At just 22-years-old, Francisco Lindor was the youngest player on the 2016 Cleveland Indians roster. But with the way the Puerto Rican shortstop plays the game, it is a surprise to many that Lindor was only in his second big league stint and his first full season.
The Tribe’s 2011 first round pick (8th overall) sprouted into more than just a defensive specialist thanks to his immeasurable efforts out of the three hole in the lineup and his fun-loving, yet competitive flair that is displayed on a nightly basis.
Not only did Lindor’s passion for the game bring about a lively atmosphere in the Indians clubhouse, but his performance worked wonders for the team and earned him his first career All Star Game appearance.
Lindor finished the 2016 campaign batting .301 with 15 home runs, 78 RBI and 19 stolen bases. Defensively, he won the Gold Glove thanks to many unimaginable diving plays and throws from the shallow depths of the outfield leading to a .982 fielding percentage, 83 turned double plays, and only 12 errors.
The phenom logged action in 155 of the Tribe’s 162-game regular season slate, and features an undying love for his teammates and surrounding community. In the postseason, Lindor was seen sporting baseball cleats with “Believeland” inscribed in gold ink across the middle. Some believe those cleats had a direct correlation to his magical tie-breaking home run in Game 1 of the ALDS, which put the Progressive Field crowd into a frenzy that broke the sound barrier.
“I believe in my team, I believe in my city,” Lindor said to a reporter at the conclusion of his clutch ALCS Game 1 performance.
But where did this abnormal amount of composure and confidence come from? How was Lindor cool, calm, and collected at such a young age?
Lindor’s rise to fame is unique in that regard.
“Frankie,” as his teammates like to call him, was born in November of 1993 in Caguas, Puerto Rico. Once he moved to America as a teenager, Lindor developed a keen fluency of the English language and made the decision to attend Montverde Academy in Montverde, Florida.
Lindor’s physical attributes do not jump out as he stands at 5’11’’ and 190 pounds. Even so, his Perfect Game national profile listed him as the number one talent in the state of Florida for his 2011 draft class.
Lindor threw a baseball as fast as 86 mph from his infield position at the national showcase event earning praise from a bevy of top Division 1 colleges including the likes of Florida State, Louisiana State, Rice, Miami, and North Carolina.
Despite settling upon the Seminoles and receiving an offer to attend FSU, the Indians organization drafted him eighth overall amongst a loaded 2011 class that included teammate Trevor Bauer, along with Gerrit Cole, Dylan Bundy, Anthony Rendon, Javier Baez, Sonny Gray, Kolten Wong, and the late Jose Fernandez.
Luring him away from a college baseball career was difficult, but the Tribe did what was best for Lindor and developed him in their rapidly growing minor league system. The move paid its dividends as he reached the big leagues after just 416 games over the span of four and a half years in the Indians pipeline.
Lindor wowed the organization in terms of his stellar defense, but his offensive development still had room for improvement after collecting a .279 batting average and 21 home runs throughout his minor league tenure.
Luckily, a promotion to the big league club in the middle of June in 2015 yielded a seismic shift in terms of Lindor’s all-around game.
Lindor tripped rounding first base in his second big league at bat, his first ever base knock that came in the form of a single to right field at Comerica Park. Shortly after landing chest first into the ground, Lindor motioned toward Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, as if he had been at fault for his embarrassing spill.
Since the playful incident, Indians fans have grown accustomed to seeing the lively personality of Lindor both on and off the field, especially with his hand-raising celebrations from the dugout after a teammate launches a home run.
“I’m just trying to do my job,” Lindor said in an on-field interview after Game 1 of the World Series. “Just stay aggressive, be smart though, know when to run, remember Napoli’s behind me.”
Lindor’s confidence grew immensely sandwiched between the likes of veterans Jason Kipnis and Mike Napoli in the order, and it showed with his production at the plate.
But Lindor is still growing and developing into what many believe to be a perennial All Star. Between his speed, defensive capabilities, and developing power numbers, the well-spoken shortstop figures to be an anchor of the Indians organization for many years to come.
John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.null