Indians Arizona Fall League overview
Top prospect Lindor works on supplementing outstanding defense at short
Players headed to the Arizona Fall League typically have about a month between the end of the Minor League season and Opening Day in the desert. It can be a chance to rest and recover from the long season before beginning anew in the AFL.
The break was a bit shorter for Francisco Lindor, the Indians' top prospect, whose season was extended as Triple-A Columbus reached the International League playoffs. Still, the time off was almost unbearable.
"I went home for, I'll say, two weeks," Lindor said. "And after a week and a half, I was like, 'You know what, I've got to go out and play. I can't do this.' I've got to be playing. I'm very excited and happy I'm here."
Indians fans have been excitedly watching Lindor's progress since the club made him the eighth overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. The anticipation only increased this season, as Lindor was promoted to Columbus on July 21 and, 10 days later, the Indians dealt veteran shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to the Nationals at the non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Lindor, ranked No. 4 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, said even he thought about the possibility of getting called up to the Major Leagues. But with Columbus in the playoff race, he was able to shut those thoughts out when he was playing.
"That's my dream, to be in the big leagues, to stay in the big leagues for a long time," Lindor said. "But once I was in the field, it was all about winning, it was all about me trying to get better."
Scouts regard Lindor as one of the best defenders in the Minor Leagues, and his glove work has helped the Puerto Rican native land a spot in the last three Futures Games on the World Roster. But Lindor is determined to prove he can impact the game offensively as well.
"I won't be a power hitter, but I can hit," Lindor said. "I'm going to get better. I'm going to improve myself. I'm going to be a good hitter."
In 126 games between Double-A Akron and Columbus, Lindor hit .276/.338/.389 with 11 home runs and 28 stolen bases. Just 20 years old, he was the youngest position player in the International League.
Lindor said facing the more experienced players of the upper levels of the Minor Leagues showed him what parts of his game he needs to improve upon. He said he wants to work on keeping his hands inside the ball at the plate, rather than trying to pull too many balls. He also wants to become a more efficient basestealer after getting thrown out 16 times this year.
"There's a lot of room to improve," Lindor said. "I'm working on it and having fun. You've got to have fun."
Indians hitters in the AFL
• Tony Wolters began his professional career as a shortstop. But by 2013, the Indians were facing an overabundance of middle infielders in their Minor League system and manager Terry Francona suggested Wolters switch to catching. He has adapted well to his new position and the Indians envision him as a potential super-utility player, capable of catching and playing both middle infield positions. Wolters is using the AFL as a chance to make up some of the time he lost due to a left knee injury that kept him out all of August.
• Before struggling this season at Double-A Akron, Jordan Smith had produced good results at every level, dating back to his college days at Division II St. Cloud State. Primarily a right fielder, he doesn't have the typical power profile for a corner outfielder. He makes up for it with a smooth swing and a good approach at the plate.
Indians pitchers in the AFL
• Right-hander Dylan Baker got off to a strong start to the 2014 season, throwing six perfect innings for Class A Advanced Carolina. He broke his ankle before he could make another start and was sidelined for three months. He has a quality fastball-slider combination and is working to improve his changeup. That development, as well as smoothing out his delivery, will determine whether he can remain as a starter or will ultimately move to the bullpen as some scouts predict.
• The Indians may have gotten a steal when they selected right-hander Louis Head in the 18th round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. He has pitched effectively out of the bullpen as a professional and, in the last year, seen his velocity tick up. His fastball now reaches 97 mph and his slider gives him a solid second offering. Head has some experience closing, but he profiles best as a middle reliever.
• The Angels drafted Nick Maronde in the third round in 2011 and, the next year, he became the fourth player in the Draft class to reach the Major Leagues, working in 12 games out of the bullpen. Though he returned to the big leagues in each of the last two seasons, he wasn't able to stick and he was eventually dealt to the Indians after being designated for assignment in July. In the Indians system, he has returned to starting, a role he filled at the outset of his professional career, but the left-hander is working out of the bullpen for Peoria.
• Used as a reliever throughout his career, right-hander Grant Sides' best weapon is his mid-90s fastball. Though his arm strength has always made him an intriguing player, his struggles with control have slowed his progress in the Minor Leagues. He's averaged more than five walks per nine innings over four seasons, a number he'll need to improve on to advance to the upper levels of the Indians' system.