Lindor, Bauer crack top 20 in prospect rankings
Shortstop and right-hander have Tribe loaded in MLB.com's annual Top 100
CLEVELAND -- Indians shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor wants to achieve greatness over the course of his career on a baseball diamond. Standing inside the visitors' clubhouse at Progressive Field on a recent afternoon, the young shortstop was asked which area he hopes to improve in the coming season.
"Everything," he replied. "I want to be the greatest player ever ..."
Lindor paused briefly, but the hesitation was long enough for reporters to glance up from their notepads, wondering if they heard him correctly. The eighth-overall pick in the 2011 Draft is just 19 years old, but he was polished enough to swiftly recognize a headline-grabbing comment, and mature enough to recover and show that humility is indeed an attribute.
"... that I can possibly be," Lindor continued, finishing the thought. "I don't want to come here and when I retire, look back, and say, 'I didn't give it my all.' I want to come here, give it my all every day, get better, and become the greatest player I can be to help this organization win a championship."
Ask the Indians, ask a scout, an evaluator, ask anyone who has seen Lindor play, and you will receive a steady stream of superlatives.
On Tuesday night, Lindor's rising star was included in MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list for 2013. The Lindor was rated as baseball's 14th-best prospect, and he was ranked second among shortstops. Only Texas' Jurickson Profar -- No. 1 on the overall list -- ranked higher at the position.
Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer -- acquired from Arizona earlier this offseason in a three-team, nine-player trade -- was ranked 17th overall among the game's elite prospects.
The annual ranking of baseball's biggest and brightest young talent is assembled by MLB.com's Draft and prospect expert Jonathan Mayo, who compiles input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, closeness to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams.
The list, which is one of several prospect rankings on MLB.com's Prospect Watch, only includes players with rookie status in 2013.
Lindor is likely to continue climbing up the board, considering he is still at the Class A level within the Indians' farm system. But after only two professional seasons, Lindor has shown the Tribe flashes of a potential star and leader in the making.
In fact, it is the lofty expectations which present one of Lindor's biggest challenges.
"I think the biggest thing for him will be dealing with external and his own expectations of himself," said Ross Atkins, the Indians' vice president of player development. "It will be not creating a time frame, and then his supreme confidence and wanting to be the guy, and potentially trying to do too much. It's very cliche, but it's also very real."
Bauer was taken third overall in 2011, five slots ahead of Lindor. While the right-hander also has just two pro seasons on his resume, playing collegiate baseball at UCLA prepared the 22-year-old for a swift rise through the Minor Leagues.
Bauer went 12-2 with a 2.42 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012, but had mixed results in a four-outing stint with the D-backs. This spring, the righty will be in Major League camp with the Indians with a chance to win a spot in the rotation.
Lindor, on the other hand, was drafted out of high school and entered Cleveland's system in need of a longer development plan. Last year, the shortstop spent the entire season with Class A (low) Lake County, where he hit .257 with a .352 on-base percentage and a .355 slugging percentage. Lindor mixed in six homers, 24 doubles, three triples, 27 stolen bases and 83 runs in 122 games.
Defensively, the Indians expected Lindor to be solid. He actually did a little more in the batter's box than the team anticipated for a young player facing his first full season.
"The starting point couldn't have been higher," Atkins said, "and he still exceeded [expectations], because of his maturity and awareness."
Lindor did struggle some with the transition from playing a few high school games per week to taking the field almost daily for five months in the Minors. The shortstop was hitting .301 with an .804 on-base plus slugging percentage on May 23, but hit just .235 (66-for-281) across June, July and August.
"That was the biggest adjustment," Lindor said. "Adjusting to coming to the field every day, practicing every day, keeping the same routine every day and working hard."
One encouraging element within Lindor's second-half slump was his plate discipline.
Lindor hit .285 in the season's first half (249 at-bats), during which he churned out 20 extra-base hits and 71 hits overall. In the second half (241 at-bats), the shortstop's average was only .228, but he nearly had as many walks (35) as strikeouts (36) and he scored 42 runs.
"His ability speaks for itself," Atkins said. "I think the fact that he dealt with some of the ebb and flow of a natural season the first time [was good]. The most games he'd ever played before last year was in the 40s, and last year he played close to 200 if you count the two instructional leagues. It's really unbelievable."
Lindor learned a lot through it all.
"No matter what happens," Lindor said, "no matter how tired you are, you've got to be tough about it. You've got to work hard, grind it out and give it your all."