For better or worse, the 2016 baseball season has ended. Maybe not the way Cleveland Indians fans wanted it to, but it’s time we start looking ahead to the future. We are going to start with something this site has done for a while, but maybe a little differently than in the past — yearly reviews.
Because the Indians went and played themselves into a lengthy World Series, all these reviews are going to be done in half the time. If all goes according to plan, there will be two a day until a couple days after Thanksgiving. Because of the condensed schedule, we are also not doing MVP voting, although we may do a staff vote eventually in a single post.
But I cannot think of a better way to kick this off than with a player who has brought immense talent, love of the game, and a smile that will resonate in Cleveland for years: Francisco Lindor.
Expectations couldn’t have been higher, and Lindor met them
After storming onto the scene in the second half of 2015, I did not know what to expect out of him in his first full season. How much of his success was just based on lack of scouting against him? Clearly, the defense was there, and that probably would not go away in a year, but he could possibly maintain a .313/.353/.482 slash (126 wRC+) when asked to do so over an entire Major League Baseball Season. As it turns out, not quite. But shockingly close.
Lindor hit 12 home runs in 438 plate appearances in 2015 with a .482 slugging percentage a .169 isolated power rating. No matter how much you believe in Lindor, or the fact that he was just "bored" in the minors, it would be hard to believe a player who had never slugged higher than .429 at any level in the minors could flip a switch like that.
Age is just a number, so are strikeout totals
Predictably, Francisco’s power dipped in 2016, but he traded it for a better approach at the plate, overall. His contact rate hovered around 83.6 percent, just a shade higher than the 82.9 he put up in 2015. Where Lindor improved the most was swinging less outside of the strike zone (30.3%) and making better contact when he did swing at pitches out of the zone (47.3%).
Among the core group of star players 22 or younger in baseball right now (we’re talking Lindor, Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Addison Russell, Nomar Mazara, etc), Lindor had the best strikeout rate by a big margin. He whiffed only 12.9 percent of the time, with the next closest being Los Angeles Dodgers’ Corey Seager at 19.4 percent. Overall, Lindor ranked 22nd among all qualified batters in strikeout rate this season.
Lindor may never have the power of a Correa, Russell, or Seager, but 15 home runs a year plus the kind of defense he brings to the table makes him an undeniable star.
Oh yeah, he plays defense too
All season long, the 22-year-old superstar showed us why he was constantly ranked as one of the top prospects in baseball prior to his call-up. Easy plays, difficult plays, or even plays while falling down — Frankie can make it.
Lindor, of course, is great at routine defensive plays. Among defensive plays that FanGraphs deems ‘Routine,’ Lindor converted 98 percent of them in 2016. ‘Likely’ plays? 89.3 percent (60-90% average). Jumping all the way to the ‘Remote’ category, where it is expected that a normal shortstop will convert somewhere between 1-10 percent of all plays, Lindor converted 26.9 percent (!!!) of 26 total tries. Even 2015 Francisco Lindor would blush at that, having converted exactly zero of 14 attempted ‘Remote’ plays.
Only Billy Hamilton, who is almost entirely made of blurry legs, converted more ‘Remote’ plays — and he’s in center field.
The swim move
One of my favorite things to come out of this season is Lindor’s swim move. He’s busted it out at home and second base at various times of the season, and it’s always impressive when it works.
Lindor is not the first to use a swim move, of course. Just last year some guy named after a fish did it stealing third. But I don’t know that anyone does it quite as frequently as Lindor did in 2016.
Overall, Lindor was third on the Indians in stolen bases with 19, trailing only Jose Ramirez and Rajai Davis, who swiped 43 bases.
There is no World Series run without Lindor
I talked about this in a post during the World Series, but it bears mentioning again: Francisco Lindor was absolutely phenomenal in the playoffs. Seven multi-hit games — including three in the World Series — and two three-hit games.
Lindor ended the postseason tied for second in hits and tied for fourth in doubles. And he also did this, which may not look like much but it showed incredible range in one of the biggest moments of his career.
If there was one downside for Lindor, it was his baserunning. While solid in the regular season, Lindor — and the rest of the Indians, to be fair — forgot how to not get TOOTBLAN’d in the World Series.
Cleveland’s future is bright, mostly because Lindor is in it
Francisco Lindor would probably be leaving a lot of money on the table if he signed a long contract with the Indians now, so I don’t see that kind of deal getting done. If he can stay healthy until he hits free agency after the 2021 season, he is going to be a rich, rich man and no one should blame him for a second if he wants to cash in.
But, as it is, Indians fans can expect another five years of one of the best young stars in baseball. Whether or not it brings a championship, or multiple championships, just remember to enjoy it. Lindor is fun, both in how he plays the game and how he conducts himself on and off the field. He is truly a rare talent in a game full of super-talented individuals. This is the kind of player you can tell your grandkids about in 50 years if you can manage to pry them away from their virtual reality space shopping simulator.