Around the Minors: The Francisco Lindor Edition

(Paul Sancya/Associated Press)
Editor's note, this is the first of many Around the Minors; a piece which will be a weekend staple, written by the three founders Jim Pete, Steve Orbanek and Mike Hattery. This will serve to highlight a few of the key performances occurring throughout the minors with people who have covered the Indians system extensively.--MH

Francisco Lindor:

Is there a better way to start off our new "Around the Minors" piece than with our last (hopefully) opportunity to talk about one Francisco Lindor as a minor leaguer.

If you are living under a rock, the Cleveland Indians' best prospect over the fifteen years (if not longer) will be making his debut with the Big League club on Sunday afternoon against the Detroit Tigers.

Here are the numbers:

Now I could talk about the numbers, and show you some defensive stuff, and all of that would showcase a really good player, but I'm just going to sum this up with what I've seen of Lindor up close, and what I've heard from people that I completely respect as a talent evaluators.

Lindor is loaded with immeasurables, and it's really impossible to talk about him without mentioning just what kind of kid this is. A couple of fellow writers at EHC have asked me over the past couple of weeks to compare Lindor to another prospect in the 15 years I've watched Indians players come through Carolina, and truth be told, it was really hard to find a player that matches everything.

Yes, there were players that were special on the field, and yes, there were special off the field, but rare was the player that has had the complete package that Lindor has.

I promise you, he's the best defensive player in the system. I promise you, he's the most mature 21-year old you will ever meet.

Ponder that for a minute. He's 21. He's a young 21. He won't turn 22 until November 14th, and it seems as though he's been in the system for five years...oh wait...he has.

Watching him play defense is akin to watching a prodigious power hitter taking BP, and no, that's not hyperbole. His hands are likely the best in the minors, he has a good strong arm, quick feet, and range just doesn't describe what this kid can do at shortstop.

He's improved at every level, and he is a worker. Jordan Bastian noted that Lindor won the Indians' position player performance test during the first full-squad workout this past February. Indians manager Terry Francona noted then that it was more than just being fit that wins you that competition:
"I know you've got to be in good shape to do it, but at some point in that thing, it's not about how fast you are. it's about your will to continue, because it's easy to stop. I think it says a lot about those guys."
Lindor is just special, and I'm not sure you can put a ceiling on anything that he does going forward. You are getting a top four or five defender at shortstop in all of baseball (and that could be an understatement). You are getting a 5' 11", 190 pounder who still has room to fill out, and still has a long way to go to become the offensive player he is to become.

And don't forget his speed, of which there is plenty of (yeah, he's gotten caught stealing a bunch this year, but it'll average out). He's a good baserunner, has a high on-field IQ, and will quickly become one of Francona's favorites.

Will he measure up to expectations? I've often told fans to temper there expectations on players that are well thought of in the minors, and while I do preach that with regards to Lindor, I have no doubt that he's going to do some things fairly quickly that turn heads.

It may be getting to a ball that he had no business getting to. It may be a fantastic throw to first, or a quick turn of a double play, or even an over the shoulder catch in the outfield. It may even be the bat.

But really watch this kid when they talk to him, and they'll do a lot of that in the coming days and weeks. Watch how he handles himself, and watch how he answers the questions.

That's when you'll realize that Lindor is something special. He has superstar potential on-the-field, with incredible moxie off of it.

Welcome to the big leagues kid.

Let's. Play. Ball.--JP

Adam Plutko:

Putko was drafted out of UCLA as a command and control righty, ultimately it has been shocking how slowly the Indians moved him through the first levels. In A+ Plutko posted an ERA of 1.27 and in Akron so far it is at 1.59. 

However, it is necessary to move beyond outcomes and focus on the basis for the outcomes, further whether Plutko has displayed significant improvement. 

The first is that as a command and control guy, he is flashing 70+, in Lynchburg Plutko has walked .918 per nine innings, and .529 in Akron. This sort of strike zone control is an awesome tool and may flash better than Tomlin in terms of limiting extra base runners.

Further, Plutko is striking hitters out at a solid rate, in both A+ and AA the best indicators of pitcher success are K% and BB%, in both these categories Plutko has been outstanding.

One last positive note, infield fly balls have a value similar to strikeouts in terns of their likelihood of conversion into outs . Further, inducing infield fly balls or popups is indeed a skill a pitcher can hold. Based on minor league data which can be messy it appears that Plutko can induce these at a significantly above average rate. 

This skill paired with the above average K/BB rate is a really strong indicator that Plutko can be a solid big league starter in the #4 or #5 role. -MH

Zimmer is among the leaders in nearly every category in the Carolina League: OPS (1st),  SB (1st), HR (T-1st) , BB (5th). The biggest question surrounding Zimmer right now is how much longer Zimmer will be in Lynchburg.

Zimmer is another highly finished product, and everyone of his tools grades as average to above average but the power spike is a really interesting development. 

Interesting because entering 2015, Zimmer had flashed a lot of power outside outside of games but had not shown significant in game power, which is why the home run and ISO spike is incredible sign. Zimmer is terrific at barreling the baseball which is why the hit tool is tremendous but there were questions surrounding whether he created enough loft to show in game power, Zimmer has answered these questions so far which shifts an already exciting ceiling upwards.

It is very envision a couple of 20/20 type seasons with above average defense for Bradley Zimmer and that is a really, really good player. 

For a visual display of Zimmer's power I have inserted a spray chart which makes for a wonderful enjoyment alongside coffee, and a jelly filled donut. -MH

Back in 2012, no Indians’ draftee excited me more than Nellie Rodriguez. As a child, my favorite Cleveland Indian was always Manny Ramirez, so it intrigued me that this 15th round selection happened to go to Ramirez’s high school, George Washington High School in New York City.  Like Ramirez, Rodriguez has massive power potential, arguably as much — if not more — as anyone in the entire system.

Rodriguez was very raw when he started his professional career, but that did not stop the Indians from being aggressive with him, placing him at Single-A Lake County for the start of the 2013 season. He struggled at the onset, hitting just .194/.305/.256 with one home run in 47 games. He was then moved to short season Mahoning Valley where he recovered to hit .287/.366/.452 with nine home runs in 73 games.

But the breakout came last season. In 130 games back at Lake County, we saw Rodriguez hit .268/.349/.482 with 32 doubles, 22 home runs and 88 RBI. That success has continued this year as he currently has a .272/.357/.500 line, nine home runs and 48 RBI in 58 games with High-A Lynchburg.

His early struggles have allowed him to go under the radar, but make no mistake, At 6-2 and 250 pounds, Rodriguez is emerging as a legitimate right-handed power prospect in this system. He is not without his flaws as plate discipline remains an issue (60 walks compared to 142 strikeouts in 2014), but he’s also just two days older than 21 (his birthday was Friday), and is already succeeding at the High-A. Patience is key with any prospect, and if the Indians continue to be patient with Rodriguez, he could provide a major payoff. -SO

Just this week, we saw the Indians select three high-upside high school arms in the first and second rounds of the MLB Draft. It seemed like an unconventional approach for the Indians, but it was an actually a continuation of a trend that started last season for the club.

With the 31st pick of the 2014 draft, the Indians selected Justus Sheffield, an undersized left-handed starter out of Tullahoma High School in Tennessee. While size will continue to be a concern (Sheffield is just 5-10), the 19-year-old already has a fastball that he can dial up to 96 miles an hour when he wants.

He started this season on a tear at Single-A Lake County, going 4-1 with a 3.22 ERA with 44 strikeouts in his first eight starts and 36 1/3 innings. Since then, it’s been a struggle as Sheffield has an 8.20 ERA in his last four starts and has watched his season ERA balloon to 4.91. There’s always more than meets the eye though, and Sheffield’s season FIP is still very impressive at 3.10.

Not just that, but his strikeout rate has been exceptional (10.31), and it’s not as if he has been erratic on the mound either. Overall, he’s walking just 2.78 batters per nine innings, which is tremendous for a player who just turned 19 in May. Best case scenario, Sheffield is likely still three seasons away, but the talent is definitely there. If he continues to perform well down the stretch, look for him to climb up some prospect lists this offseason. -SO

Cody Anderson:

In 2013, Anderson emerged as one of the top three pitchers in the Indians' system when he was named the Bob Feller Award recipient for the top organization pitcher. Anderson looked to be a potential Big League rotation option as early as 2015, but the floor dropped out from under him with an underwhelming 2014 performance in his first full season at Double A Akron.

Enter 2015.

While 2015 surely wasn't a make or break year for the righty, there's no doubt that his relevancy as a long-term rotation option was at stake. With the Indians focusing their attention on big arms in recent drafts, it's clear that if he didn't step up his game, that other starters would quickly pass him in the thoughts and minds of Chris Antonetti and his staff.

Rebound he did:

There's a couple of things to take note of here. If you like traditional stats, you'll immediately note that his ERA went from above average in 2013, to really bad in 2014, and is now exceptional in 2015 in both his long stint at Akron, and two starts in his promotion to Columbus.

If you like a little more depth in stats, take note of his K/9, as well as his BB/9. What will likely always hold him back from being a top end starter is his ability to strike hitters out. In 2013, however, his 8.17 made some scouts take notice. He's reverted back to between 5-7 K's per 9 since then, but has had an interesting K-Rate in Columbus. Of course, two starts are just that...two starts. His BB/9 rate though has been solid and consistent. He can located, and he's been hammering edges and making hitters swing at bad pitches in 2015.

This is what he'll have to do to continue to excel at the Big League level.

Now if you want to geek out a bit, take a look at his FIP. When Anderson was named the organizational Pitcher of the Year, his FIP was 3.04. This year in Akron, it was 3.02 against his 1.69 ERA, and has been a ridiculous 1.51 in his short two-game sample size in Columbus, vs. his 1.29 ERA. When you combine the special FIP numbers with a BABIP that has reverted back to a much more normal level (for Anderson, his BABIP from 2012, 2013 and 2015 have been between .284 and .296), and you see a pitcher that has found his comfort level as a really good starter, who is learning how to be an effective pitcher.

If the Indians need a fifth starter later in the year, and if Marcum and/or House don't pan out, Anderson will be absolutely be considered for a spot on the big league club. If not, 2016 will be his target year to start his big league career.--JP

In the coming weeks, Around the Minors will likely take different forms and weekly or even daily takes. We really don't know what this will turn into. Also keep an eye out for our "rankings." While there are plenty of antiquated ways to analyze an organization, we here at EHC will look to be a little bit innovative, and avoid the hell out of 'click bait." Instead, we'll try and evaluate as many players as we can with something a little more realistic on a year-to-year basis.

We'll let those in the know play defense from year-to-year with their rankings.

It's time for us to go on the offense.

Welcome to the big leagues Francisco Lindor, it's been a pleasure covering you in the minors.--JP
Share on Google Plus

About Mike Hattery

Under Construction