In Arizona, the Cleveland Indians were a “must see” franchise for me. A few years ago, their Lake County (Ohio) affiliate left the South Atlantic League for the convenience of the Midwest League. This created a blind spot in my scouting coverage remedied by my time in the Cactus League.
Lindor, a 2011 first rounder posted a .257/.352/.355 triple slash line in Single-A.
Paulino combined for a .333/.380/.558 triple slash line across two levels of short season baseball as a 17-year old.
There’s no question about both being top flight prospects within the organization, but the debate over the shortstop of the future continues to be a hot topic.
At Goodyear Park, both shortstops worked out on neighboring fields. Each began with stretching, followed by infield and batting practice.
Lindor playfully moved around the infield toying with ground balls like a cat playing with yarn. His hand speed and ability to adjust to hops was so impressive, I spent the rest of the week referring to him as “Bruce Lee Lindor”.
In game action, he charged a ground ball to his right, fielded it on the edge of the infield grass line and zipped the ball to first flashing plus arm strength. Lindor also took command on a popup to shallow left field without hesitation as if he’d been the Indians shortstop for years.
Batting practice afforded a long look at Lindor from both sides of the plate. From the right side, Lindor was short and quick to the ball. His flat plane swing will result in line drives and gap power, but Lindor will need to add lift for balls to leave the park with any regularity.
Dave Laurila caught up with Lindor last season who had this to say about his right-handed swing.
“It’s my natural side, so I definitely feel that I can get behind the ball a lot better. Like, if you show me something, I feel like, “Yeah, yeah, this pitch. I’m going to drive it; I’m going to hit it out.” Now that I’ve been doing so many reps from the left side, I feel like I can do that, too. I have more home runs as a lefty — obviously I have more at bats as a lefty — but I feel that I can drive the ball from either side of the plate.”
Lindor’s swing has more length from the left side, but so do many switch hitters. His hands are still quick to the ball, but the longer swing plane may help Lindor’s power projection as he continues to gain experience.
Boosting Lindor’s all-around game is a frame which has added strength in the off-season. He faded in the second half of 2012, but I doubt 2013 will be a repeat performance.
Paulino will open the season a level behind Lindor, but his hitting ability is more advanced. in batting practice, he peppered line drives to all fields displaying both advanced bat control and gap power. Paulino has a compact build and pairs this with simple swing mechanics. It’s easy to envision the shortstop with a plus contact tool and average power.
Add to this a three-hit effort on the back fields and I’m intrigued. I’d rank him amongst the best pure hitters scouted in Arizona without blinking.
In the field, Paulino has the hands and arm to stick at shortstop. However, his body is closer to “stout” than lean and athletic. In another organization, he might stick at the position for a time. With the Indians, Paulino does not have the defensive projection to jump Lindor on the depth chart. Consider Lindor the true shortstop of the future.
The Indians are in an enviable position as Lonnie Chisenhall, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis form a young infield trio by Major League standards. As they enter arbitration/free agency, Paulino and Lindor will infuse the Major League team with inexpensive, talented middle infielders.
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