home plate umpire John Hirschbeck while with Baltimore.

Lindor, of course, wears 12 in honor of his idol, Alomar (who was also an inspiration for him to switch hit). The talented second baseman wore the number 12 for all but four months of his 17-year Hall of Fame career.

Other notable 12s in Tribe history (48 in total): Joe Shaute (the first in 1929), Willis Hudlin (1930-40), Lou Brissie (1951-53), Don Mossi (1954-58), Woodie Held (1963-64), Graig Nettles (1970-72), Jeff Kent (1996), Greg Swindell (1996), Ben Francisco (2007-09), Ezequiel Carrera (2011-12), Mark Reynolds (2013)

Photo: Tim Warner/Getty Images

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Miss out on our other Countdown pieces? Check out more Indians history below.

Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 99
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 90 – Adam Cimber
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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 62
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 61 – Dan Otero
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 60
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 59 – Carlos Carrasco
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 58 – Neil Ramirez
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 57 – Shane Bieber
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 56 – Cody Anderson
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 55 – Roberto Perez
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 54
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 53
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 52 – Mike Clevinger
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 51
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 50
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 49 – Tyler Olson
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 48
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 47 – Trevor Bauer
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 46 – Jon Edwards
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 45 – Adam Plutko
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 44 – Nick Goody
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 43
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 42
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 41 – Carlos Santana
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 40
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 39 – Oliver Perez
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 38 – Eric Haase
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 37
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 36
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 35 – Ben Taylor
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 34
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 33 – Brad Hand
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 32
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 31 – Danny Salazar
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 30 – Tyler Naquin
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 29
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 28 – Corey Kluber
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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 22 – Jason Kipnis
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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 13 – Leonys Martin

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