As we discussed yesterday, the Minnesota Twins promoted outfield prospect Byron Buxton to the major leagues over the weekend. Not to be outdone by a divisional rival, the Cleveland Indians promoted their own top prospect, shortstop Francisco Lindor, who went 1-for-2 in his first big league game against the Detroit Tigers.
Through 58 games for the Columbus Clippers of the Triple-A International League, Lindor was hitting .281/.348/.399 with 25 walks and 38 strikeouts in 228 at-bats. That may not sound excellent but his production has been above-average in context, with a 117 wRC+, a very sound mark for a 21 year old shortstop in Triple-A. Lindor is almost six years younger than the average player in the International League this year.
The switch-hitting Lindor has been a solid contextual offensive performer but the former first-round pick (2011 from high school in Montverde, Florida) is better-known for his defensive ability. All of his glove tools (range, hands, arm strength, general quickness, field alertness) are at least above average. His makeup is considered exceptionally good, a factor that endears him to managers, coaches, and scouts. Lindor ranked 12th overall among prospects on the pre-season Minor League Ball Top 175 prospects list.
That's all very cool and Indians fans should be happy to have him. However, Lindor is more valuable as a "real" baseball player than he is as a fantasy asset. As Brett Talley pointed out for Fangraphs yesterday, Lindor is not likely to provide a huge performance goose for fantasy owners, at least in the short run. He isn't going to hit a bunch of home runs, nor is he likely to hit .300, nor is he likely to steal 20 bases.
Right now he looks something like a .250-.260 hitter with some doubles and an adequate OBP, perhaps 10-12 steals if given an aggressive green light on the bases. His main fantasy asset is the fact that he'll be in the lineup, but if your fantasy context doesn't have a way to account for defense, Lindor's value will be limited.
That's in the short term. In the long term, I suspect that Lindor can develop into a better hitter than most people currently expect. I like his swing. He makes easy contact, controls the strike zone reasonably well, and should grow into more gap power as he matures physically. He isn't going to be a 20-homer guy, but it wouldn't surprise me at all to see him hit 10-15 homers per season at maturity, with a respectable number of doubles and above-average batting averages and OBPs. Add that to his defense and you'll have a hellufva player by the time he's in his mid-20s.
That's my take anyway. What do you think?