All American Game : : Story
Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Lindor lighting up Midwest League

Nick Kappel        
Photo: Perfect Game

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez have a lot in common. Both were born in Puerto Rico and later played high school ball in Florida. Both competed in the 2010 PG All-American Classic, each hitting a triple. And both were drafted in the first-round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft; Lindor eighth overall by the Cleveland Indians, Baez ninth overall by the Chicago Cubs.

And now, after receiving $2.9 million and $2.6 million in signing bonuses, Lindor and Baez are the starting shortstops for their respective Midwest League teams.

Baez, who spoke with Perfect Game earlier this month, is batting .326/.380/.594 with 10 home runs and 19 stolen bases in 192 plate appearances with the Peoria Chiefs.

Javier is a great person, a humble guy and his family is awesome,” Lindor said. “He deserves everything that’s happening for him.

We talk often about baseball and give advice to each other. Whatever I learn, I share with him. What he learns, he shares with me. That’s what friends are for.”

Lindor, who is 11 months younger than Baez, has 28 extra-base hits and 19 steals with a .266/.359/.384 line in 403 plate appearances with the Lake County Captains.

We’ve been extremely happy with Francisco since the day he showed up,” Lake County Manager David Wallace said. “He’s as much of a quality player on the field as he is a quality person off the field. He’s humble and is a hard worker. He’s not egotistical in any way and knows it’s going to take a lot of hard work to reach his goal of playing in the big leagues, and he’s willing to do what it takes.”

Lindor first wowed scouts in 2008 at the age of 14, playing with 16 and 17-year-olds in the WWBA Underclass World Championship. He blasted a pair of home runs and drove the ball for extra bases consistently — from both sides of the plate.

His offensive potential shined through again when he won the home run derby at the 2010 PG All-American Classic.

It was a great experience,” he said of playing in the All-American Classic. “It exposed me to the scouts there.”

This year, top high school talents such as Clint Frazier (Loganville HS, Ga.), Justin Williams (Terrebonne HS, La.), Dominic Smith (Serra HS, Calif.), Cavan Biggio (St. Thomas HS, Texas.), Jordan Sheffield (Tullahoma HS, Tenn.), Robert Kaminsky (St. Joseph Regional HS, N.J.) and Clinton Hollon (Woodford County HS, Ky.) will compete in the PG/Aflac All-American Classic, to be played August 12 at PETCO Park in San Diego. Rosters were announced July 12.

I wish them luck,” Lindor said of this year’s All-Americans. “Keep it simple, do whatever got you there and it’s going to work out for you.”

For Lindor, “doing what got you there” means displaying the skill set that makes him one of the top shortstop prospects in the game. According to one PG scout, Lindor’s “exceptional first-step quickness … lightning-quick release” and “solid arm” should allow him to stick at shortstop in the future.

Lindor, who doesn’t turn 19 years old until November, was the youngest player in the MLB Futures Game earlier this month. On a field that featured top-ranked shortstops such as Jurickson Profar (Rangers), Manny Machado (Orioles) and Billy Hamilton (Reds), Lindor still managed to impress, hitting a single in his only at-bat.

If I want to make it the big leagues, obviously I’m going to be playing against older guys,” Lindor said. “So I just have to go out there, learn from those guys and play hard every day.”

According to his coach, Lindor has made many adjustments seamlessly for a guy his age. Like most young players, he tends to expand his strike zone on occasion. But as the season has progressed, he’s shown the willingness to take more walks. Perhaps his biggest challenge thus far has been adjusting to the mental side of the game.

Playing in Perfect Game tournaments with travel ball teams, you don’t play every day,” he said. “When you do play, it might be for one week and that’s it. But here you play every day, and it doesn’t get any better than this.”

Despite his hefty signing bonus, early success and high praise from baseball scouts, Lindor has shown maturity far beyond his years.

This is a very humbling game,” he said. “I’m trying to get better as a person by learning. You learn from your teammates, you learn from the game. You have to always stay with the Lord; He’s always on your side with your family, your friends and your team. That’s how you become a better person, just by working hard every day.”

Lindor’s progression between this year and next will go a long way in determining how quickly he moves in the Indians’ system. His tools and willingness to make adjustments could force the team into advancing him quickly. He’s only 18 however, and has less than 450 professional plate appearances under his belt.

Wallace isn’t too worried about his young shortstop.

He’s always asking questions so we help him the best we can,” he said. “The bottom line is, if we just stay out of his way, he’s going to have a long, great career.”

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