2013 Age: 19
Acquired: 1st Round, 2011 Draft
Service Time: None
Francisco Lindor is the best prospect in the Cleveland Indians organization. But that statement by itself may not mean much, because all best prospects in systems are not equal. In 2011 Lonnie Chisenhall was the organization's best prospect, and I still have hopes that he will become a good player, but in 2011 Chisenhall was generally rated between 25-30 in overall prospect ratings.
So to be more more specific: Francisco Lindor is the best prospect in the Cleveland Indians organization, and is among the top ten prospects in baseball. At age 19. The Indians haven't had a teenaged prospect of this ilk since CC Sabathia, and haven't had a teenaged position player prospect of his ilk since Manny Ramirez. Now that's partly because for quite a while the Indians didn't draft high school players high in the draft, and when they did draft them they either got hurt (Adam Miller) or were complete busts (Corey Smith, Dan Denham). But it's also because Lindor is a special talent, like Sabathia and Ramirez were special talents. Now obviously the talents of Lindor, Sabathia, and Ramirez are not the same (Sabathia with his arm, Ramirez with his bat, Lindor with his glove), but the magnitude of the talents are comparable. Lindor has the potential to be the best defender in the majors, just like Ramirez had the potential to be the hitter in the majors and Sabathia had the potential to be the best pitcher in the majors.
Ok, so how do we really know that Lindor is a great defender? We can't really look at stats, because defensive stats are generally unreliable to begin with, and minor-league defensive stats are even less help. So all we can rely on right is scouting reports and the occasional grainy video highlight. The scouting reports, no matter which ones you look at, say that Lindor has great physical defensive tools as well as instincts at the position. In other words, he can not only make the plays, but is in the right position to make the plays. In addition to all that, he has gotten rave marks on his makeup and drive, something that tends to separate good players from great ones.All of that was there before the season began. Here's one of those grainy videos:
The one thing in Lindor's game that everyone was uncertain about was whether he would hit. Jose Iglesias got to the majors and is likely to stay there without much contribution from his bat, so a lack of hitting wouldn't prevent Lindor from having a major-league career. But if somehow he could be a decent hitter, if he could add some offense to the great defense, then that would give the Indians a potential perennial All-Star, albeit probably later down the line. After all, he's only 19. What he did this year delivered on those hopes. He hit .303/.380/.407 between Carolina (High-A) and Akron (AA), and walked three more times than he struck out. That combination of patience and gap power is unique for someone that young, and when you had those developing offensive tools to his celebrated defensive tools, then you have a unique talent. No, Francisco Lindor is not going to become Alex Rodriguez or Roberto Alomar (his hero), but as things stand he's going to be much more than a defensive wizard who's also an automatic out at the bottom of the lineup.
From this point forward, you can't talk about Francisco Lindor without also talking about Asdrubal Cabrera. Until this point Lindor was multiple years away from the majors, but now that the 2014 season is the next season, the two players are now going to become inextricably linked. For when Lindor is deemed ready for the majors, Cabrera will be moved. Perhaps it will be a simple "two ships passing in the night" scenario, in which Cabrera plays out his contract with the Indians and Lindor makes his MLB debut on Opening Day in 2015. Or maybe it will be much messier, with Lindor getting the call with Cabrera still on the roster. Or perhaps the Indians trade Cabrera this winter and bring on a stopgap until Lindor is ready. All three scenarios are very plausible.
But I would assume for now that Francisco Lindor starts the 2014 season in Akron or Columbus. Lindor wouldn't necessarily need to make a stop in Columbus before heading to Cleveland (lots of recent top prospects have made the jump), so I wouldn't be disappointed if he gets sent back to Akron.