On the fast track since the Cleveland Indians made him their first-round selection (eighth pick overall) in the 2011 Draft, Francisco Lindor is now knocking at the door of the Major League club.
Lindor grew up in Puerto Rico, but attended Montverde (Florida) High School where he was a dominant switch-hitting shortstop on several well- regarded All American teams. Ironically, he and fellow Puerto Rican and Florida high school standout Javier Baez will be linked together going forward. The Chicago Cubs selected Baez with the ninth pick in the same draft, immediately following the selection of Lindor. Due to their similar backgrounds, the careers of Lindor and Baez may be scrutinized and evaluated in the same sentences. Baez is also a shortstop, but he hits right-handed. He is also a bit older than Lindor.
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Lindor won't be 21 until November. Yet, he started his career at Class A Short Season Mahoning Valley and was promoted the next year to Class A Lake County. Last year Lindor was assigned to Class A Advanced Carolina and promoted to Double-A Akron during the season. He began this year at Akron, but in July was promoted to Triple-A Columbus. He has "touched them all," but Columbus will likely be the last stop on his journey to Cleveland.
Lindor has over 1,475 plate appearances covering parts of four Minor League seasons. In that time he has shown an ability to make solid contact and hit for average. Lately, his swings have resulted in stronger line drives and greater distance with more loft. Where his contact may once have been seen as somewhat weak, strength in his barrel of the bat approach is much improved. His power is increasing, as he gets bigger and stronger with age. He has hit home runs at Columbus against advanced pitching. He's hit more homers this year than any season in his career.
Lindor has an advanced, mature approach at the plate. His pitch recognition, plate discipline and patience are all solid components of a strong hitting foundation. Lindor has outstanding hand-eye coordination with quick hands and an ability to drive the ball -- especially on pitches that get too much of the plate. He is a projectable hitter for a consistently good batting average. His bat control will allow his manager to hit-and-run with him or send a runner for a steal. His short, compact swing is smooth and uncomplicated. He hits consistently well from both sides of the plate, but is better as a right-handed hitter against a left-handed pitcher.
While his offense at shortstop is very promising, his defense is already Major League ready. He has outstanding lateral movement with quick feet and a great first step. His range coming in on short hops is as good as it is going to either side. He uses his soft hands and quick reflexes to make difficult plays look smooth and easy. His arm is strong and accurate. He sees the ball off the bat extremely well and anticipates the play with superb reactions and instincts.
There are many who say Lindor plays the same class of defensive shortstop as former Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel. That's high praise, and for me, he has to show that on the biggest stage for the claim to be valid. But it certainly is an achievable comparison.
I've been able to scout Lindor on several occasions. Most recently, I saw him play in his third consecutive SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. This past July in Minneapolis he hit second for the World Team and didn't get a hit on two tries. In another Lindor/Baez irony, Baez replaced Lindor at shortstop in the 5th inning. Baez hit a huge two-run home run in the game.
Depending upon the standings -- and with the recent trade of shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to the Nationals -- it's possible Lindor will make his debut with the Indians this season. If that happens, we can look for a good switch-hitting, superb fielding shortstop with good running speed to begin what should be a long and successful career.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter.