The statistics indicate that Francisco Lindor is ready to be promoted to the Double-A Aeros.
After next week’s All-Star break is typically the time that players doing well in advanced A-ball make the jump to the Double-A level.
But when it comes to Lindor, the Indians’ No. 1 pick (eighth overall) in the 2011 draft and the organization’s second-best prospect according to Baseball America, it is preferred that the young shortstop stay right where he is for now.
That is in Zebulon, N.C., where Lindor, a switch hitter, is having great success in his first stint with the high Class-A Carolina Mudcats despite being one of the youngest players in the league at 19 years old.
“Our focus with Francisco is helping him be the best major-league player he can be,” Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti said. “We don’t want to rush that process. He’s continuing to develop exceptionally well in Carolina and is working through some things there. He’s on a great path where he is now. We couldn’t be more pleased with his development.”
Lindor will travel next week, it just won’t be to Akron for the first time.
Instead, he’ll head to New York to join major-league baseball’s group of elite prospects chosen to participate in the July 14 Futures Game, where as a native of Caguas, Puerto Rico, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Lindor will suit up for the second consecutive year for the World Team.
Last season at low Class-A Lake County, Lindor began the season strong, but began to wear down near the All-Star break. He finished his first full professional season batting .257 with 87 runs scored, 24 doubles, three triples, six home runs, 44 RBI and 28 stolen bases.
This season, Lindor has been strong from the start. He’s hitting .307 through 74 games with 46 runs scored, 17 doubles, five triples, a home run and 24 RBI. He’s also walked more (33) than he has struck out (32). He has 19 stolen bases and has been caught just four times.
“If you’d have told me at the beginning of the year that he’d have those numbers and not be headed to Double-A, I probably wouldn’t have believed you,” said Dave Wallace, Lindor’s manager for the second consecutive season.
“Usually guys at this level are making physical adjustments, like a small adjustment offensively to get in a better position or something like that. With Francisco, it’s more of him building a mental foundation, him being engaged and focused on every single pitch, little things like understanding game situations and really just getting more experience under his belt. A lot of the learning comes with the experience of being in different game situations.”
Carolina League offers challenge
A lot of that learning also tends to come at Double-A, but the Indians think Lindor is best suited to continue his baseball education in A-ball for now.
“This league is a challenge,” Wallace said. “The Carolina League is a very good league. I remember it was a separator for me as a player, as well. With only eight teams in it, everybody gets to know you very quickly and they’re going to find your holes [in your swing] and [defensive] weaknesses and try to expose them.
“That’s why as an organization, we believe what’s best for Francisco comes down more to it being the minor leagues versus the major league. It’s not whether he’s at Carolina or Akron or [Triple-A] Columbus. It comes down to where is the best spot for him to develop and become closer to being a major-league shortstop.”
Keeping Lindor in somewhat of a cocoon at Carolina doesn’t come without its challenges from the outside.
“It’s almost daily that you hear people questioning or wondering why he’s still here,” Wallace said. “I hear it from other players, other managers and coaches and scouts. And he hears it, too. So that’s another part of that foundation he’s looking to build on right now. He has to find a way to hear all that but when that first pitch is thrown, he has to separate himself and eliminate the distractions to focus on that game, each inning and every pitch.”
Lindor has even pulled Wallace aside and asked what more he needs to do to make the next step up the minor-league ladder.
“He has asked, as have a lot of the players,” Wallace admitted. “Every guy down here wants to be Double-A. But part of their learning process is that it’s not always about their batting average. It’s about learning a lot of other nuances of the game. It’s not always number goals, it’s also about things the numbers don’t show.”
No need for Indians to rush Lindor
It also helps that the Indians aren’t in a rush to get Lindor to the majors with two-time All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera signed through the 2014 season.
Still, Tribe executives don’t doubt that Lindor could do what Washington Nationals prospect Taylor Jordan did last week, when the right-hander made his major-league debut after opening the season just two and a half months ago for Potomac in the Carolina League.
“Could Francisco handle Double-A right now?” Indians farm director Ross Atkins said. “Absolutely. There’s no doubt he could handle Triple-A. But we have a rare opportunity in his player development to build on a foundation that typically, the closer a player gets to the major leagues, the harder that becomes.
“When Francisco becomes a major-league shortstop, we expect him to be one for a long time. Right now, we want him to focus on each aspect of his game and go from being a great player to being the best player — and all of our baseball operations staff feel that he’s in a great spot to do that.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Aeros blog at http://www.ohio.com/aeros. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/sports.abj.