Francisco Lindor is Already a Star

Francisco Lindor has had an eventful season. The 21-year-old began the year at Triple-A Columbus, where he sported a .284/.350/.402 slash line with two home runs in 59 games. On June 14th, he made his major league debut, striking out as a pinch hitter. He stayed in the game at DH however, and collected his first career hit later in the blowout loss.

Two days later at Wrigley Field, Lindor made his first start at shortstop and had two hits and a stolen base in a 6-0 Cleveland victory. He cooled off for the rest of June, dropping to a .211 batting average and .539 OPS by the end of the month.

In a season stocked with a historic number of elite prospects bursting into the league, it would be understandable if many fans had checked out on Lindor and the fledgling Indians at this point. That would have been a mistake, as Lindor looks every bit the franchise shortstop that Cleveland envisioned when they drafted him eighth overall in 2011.

08 August 2015:  Cleveland Indians Shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) [9119] hits a sacrifice fly to right to drive in a run during the third inning of the game between the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH.

In July, Lindor’s bat came alive in a big way. After hitting just two home runs in his nearly 60 games in Triple-A, Lindor smacked four in July alone. He hit .295 for the month, slugged .448 and posted a .772 OPS. That’s good production, but shortstop is such an offensively challenged position that even an average hitter can provide great value. A slugging percentage of .448 for the full season would be fourth-best among all shortstops this season.

While he hasn’t taken anyone deep in August, Lindor has continued to mash at the plate. He’s hitting .362 for the month and had a nine-game hitting streak get snapped over the weekend. He’s also already matched his high for walks in a month (just five) with two more weeks to go. The power surge in July was encouraging, but the consistency Lindor’s displayed recently might be an even stronger indicator of his potential as a hitter.

Overall, Francisco Lindor has posted a solid .291/.326/.400 slash line in the majors. As it stands, Lindor is third in batting average and tenth in both slugging and OPS among shortstops with at least 230 plate appearances this season. FanGraphs has him ninth at the position in weighted runs created plus (wRC+) at 101, just about league-average. He’s already a top-10 shortstop offensively.

11 July 2015:  Cleveland Indians Shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) [9119] throws to first base during the game between the Oakland Athletics and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH.  Oakland defeated Cleveland 5-4.

Further, as Matt R. Lyons points out, Lindor has even been hurt by a league-leading six sacrifice bunts since the All-Star break. The young shortstop is too good a hitter to waste opportunities like that. If Lindor stops sacrificing so often–whether it’s coming from Terry Francona or by his own choice–Cleveland can get even more production out of their now two-hitter.

That’s all fine and well, but Francisco Lindor is already a superstar defensively. While his flashy highlight plays may catch the eye, Lindor is quietly having one of the best seasons an Indians shortstop has ever had with the glove. August Fagerstrom made quite the discovery while doing a little historical research:

He is a vaccuum at the most important position in the game. Even though Lindor’s only played 55 games with the big league club, he’s eighth among all shortstops in FanGraphs defensive WAR. Though Astros phenom Carlos Correa dwarfs Lindor in most hitting categories, he can’t sniff the Cleveland shortstop’s defensive prowess thus far. Correa is 19th with 60 games under his belt.

Much has been discussed regarding Cleveland’s catastrophic start to what has amounted to a lost season. For the Indians organization and its fans, Lindor’s performance thus far has been a necessary source of encouragement about the future.

He’s played less than half a season, but Lindor’s produced like the elite shortstop that Cleveland always hoped he would become. He’ll struggle, and he’s probably due for some regression after the past six weeks. But he’s also only 21. It looks like Cleveland’s hit the jackpot.

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