Mike Trout, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr. Albert Pujols, Andruw Jones, Cal Ripken, Ricky Henderson, Barry Bonds, Bryce Harper, Mookie Betts. This is a list of players that could soon include Francisco Lindor if he can play out of his mind again in 2019.
The other day, fellow SB Nation site Beyond the Box Score tweeted out an interesting list of the players with the most FanGraphs WARs before their age 26 season in the last 39 years.
Most fWAR accumulated before age 26 season since 1980— Beyond the Box Score (@BtBScore) January 27, 2019
1. Mike Trout: 54.9
2. Alex Rodriguez: 42.8
3. Ken Griffey Jr: 38.3
4. Albert Pujols: 37.7
5. Andruw Jones: 36.6
6. Cal Ripken: 34.7
7. Rickey Henderson: 32.9
8. Barry Bonds: 31.1
9. Bryce Harper: 30.7
10. Mookie Betts: 30.5
They were pointing out the fact that Harper and Machado — two as of yet still unsigned free agents — make the list or just miss it (Machado is lucky number eleven with 30.2 fWAR to date), but what I saw was just how close an Indians player is to making the cut.
Francisco Lindor turned 25 in November, making 2019 the final season for him to join this arbitrary list. He currently sits at 22.8 fWAR over his three-and-a-half years of smiling baseballing, putting him 24th on the list ahead of greats like Miguel Cabrera, Jose Ramirez, and Kris Bryant. Those three are all disqualified of course due to age — Jose Ramirez passed the 26-year-old threshold last September, and Miguel Cabrera’s age has tested the limits of time and space.
If my skill of glancing over a list and manually looking up players I think might be below 26 is on point, Lindor is the closest player to busting into the list — by a long shot. Carlos Correa, the illegitimate (fight me) Rookie of the Year winner in 2015 is the next closest at 15.3 fWAR. He would need to put up a 2019 for the record books to cross the 30.2 mark and make the list.
Amassing 7.7 WAR in a single season sounds like a tall order for anyone, let alone a 25-year-old. But keep in mind that Francisco Lindor nearly did it last season with his 7.6 fWAR, .277/.352/.519 campaign in which he returned to being one of the best defensive shortstops in all of baseball following a weird 2017 season in the field. Even Steamer believes it isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility — the debbie downer of projection systems has Lindor pegged for 6.7 fWAR next season, with 21 home runs and a .286/.358/.508 slash. That’s good enough for the same wRC+ he had last season (130), with some projected regressed defense.
Other notable former Indians high on this list include Roberto Alomar, 14th overall with 27 fWAR, and Grady Sizemore, who had 28.2 fWAR prior to his 26-year-old season and probably went on to have a long and healthy career I don’t know I stopped reading.