Hardworking Lindor looks to finish the season strong
Francisco Lindor knows he is blessed to be playing minor league ball, but he doesn’t want to be playing it very long.
The Cleveland Indians’ 2011 first-round draft pick has just over half a season under his belt with the low-A level Lake County Captains and he’s taken in every learning opportunity that has presented itself.
Lindor, 18, signed with the Indians last year as the eighth overall draft pick out of Montverde Academy in Florida. The Puerto Rico native opted out of attending Florida State University when he signed for a $2.9 million signing bonus with the Indians organization last year. He had a small stint with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, where he hit .316 through five games with the team.
Now, Lindor has settled in to life in the minors and wants nothing more than to get better. Luckily, the grind of minor league life has yet to wear him down.
“I feel good,” he said. “I’m feeling pretty comfortable. I still have that same drive that I had at the beginning of the season.”
There is a lot of pressure that accompanies the title of a first-round draft pick, but Lindor says he doesn’t feel it. In fact, he doesn’t take his draft slot into consideration at all; he knows he has to prove himself like every other player in the minors.
“I want to perform well no matter what,” he said. “Like any other player, I still have to perform or I wouldn’t be here.”
Lindor is all about winning, but even though the Captains didn’t win as much as they initially hoped during the first half of the season, he still sees his first half as a success.
“My goal was pretty much to stay healthy,” he said. “Stay healthy and get better. We didn’t win as much as we wanted to, but I stayed healthy and got better.”
Lindor’s hard work was enough to earn him a spot on the Midwest League All-Star team as well as a spot in the MiLB Future’s Game.
“It was awesome,” Lindor said of his experience at the All-Star Game. “I got to talk to good players from this league and learn from them. That experience is one of the best things anyone can have. I soaked in everything possible.”
Now, the second half of the season is in full force – and so is Lindor. His goals have not changed much and his attitude is still anchored by his winning attitude as all he wants is to get better.
“My goal is still to just get better every day,” he said. “It’s to come out here and work hard every day, stay healthy and keep going.”
One thing that propels Lindor to keep going is maintaining a positive attitude.
“You’ve got to stay positive all the time,” he emphasized. “You can’t let those things get to you or your head. Keep playing hard and make the right adjustments and listen to your coaches and fellow teammates. The biggest thing you can do is stay focused.”
As for those adjustments, Lindor makes them every game.
“Every time I play,” he said, “I have to make that adjustment. Otherwise, you can’t be successful.”
Lindor said the most prominent adjustment he makes is at the plate, where he focuses on hitting off his back foot in order to stay balanced.
So far, Lindor has exceeded many of the expectations set for him. It’s tough to single out one strength in a player who seems to have all the tools, but Lake County Captains manager David Wallace admires Lindor’s leadership the most.
“Despite being one of the youngest guys on the team, he’s a leader out there,” Wallace said. “He has energy, he plays the game the right way, he plays hard.”
Lindor doesn’t turn 19 until November, but Wallace has been more than impressed by his maturity.
“I could not be more encouraged with how he’s played this year, how he’s handled himself,” Wallace said. “He’s had a lot thrown his way, a lot of attention and he’s handled it all very professionally.”
Wallace feels that the remainder of the season will be a vital component to Lindor’s development.
“He’s definitely still learning and these last two months are going to be two big months for him as the weather gets hotter,” Wallace noted. “The length of the season, he’s never really seen before so he’ll continue to learn himself, his body and what he needs to do to go out there and play the way he’s capable of playing every night.”
Even Lindor knows the length of the season takes some getting used to. In fact, he’s found that playing every day has been the biggest difference between high school ball and minor league ball.
“Here, instead of going to school, I’m playing every day and having so many at-bats,” Lindor said. “In high school, we played seven innings, here we play nine. Instead of four at-bats, you might have five or six sometimes. That’s the biggest difference. You’re doing that every day and you’ve got to find quality, not quantity.”
So far, Lindor’s approach toward quality has served him well. He currently posts a .263 average with four home runs, 34 walks, 18 stolen bases and 26 RBIs for the Captains this year.
According to Wallace, Lindor’s all-out work ethic is ironically his biggest adjustment as he is working to harbor his swing.
“Sometimes he tries to do too much,” Wallace said. “And if he just stays within himself, he’s going to be successful.”
The expectations were high as Francisco Lindor started his first full season as a professional baseball player, and so far, he’s met all of them. He says he hasn’t really thought about where he’ll end up next season, as long as he gets better, but he admits that he doesn’t want to wear a Captains jersey forever.
“I hope I won’t stay around too long,” he said.
Like any other player in the organization, Lindor’s goal is to grace the diamond of Progressive Field. But for now, he’s happy to have been given the chance to make a life of the game he loves.
“I’ve been blessed to be able to play every day,” he said. “I’ve got no complaints, no regrets with my decision. I’m happy and my family’s happy. I’m blessed.”
Stephanie is a crime and general assignment reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio. She’s an alumna of Cleveland State University with a degree in Journalism and Promotional Communication. You can follow her on Twitter @7thInningSteph.