Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor has been phenomenal in his rookie campaign, but will he be rewarded for it at the end of the year? In terms of adoration and fan support, absolutely, but when it comes to the American League Rookie of the Year award, there is less of a guarantee thanks to a certain Houston Astros rookie shortstop.
Before looking at Lindor’s competition for AL ROY, let’s look at the Tribe sensation himself. In 61 games (274 plate appearances), Lindor has an above-average batting line of .298/.335/.4423 (110 wRC+), with a 5.58% walk rate and a 16.2% strikeout rate.
Those numbers alone do not sound all that outstanding, especially for an ROY candidate, but he has been on a tear since the All-Star break. His .346/.382/.508 slash since the break is good for a wRC+ of 147 and shows just how valuable Lindor has been during the Tribe’s last-ditch effort to make a playoff run. In that same span, he has also hit five of his seven total home runs (including a massive go-ahead solo shot on Sunday) and bagged two of his three total stolen bases.
Lindor’s defense has been stellar for the most part, although he has had a few recent bumps in the road. An error or mental mistake here and there is not unheard of for a rookie, and it does not diminish just how great he has been on defense. But the real question is: Is this all enough to win ROY?
If Lindor is to win Rookie of the Year, he will need to go through another superstar-in-the-making, Carlos Correa. The Houston Astros shortstop has played in only five more games than Lindor but is sporting 15 home runs and a slash line of .282/.347/.517 (139 wRC+). Numbers that are not only good for a rookie but just out of this world for a shortstop who is also good defensively.
On paper, outside of Correa, Lindor is also going up against the Blue Jays Devon Travis (8 HR, .304/.361/.498, 137 wRC+, 2.3 WAR), with Miguel Sano of the Minnesota Twins (11 HR, .288/.397/.582, 169 wRC+, 1.6 WAR) coming up fast, despite only playing in 44 games so far. The former, however, is most likely out of the race entirely with a shoulder injury he suffered on July 28 still lingering, and the latter has around 20 fewer games to pad his numbers with. So, in reality, Lindor is only really up against Correa, unless Sano has an unreal burst in the last month-and-a-half of the season.
Assuming Lindor keeps streaking and Correa stays even or maybe even starts to regress, there is a chance that their offensive numbers could be near neck-and-neck at season's end. Lindor probably will not be able to match Correa’s home run total, which is not a surprise, but there is no doubt his defense will be better. The big hurdle for Lindor winning will be if the BBWAA voters decide that home runs or defense is more important at shortstop. Right or wrong, the fact that Correa's team will probably be in the playoffs may also play a part in the voting.
Regardless of who wins, Correa and Lindor are equally deserving, there is no arguing that. And even if Lindor does not pull off a miracle and win it, he is going to have many more years in an Indians uniform and many more chances to win awards and honors.