Lindor has the winning spirit
Minor league camp officially opens next week for Indians’ pitchers and catchers, but a lot of players are already in Goodyear taking part in early camp. One such player already in town is 2011 first round shortstop Francisco Lindor.
Lindor, 18, will get his first true taste of pro ball this spring. Since he signed on the August 16th signing deadline last year, he got a very late start and was only able to play in a handful of games at short-season Single-A Mahoning Valley and in the Fall Instructional League before the 2011 development season came to a close. With his first spring training and season about to get underway, the competition and excitement on the field are both intensifying big time.
The Indians signed Lindor to a $2.9 million signing bonus last year, which is a pretty nice chunk of change for a young player that just moved from Puerto Rico to the United States five years ago. Like a lot of first round talent from the 2011 Draft it literally went down to the final minutes to complete a deal, but he was confident all along one would get done and is happy to be an Indian.
“It was a long process,” Lindor said in a recent interview with the IPI. “It went down to the last minute like everyone said, but it pretty much happened like I felt it would the whole time. I am thankful for everything and thank God every day for everything that has happened to me.”
In the two-plus months after the draft while Lindor and the Indians waited to complete a deal he worked hard to stay in shape so he was ready when his opportunity to play professionally became official. He did not play anywhere last summer, but worked out every day in the weight room, practiced his fielding, ran the bases, and hit in the cages.
“I could have played if I wanted to, but I just decided to work hard to get bigger and stronger,” Lindor said. “I knew I was going to play some day.”
Now that the whole charade of the signing process is over and he is officially an Indian, Lindor is just happy that he no longer has to worry about the politics of the draft and all the drama with the signing process.
“One good thing is that you no longer have to go through that process with scouts coming out to the games and stuff,” Lindor remarked. “It is great to go through that experience, but it gets to a point where you think way too much about the scouts and you don’t enjoy the game because you are thinking of them. It is the same game that I have been playing since I was a little kid. Obviously it is faster. But my dream was not to make it to the minor leagues; it was to make it to the Major Leagues. Hopefully it will happen one day, God willing.”
Lindor worked out with Mahoning Valley in late August and looked dynamite during pregame infield drills. He was finally cleared to play the last week of the season and in five games with Mahoning Valley went 6-for-19 at the plate with two RBI and a stolen base.
From there Lindor went out to the Fall Instructional League where he had a chance to really settle in with the organization and show his skills both in the field and at the plate. He showed his natural and exceptional abilities at shortstop on a daily basis, and also showed a lot of promise with the bat. In 12 games of action in the fall he unofficially hit .250 (7-for-28) with 3 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, and 3 RBI, and also had 5 walks and 7 strikeouts.
Lindor is expected to open this season at Low-A Lake County as the everyday shortstop. Because he is still 18-years old and will be that age the entire season, he will not play every single day in order to ease him into a full season, but he will get the majority of the playing time at shortstop. He will probably share some of the shortstop duties with Tony Wolters, though Wolters is expected to be the regular second baseman.
The Lindor and Wolters keystone combination at shortstop and second base will be worth the price of admission at Lake County this season and is must-see for fans of defense and good fundamentals. With two young, high upside prospects manning everyday middle infield positions there are sure to be a lot of ups and downs as they develop and grow into their games, but they offer a ton of excitement both as defenders and hitters.
Lindor and Wolters have a great relationship and are very good friends, a friendship that goes back to when they played on Team USA together back in the summer of 2010.
“I didn’t know him that much [before Team USA], but then we got to know each other more at tryouts,” Lindor said. “By the time we made the team we spent a month and a half together. We did not room together, but we spent a lot of time together in the field. We talked most of the time while shagging balls in the outfield and we would practice turning double plays to each other in the outfield with no ball. We really got to know each other well, and I can’t be any happier than to be with him in the organization.”
If anyone thinks Lindor is going to sit back and relax with a feeling of accomplishment just because he got a hefty signing bonus, you need not worry. He is about as committed and driven as they come, which beyond his skills on the diamond is another reason he is so highly regarded in the scouting community.
Negotiations are over, now it is time to get down to business and play ball.
“I don’t like to lose…I want to win,” Lindor said. “I am not a loser. I want to win first and after that develop. I want to improve my entire game. I want to improve it all. That’s why I come out to the field everyday so I can get better. But I want to win."
Follow Tony and the Indians Prospect Insider on Twitter @TonyIPI. Also, his new book the 2012 Cleveland Indians Prospect Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.
Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.