Should Francisco Lindor be an AL MVP candidate?: Between Innings

The Cleveland Indians sit in first place in large part due to their star shortstop, Francisco Lindor. While the AL is stacked at the position, there are some who might question if he will make the All-Star game. However, with as much as he means to the Indians, shouldn't that be automatic and should the real question be whether or not he receives AL MVP consideration?

The Cleveland Indians (35-29) received another great performance from a starting pitcher (Josh Tomlin with 7 IP, 1 ER, 7 H, 0 BB, 5 SO), yet ultimately fell to the Kansas City Royals (34-30), 3-2. Reliever Bryan Shaw continued his horrific week of failure (2 IP, 4 R, 6 H, 2 HR, 2 BB, 2 SO) by giving up the  game-winning two-run home run to Salvador Perez in the eighth inning. The Tribe's offense is now 1-for-16 in this series with RISP as the offense flailed despite a 5-for-11 mark (plus three walks) from the top three hitters in the lineup. The Indians now must rely on Corey Kluber outdueling Ian Kennedy on Wednesday to remain alone atop the AL Central Division.

One of the players who thrived despite the loss on Tuesday was Francisco Lindor (3-for-4 including a double). Flag Day will forever be the day paired with the anniversary of Lindor's arrival to MLB as he was brought up on June 14, 2015. Since that day, Lindor has quickly evolved into the team's best player whose attributes on defense, at the plate, and away from the field have all somehow exceeded the lofty expectations attached to the eighth overall pick from the 2011 MLB Amatuer Draft.1


Do not tweet or write about Francisco Lindor being #ASGWORTHY. It is a complete joke that Truffles is not in the Top 5 of the AL shortstop voting no matter how stacked the position happens to be this year. Lindor is second to Bogaerts in both bWAR and fWAR and out-paces both Correa and Andrus (next closest on list above) by almost two full wins.

When the players and managers inject their thoughts into the process, Lindor should make the bench (behind Bogaerts). But, any thought that he isn't #ASGWORTHY is ridiculous and should be treated as such.

So, there is no reason to campaign for Lindor to make the 2016 MLB All-Star game. If somehow he is snubbed, then we'll keep one of the best players in MLB to ourselves. No worries.


The more interesting vote will come at the end of the season. While it is still early in the season, Lindor is the best player on a first-place team with a slash of .308/.364/.453 (113 OPS+,122 wRC+), and makes web gem quality highlights on defense nearly every single game.

In fact, his defense is so good that the entire starting pitching staff has adjusted their approach to induce more ground balls. Sure, the infield defense on the whole contributes and there might be higher analytical studies at play too. But, the most obvious reason to induce more ground balls is Lindor elevating the infield defense over the past calendar year.

Still, Lindor wouldn't / shouldn't win if the AL MVP voting ended today. Let's take a quick look at some of the other candidates.

  • Mike Trout is still Mike Trout despite being stuck on a mediocre Los Angeles Angels team that is bad this season due to injuries. It will be interesting to see how AL MVP voters treat him if the Angels do finish in last place and there are other quality candidates though.
  • David Ortiz has the 1990s-era hitting profile (191 wRC+ - what?) along with the narrative of it being the presumptive last season of his long, successful (but not quite HOF-worthy) career. But, the Boston Red Sox do also have Xander Bogaerts (AL WAR leader), Mookie Betts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. among the Top 12 position players in AL WAR (and Dustin Pedroia is 16th). Can any player on a team so stacked be considered the most valuable? Is it value to the team or value individually?
  • Manny Machado has transitioned from third base to shortstop due to the injury to J.J. Hardy without skipping a beat. He has also continued to show a similar batting profile to Lindor except with more power. His defense has been adequate at shortstop though not nearly at the level he displayed at third. Still, he gets bonus points for making the transition out of team need and doing it well.
  • Robinson Cano, Jose Altuve, Miguel Cabrera, and Josh Donaldson all will need their teams to stay in the hunt as there are similar candidates to them above.

However, despite the fact Lindor wouldn't quite be the MVP winner right now, it is crazy to me that he isn't a candidate. He is sixth overall in fWAR (2.8) among AL position players. The Francisco Kid also has a 17.3 UZR/150 that ranks best among AL shortstops and sixth overall. Similarly, his DRS score (5) is also best among AL shortstops by three points and eighth overall.

Real Value

American League MVP voters are going to have their hands full this season with a ton of incredible talent emerging as possible candidates. The ultimate winner will likely come down to the simple questions of how they define the word value. But regardless of definition, Francisco Lindor is among the most valuable players in baseball, and he is proving it every time he steps out onto the field.

1: Reminder, the Bode Plot series is the more data driven article set. Between Innings lends itself to more opinion.

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