Thursday, April 13, 2017

It's Time To Start Talking About How Good Francisco Lindor Is

Shortstop as a position is absolutely loaded right now. The combination of Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, and Xander Bogaerts reminds many baseball fans of the late 90s quartet of A-Rod, Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciappara, and Miguel Tejada. Also in the discussion of great young shortstops right now are Trea Turner, Addison Russell, Trevor Story, and Aledmys Diaz. With all these guys producing at such a high level it seems like each has taken a turn in the role of best young shortstop in baseball. Coming off a Rookie of the Year award in 2015 Correa was the guy entering 2016. By June of last year Bogaerts was hitting .350 and had taken control of the race. At the end of the season it was Seager getting all the love when he won his own ROY and finished third in the National League MVP voting. Now it's Lindor's turn and holy shit is he fun to watch.

Lindor was drafted out of high school as the 8th overall pick in 2011 and had a steady rise to the majors before becoming Baseball America's 9th ranked prospect entering 2015. He made his debut in June that season and despite playing in just 99 games he finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting. Lindor adjusted to the majors right away and closed his rookie campaign with a .313 batting average. In 2016 he made his first all star appearance, won a gold glove, and finished ninth in the MVP balloting. He did this by slashing .301/.358/.435 with 15 homers, 19 steals, and playing great defense.

Since last October no young shortstop has received more time in the national spotlight (and rightfully so) than Lindor. Despite injuries to several key contributors his Indians made it all the way to extra innings in the seventh game of the World Series. You don't go on an unexpected run like that without having some special playoff moments along the way. In game one of the ALCS versus the Blue Jays Lindor provided one:

I remember watching that hit and realizing something special was happening with Cleveland. In his first ever postseason Franky played 15 games and slashed .310/.355/.466, which is remarkably similar to his career averages. I'm not positive if the clutch gene exists but I definitely believe that some guys are better at keeping their heartbeat steady under duress and not letting the bright lights get the best of them. The fact that Lindor did this as a 22-year-old should have Cleveland fans extremely excited for their future. 

His reputation as a big game player carried over to the World Baseball Classic this year when in seven games for Team Puerto Rico he slashed a ridiculous .370/.419/.630 with two homers. If you're keeping track at home that means his triple slash line increased from the regular season to the playoffs and then from the playoffs to the WBC. Early on in 2017 it looks like he's ready to make yet another leap. 

Rewind to last week - just the third game of the regular season for the Indians, who seem hell bent on rectifying last year's World Series loss. Lindor is known most for playing the game loose, smiling, and having fun. Unfortunately for the Rangers this was the night fans got exposed to angry Lindor. He made an error in the sixth inning and was clearly upset with himself, so as any great player would he homered in his next at bat. Then in the ninth with Cleveland trailing by one he did this:

We've reached the point where any time the Indians are making noise offensively this kid is right in the middle of it all. Happy Lindor is a great player but angry Lindor is fucking incredible. Through seven games in 2017 he already four home runs. Ken Rosenthal made some news before the season began when he pegged Lindor as his AL MVP for the year. It seemed ambitious at the time but not so much any more. If Cleveland winds up with one of the best records in the American League he will be a major reason why.

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