Swooning over high upside teenagers can quickly become an obsession for rebuilding fantasy owners. While vigorously checking box scores is far more interesting than watching one’s team struggle, there are two important characteristics to remember about fantasy baseball prospects that one must remember before getting too excited.
Of course, all prospects — even those atop your favorite rankings — have a high failure rate. Adding fantasy baseball into that equation doesn’t help. In most leagues, the massive failure rate is compounded by vastly decreased playing time opportunities which leads to an increase in quality of replacement-level and league-average players.
Today, I’m going to discuss the fantasy outlook of Indian’s shortstop Francisco Lindor. Lindor will have no issue sticking at shortstop. He is a complete defender, mixing great technical skills, a good first step and strong natural instincts. His ETA is 2015 when Asdrubal Cabrera becomes a free agent. Of course, if Cleveland extends Cabrera or decides to trade him in 2014 that could change things drastically.
In a standard 14 team 5X5 league one can expect the average shortstop’s performance to be around .275 (BA)- 70 (R) – 70 (RBI) – 15 (SB) – 15 (HR). As you get into the pre-Tulowitzki elite area, homeruns remain constant but the rest of the categories increase by 10 (or .010). Below is a discussion of how Lindor profiles for each 5X5 statistical category. For each projection I list, “average” is the equivalent of one of the 14-team league average statistics I just mentioned, not the major league average.
Batting Average: Lindor’s approach is surprisingly polished, and that is not even taking into account his age. He works the count, recognizes pitches very well and is rarely fooled. While he may only be in the Midwest League, his selectivity and contact ability bodes well for hitting for high averages at the major league level. There is always a concern that switch hitters develop a preferred handedness but right now Lindor is very talented from both sides of the plate.
Batting Average Projection: Above Average
Runs Scored and Runs Batted In: Runs scored are a product of one’s ability to get on base and the batters behind them whereas Runs Batted In are due in great part to the opportunities created by the hitters getting on base ahead of the batter. Thus, a big part of projecting Lindor’s future performance in these two categories is figuring out the strength of Cleveland’s lineup and where he’ll bat in said lineup. Given baseball’s obsession with leadoff hitters I assume that’s where Lindor will bat. But, he profiles best batting second due to his pop. There is actually very little difference between batting 1st and 2nd for runs scored, however an American League average hitter in the two hole has about 15 more RBI than American League leadoff hitters.
Runs Scored Projection: Above Average
Runs Batted In Projection: Well Below Average
Homeruns: The idea that Lindor projected to have above average homerun power or better probably started after he won a homerun derby before being drafted. Small sample aside, he completely altered his swing in that competition and it is not indicative of his true ability. Still, Lindor has good loft on both his left handed and right handed swings. His bat stays in the zone for a long time and he transfers his weight well for a relatively tiny guy. Also, remember Progressive Field has a very favorable park factor for lefties and he’ll be batting from that side of the plate two thirds of the time.
Homerun Projection: Average
Stolen Bases: Lindor is a fantastic athlete and he’s very fast, but I wouldn’t say he has elite foot speed. I timed him going from home to first in 4.0 seconds, 4.0 and 4.1 from the left side of the plate. Like most of his game his stolen bases are going to be a product of exceptional technique and instincts, not overwhelming tools (think Billy Hamilton). Thus far in the minor leagues he has shown that he is going to be aggressive, already swiping 11 bags and being caught 4 times. Undoubtedly, his aggressive nature bodes well for fantasy owners banking on him putting up big stolen base totals. Of course, one would expect the organization to put the breaks on the young shortstop if his caught stealing numbers get out of hand at higher levels. However, I expect he’ll be a force on the base paths, he’s too smart of a ball player for his decision making to stagnate his running game.
Stolen Base Projection: Above Average
Lindor projects to be strongly in the second tier of shortstops below Troy Tulowitzki. I suspect Starlin Castro will be joining Troy at the top of the shortstop rankings at some point in the near future. Most importantly, Lindor will offer your team a handful of stolen bases above the average shortstop without compromising your team it in other areas.