Cleveland Indians: When Can the Tribe Count on Francisco Lindor?

Evan VogelContributor IIIJune 14, 2012

Francisco Lindor is a young shortstop from Puerto Rico, taken eighth overall in the 2011 MLB Draft by the Cleveland Indians. Lindor is the class of the Indians minor league system. His arrival is highly anticipated due to his already high level of hype from the organization and fans, but when is it going to happen?

Lindor was rated as the top shortstop prospect in the 2011 draft, possessing some power from both sides of the plate (10-15 home runs) but more of a line-drive swing according to several scouts. He has good speed, but he isn't going to be a huge base stealer (25-35 steals per season), think Jason Kipnis (with a little more speed) due to good base-running instincts.

His glove is what will make him a special prospect.

Lindor has been compared to Omar Vizquel, which is pretty amazing company, by several outlets. His arm is well above-average, and the defense is going to be the tool that allows for the quick ascension to Cleveland.

Lindor is just 18 years old, and he is playing in Low-A Lake County right now. He just turned 18 in November, so while most young men his age are just graduating from high school, Lindor is in full-season ball, having received a small sample in the New York/Penn League as a 17-year-old in 2011. He was the 37th-ranked prospect by Baseball America prior to the 2012 season, who also had Lindor arriving in Cleveland in 2014.

Having posted a .278/.345/.397 line, with 10 doubles, three triples, four home runs, 22 RBI and 14 stolen bases in 237 at-bats for Lake County, Lindor has shown some tools in his short time in Low-A. 

Based on a slow, cautious approach with Lindor, the youngster would probably spend the whole season at Kane County with a short sample in High-A Carolina towards the end of the season. If he spends the same amount of time in 2013 at High-A, 2014 at Double-A and 2015 at Triple-A, Lindor would be 22 years old if he started the 2016 season at Cleveland.

He won't be in the minors that long, though. With Asdrubal Cabrera set to hit free agency after the 2014 season, Lindor will be ready by the middle of the 2014 season.

He has an advanced approach at the plate, he is a slick fielder and he has the hype, all of which are the parts needed for a push by the organization.

Lindor is the heir apparent at shortstop to Asdrubal Cabrera, who just signed a team-friendly extension in April.

Jason Kipnis has solidified his status as the Indians long-term second baseman with his incredible start to the 2012 season, while Lonnie Chisenhall looks like the future third baseman, though he has struggled in 253 at-bats at the Major League level. Cabrera is expendable due to the presence of Lindor.  

It wouldn't be out of the question to trade Cabrera prior to the 2014 season (possibly at the 2013 trade deadline based on team performance, signing a cheap veteran and preparing for Lindor's arrival). The package of prospects, pitching help or position player of need would be substantial for the seemingly never-ending rebuilding process.

In past posts, some have wondered if Cabrera or Lindor could be moved to the outfield or third base. You tend to want solid offensive production out of your corner infielders, which is why many people regurgitated when the Tribe entered the season with Jack Hannahan and Casey Kotchman at the corners.

While Lindor isn't anything like those players, it would be a poor choice to move him from short. Cabrera could handle the production aspect of third base and could probably handle the outfield, but he's due a $10 million salary in 2014 and could be too expensive for the Indians to keep, especially with the organization not knowing how well the transition would go.

Lindor is indeed a special talent.

If you are hoping for some help for the Tribe's current woes, it isn't a player who is currently in Low-A ball. Patience is the virtue that you need during this time, especially if you are already as pumped as some scouts and prospect ranking bloggers are about Lindor's long-term value.

2014 is the earliest arrival for Lindor. 2016 is the latest arrival, and it is not going to happen. 2015, if the status-quo of poor free agent signings and trades involving franchise players continues, is the time frame that you should expect for the elite prospect's arrival in Cleveland.