I believe top Cleveland Indians prospect Francisco Lindor is better today than any other shortstop anywhere in the organization, including on the Major League roster. If the top priority is winning games in 2014, Lindor should be called up now.
Through the first 18 games of the Triple-A season, Lindor is batting .284/.360/.403, with a wRC+ of 125. His walk rate, strikeout rate, and isolated power are all a little better than they were in Double-A last year, and while I appreciate that we're dealing with a small sample of plate appearances (76), those particular statistics are among the first to stabilize/become predictive.
Additionally, it's not as though it'd take much to be an improvement over the current offensive situation for the Tribe at shortstop. Jose Ramirez is batting .185/.237/.259, with a wRC+ of 42. Part of that is due to his unsustainably low BABIP (.209), but a lot of is is due to him probably not really having the skill set to be a good MLB hitter. Even during his strong second half last year, Ramirez was only a league average hitter, and I think that's his ceiling. His basement is somewhere around what he's hitting right now, and his most likely outcome is somewhere in between, as a well below average bat. A well below average bat can be enough for a good defensive shortstop, but I'm not convinced Ramirez is a good defensive shortstop.
I wouldn't say he's a bad one (though I think he's been bad the last couple weeks), but remember that he was never really viewed as a top flight gloveman. He made some great plays last year, which inflated my sense of his skills in the field. He was always projected as more of a capable shortstop than a spectacular one. Lindor's defense, on the other hand, has consistently earned rave reviews form scouts. I believe his bat would be at least a modest upgrade over Ramirez's, and I believe his glove would be a larger upgrade. I think that over the rest of this season, Lindor could be worth an extra 2 or 3 wins.
Indians GM Chris Antonetti says Lindor still has a "litany of things" that need to be worked on before he could potentially be promoted, but I don't buy it. He certainly doesn't have as much to work on as Ramirez did when he was called up last year. Ramirez had a .679 OPS in 2013 (mostly in Double-A) before getting a cup of coffee with the Tribe that September, and during the two months he spent in Triple-A between his two stints with the Indians last year, his OPS was .772, almost identical to Lindor's current figure.
The other factor impacting the decision making is the service time clock. (I would argue that if Antonetti were honest, he'd acknowledge this is the only factor really impacting the decision at this point.) If the Indians call Lindor up now, he'll be under team control through the end of 2021, basically a full seven years. He'd be arbitration eligible during four of those seasons though. If the Indians instead wait until after the Super 2 deadline, they'd still have him under team control through the end of 2021, but he'd only be arbitration eligible for the final three of those seasons.
An extra year of arbitration could easily cost the team $10 million or more, if Lindor is the kind of player we hope for. It would also raise the cost of a potential long-term extension with Lindor, something the team would probably try to get done, as they have in recent years with Santana, Kipnis, Brantley, Gomes, and Kluber.
When is the Super 2 deadline? Good question. There is no firm date for it, instead the top 22% of players with more than two years, but less than three years of service time are granted Super 2 status. Basically, 22% of the players called up in a given year will become Super 2 players, which means it's impossible to know right now exactly when the magical date will be. It could be as soon as early June, or as last as mid July. Most expect it to be sometime in late June, and so calling a player up at the end of that month means a team is probably "safe."
Are two months of Lindor worth $10 million? Probably not, but if the one or two-game difference Lindor could make is the difference between the Indians making the postseason this season or finishing out of the running, the answer will have been yes. Given Antonetti's comments, I'd be stunned if Lindor were promoted before whenever it is the front office thinks the Super 2 deadline for this year will end up being. Given that the Indians are on pace to finish 56 games out of 1st place, I suppose I don't blame them. If they're serious about cutting down their current deficit though, Lindor should be the team's shortstop.