Saturday, October 21, 2017 Medina 72°
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Tribe Notes

Commentary: Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor a star that doesn't come around all that often

  • Reds-Indians-Spring-Baseball-2

    Francisco Lindor, right, signs autographs for fans prior to a spring training baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds on Feb. 25 in Goodyear, Ariz.

    ROSS D. FRANKLIN / AP

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The All-Star second baseman is sidelined with a sore shoulder, the All-Star left fielder is taking baby steps back from HIS sore shoulder. What is it with this team and shoulders?

The All-Star pitching ace (Corey Kluber), in his first two spring training starts, had an 11.37 ERA, and the No. 2 starting pitcher (Carlos Carrasco) had such an alarming outing Monday (eight runs, eight hits, including a double and three home runs allowed, in just 1 2⁄3 innings) that Tuesday he was sent to a doctor to make sure he was all right.

He wasn’t.

Carrasco has swelling in his elbow, which is not swell news for the Indians, who, with Opening Day just over two weeks away, seem to be generating more troubling than tranquil news, unbefitting a team that for the first time in 20 years, will open the season as the defending American League champions.

But where seldom is heard an encouraging word, here are two of them:

Francisco Lindor.

He’s only 23 years old, and still probably five years from his prime, which ought to be something to behold, given that and he’s already the best in the business at his position.

All in all, it’s great to be young and an Indian.

It’s also great to be great, and Lindor is the best player on the best team in the American League.

Enjoy.

To do that now, though, you’ll have to either start or continue watching the World Baseball Classic, where Lindor is, predictably, doing Lindor things as the starting shortstop for Puerto Rico. Significantly, Houston shortstop Carlos Correa, the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year, has been bumped by Lindor to third base on the Puerto Rican team.

With Lindor leading the way, batting .429 (6-for-14) with two home runs and four RBIs, Puerto Rico is 4-0 in the WBC. The next game for Puerto Lindor will be Friday vs. USA, which creates a potential late-inning matchup of Lindor vs. Andrew Miller that nervous Indians officials may watch only under full anesthesia.

Lindor’s greatness has happened so quickly and so completely that it’s easy to take it for granted.

Don’t.

This is not a normal career path: In his first full season in the big leagues, 2016, Lindor hit over .300 with 15 home runs, 19 stolen bases — and his defense was even better than his offense.

He won a Gold Glove as the best defensive shortstop in the league and the Platinum Glove as the best all-around defensive player in the league, regardless of position.

At age 22.

In an era that has, seemingly overnight, given us a nearly unprecedented influx of great young shortstops, Lindor is considered the best of them all.

It’s not Correa, Washington’s Trea Turner, the Cubs’ Addison Russell, Boston’s Xander Bogaerts, Colorado’s Trevor Story, the Yankees’ Didi Gregorius or the Dodgers’ Corey Seager.

It’s Francisco Miguel Lindor, a five-tool franchise player who plays the most important non-pitching position on the field, is the best all-around shortstop in the majors, regardless of age, and plays for your Cleveland Indians.

If you want to win back-to-back pennants, if you want to win a World Series, having a world class shortstop is a good place to start. The Indians have that.

Lindor is that rarest of baseball prodigies, who when he reached the big leagues actually exceeded the hype that preceded his arrival.

He is playing better in the majors than he ever did in the minors — and he played so well in the minors that he rarely stayed at any level very long. That’s the way it works when you make your big league debut at 21 — which the preposterously precocious Lindor did in 2015.

He debuted with the Indians in June of that year and proceeded to hit a “what’s the big deal about this level?” .313. Throw out his first 15 get-acquainted games and in his last 84 games Lindor hit .330, with a .517 slugging percentage and .886 OPS — as a shortstop.

Most rookies struggle in their first taste of the big leagues.

Lindor flourished.

Many rookies, in their first taste of the big leagues, are overmatched and are sent back to the minors.

Lindor — minors schminors — became an All-Star, Gold Glove, Platinum Glove, best-in-show shortstop almost immediately.

He’s become an instant star, and, barring injury, he should remain a star for the bulk of his career. A switch-hitter with speed and remarkable hand-eye coordination, he could very well do what no Indians player has done in 62 years, and only six Indians players have done in the last 116 years: win a batting title.

If he stays healthy he will likely reach 3,000 career hits — or more.

Lindor’s ceiling isn’t visible, but is this what a future hit king looks like?

Career hits through their age 22 season: Pete Rose 170, Francisco Lindor 304.

Contact Jim Ingraham at 329-7135 or jingraham4@gmail.com and follow him @Jim_Ingraham on Twitter.



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