CLEVELAND: Shortstop Francisco Lindor’s offense at Triple-A Columbus, along with the anticipation of his long-awaited debut, is starting to pick up steam.
Lindor, the top prospect in the Indians’ system and a consensus top-10 prospect in all of baseball, got off to a slow start this season but has heated up recently. He got 10 hits in a four-game span last week and raised his batting average nearly 75 points, to .284. He’s also raised his on-base percentage to .360 and has stolen six bases.
Lindor is a switch-hitting, smooth-fielding shortstop who can hit for average, steal bases and has shown some power for the position. He projects to be a top-of-the-order hitter and at a Gold Glove-level player on defense.
He’s also only 21 years old and won’t be 22 until after the season, so he’s always been younger than the players he’s faced throughout his minor-league career. But his talent has warranted high rankings and lofty expectations, and he’s produced at every level.
When Lindor got off to a substandard start to 2015, it was easier to allow him time to develop. Last season, that was true as well because Jose Ramirez played well enough to hold the position down. But now Lindor is hitting well and Ramirez isn’t doing much of anything to block Lindor’s ascent to the big leagues. Ramirez entered Tuesday’s game hitting only .185 and has committed four errors, the most on the team.
Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti met with reporters Monday but wouldn’t give any specifics on what Lindor still needs to accomplish at the Triple-A level.
“There’s a litany of things, a number of things that we’ve talked with, not only Francisco, but each player has a specific developmental plan that we talk with them about,” Antonetti said. “I can tell you that Francisco is committed to that plan and has worked extraordinarily hard to continue to improve and get better as a player.”
Barring an injury, it’s more a matter of when than if Lindor is called up this season. The Indians, while not being able to say as much, certainly were going to start Lindor at Triple-A in order to push his service-time clock back and add a year of organizational control. They will also surely be mindful of Lindor’s possible Super Two status if he’s called up sooner rather than later, which would give him a fourth year of arbitration eligibility.
Those are two aspects and two decisions that will have real financial consequences down the road. As for the 2015 season and what happens on the field, Lindor is getting closer to forcing his way up I-71 to Cleveland. As Lindor waits for that day, the team has maintained a high level of conversation with him to limit any possible frustration.
“If we weren’t communicating with him, I’d worry about it. But, we are,” Antonetti said. “Francisco has got a very clear understanding of the things that we’ve partnered with him and talked with him about, that he can continue to improve as a player.”
Antonetti said the ideal scenario for calling up such a prized prospect is when the team is playing well, he’s playing well at Triple-A and a situation presents itself. That’s not the current situation.
The Indians might be inclined to give Lindor some more time. But as long as he produces and Ramirez doesn’t, and as long as the Indians struggle, being patient might become difficult.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.