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The future is arriving at shortstop for the Indians

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The Indians will be starting a 22-year-old defensive whiz with better-than-you-might-guess offensive skills at SS for much of the 2015 season. The rest of the time, they get to use Francisco Lindor, one of the top 10 prospects in all of baseball. Life is good.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Previous entries in my position-by-position comparison of the 2014 and 2015 Indians:

Catcher

First Base

Second Base

Today we turn to the other half of the double-play tandem - shortstop.

Tuesday, talonk looked back at the SS position. Today, I have the unadulterated joy of looking forward. "Chad," you might ask, "why does looking forward at the Indians 2015 projections at SS bring you such joy? Such pleasure?"

"Well," I might answer, "you see there is this kid who in the Minor Leagues by the name of Francisco Lindor. And young Francisco...well...people think he can be a star. And for those of us who have been anxiously awaiting his debut, the day seems to be nigh."

A reminder: I pulled a list of every player who took the field in that role for the Indians in 2014, listed their wOBA and UZR/150, and the percentage of the team's PA they took in that position.

For the 2015 stats, you are seeing ZiPS projections for wOBA and my projection for UZR/150 based on what the player has done in the past. The 2015 playing time projections are also mine.

For wOBA, the 2014 numbers are position specific (meaning, for example, that in this post you're seeing what Santana did only when he was playing first base), while the 2015 numbers assume the player has the same wOBA regardless of where they play on the diamond. UZR/150 is always position-specific.

The Indians Total line is the pro-rated average of the guys who played (or will play) the position based on playing time; the AL average line is exactly what it sounds like - the average production for the league at the position.

Shortstop

Player 14 wOBA 14 UZR 14 PT 15 wOBA 15 UZR 15 PT
0.313 -10.8 56.9%
0.312 18.9 33.0% 0.29 15 45%
0.186 16.9 7.6% 0.278 5 5%
0.296 -21.8 2.5%
Francisco Lindor 0.287 15 50%
Indians Total 0.303 0.8 0.288 14.5
AL Average 0.297 -0.6

As we think about how great the future is, one thing to remember is that most of us probably lacked full appreciation for the past. Asdrubal Cabrera, while by no means a Gold Glove candidate, was an excellent offensive SS. There is an unfortunate, if totally understandable, desire to yearn for 25-HR Asdrubal and write off any other version of him. But Cabrera was a 1.1 WAR player for the Tribe in under 100 games last year, and that is not half bad.

The incredible thing last year, though, was that Jose Ramirez managed to match Cabrera's offense while posting elite defensive numbers. The Ramirez/Cabrera combo took up nearly 90% of the playing time at SS and delivered an unmistakably above average season.

Interestingly, this bright future we were all expecting looks a little tarnished in comparison. I've basically assumed that both Ramirez and Lindor will be excellent defensive shortstops. You could argue that the 15 UZR I project for both (which would have been 5th among MLB SS last year) is underrating them - particularly the wunderkind, Lindor. You could also argue that, rave reviews or not, expecting anyone to immediately be an fielder isn't fair. I think I split the difference nicely.

Where thing get a bit hairy is at the plate. ZiPS expects some serious regression from Ramirez and is not sure Lindor is ready for MLB pitching. I actually see upside here. Ramirez has hit better than expected at every level, despite always being young for his level. His overall wOBA last year, including time not at SS, was .288 - closer to the projection - but that was almost entirely driven by an ugly .071 wOBA over 25 PA in May. In months that were not May (namely July, August and September, after he was recalled from AAA), he posted a .312 wOBA over 241 PA.

Lindor, in the meantime, has always posted solid (not great, but solid) numbers with the bat despite reaching AAA at just 20-years-old (by the way, Ramirez - he was only 21 last year.

To be perfectly blunt, I think that .288 team projection is more "floor" than expectation. If either of the two hits better than expected, they will hold the job for more time than expected. And I think they could both outperform their numbers pretty easily.

Am I overly optimistic? Calling that an offensive floor is a bit aggressive, right? Or maybe you think I am not giving Lindor enough credit for his all-time-great defensive skills.