Lindor eager to live up to potential
Indians' top prospect showcasing strong work ethic
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Francisco Lindor's alarm goes off every morning at 5:30 a.m. and it buzzes for less than a second before the Indians prospect slaps the top of the clock to turn it off.
There is really no need for the machine. The club's first pick in last year's First-Year Player Draft wakes up on his own at 5:25, anyway.
By 5:31, Lindor's computer is on and it's playing music. At 6, he's in front of the team hotel waiting for the 6:15 bus to take him five miles to Cleveland's Minor League complex.
Welcome to the longest 15 minutes of Lindor's day.
The feeling is all too familiar.
Last year in high school, the final 15 minutes of class on game days at Montverde Academy in Florida felt like they lasted an hour. It took all of Lindor's power to keep from sprinting out of the classroom when the final bell rang. If he somehow bumped you on the way out the door, he wants you to know that he is sorry about that.
"Baseball is my passion. This is what I love," the 18-year-old Lindor said. "There is nothing better than knowing you are going to wake up and go to the field the next day. The difference now is that I have more time on the field and more time to prepare and take care of business."
Lindor's eagerness is part of the reason the Indians like him so much. They also like his talent and his intellect. But Lindor, like all young men, is starting to realize the importance of patience in the game. He's entering his first full season as a pro and as the future of the franchise at shortstop, he knows it's just a matter of time before he moves up the Minor League ranks.
"We would not like to make a decision on him until we see him going through Spring Training, and believe me, it will be easy to prioritize," said Ross Atkins, the Indians' vice president of player development. "We will do what is best for him. We would like to see him in a position to play shortstop every day and whether or not the best place for him to do that is to start at a short-season club or a full-season club, we have not decided."
Lindor, ranked 32nd on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list and No. 1 in the Indians' system, already has a few professional games on his resume. He made his pro debut at the end of last summer with five games for Mahoning Valley and had six hits in 19 at-bats for the Scrappers. He went 7-for-28 with three doubles, a triple and three RBIs in the Instructional League.
"I remember looking around the stands and I'm like, 'Wow. I'm here and I'm playing professional baseball,'" Lindor said. "Even though I have not made it to the big leagues, I am working toward it. My pro debut was just a little taste of wearing this uniform."
Uniform matters to Lindor. Order has always been an important part of his life. His high school mandated that he wear a different color polo shirt each day with khaki pants or khaki shorts. Every Wednesday, students wore ties to class.
He took as much pride in the school uni as he did in his schoolwork. Lindor came this close to honoring his commitment to Florida State and following through with plans to study business, but decided to go pro.
In his final year of Montverde Academy, Lindor batted .528 with six home runs, seven doubles and two triples. He racked up 13 RBIs, stole 20 bases in 21 chances and scored 32 runs.
"Honestly, when I was in high school, I was thinking about the game the whole day," he said. "I paid attention in class, but in my mind, I was thinking about game situations and how I was going to make plays. I couldn't wait for 3:15 each day."
Lindor credits his parents for his work ethic. He has not forgotten that his family moved from Puerto Rico to Florida when he was 12 in order to give him more opportunities on the field and in the classroom.
He honors them every time he puts on the Cleveland uniform. He pays tribute to his loved ones by enjoying every single minute on the field.
"You hear about his ability, you hear about his baseball instincts and that he could do just about everything you would want an infielder to do and that he even has some upside with the bat, but the thing that has really been exciting to see is how much passion he has to play," Atkins said. "He makes other players around him better and for a guy his age to be doing that is exceptional."
Lindor has already made a name for himself with his fancy glovework, but he warns you not to pigeonhole him as a defensive specialist. He's an all-around ballplayer, he says, albeit one that could be known more for saving runs and scoring runs than driving them in.
"I know I'm not a power hitter and I'm not going to hit 55 home runs, but I know I work on everything to get better every day," he said. "I know it takes a lot of hard work to get there, but I look up to the big leaguers. They deserve it and I think of myself deserving it one day, too."
Where Lindor goes from here is to be determined. But one thing is certain, the Indians have been pleased with his transition from high school to professional baseball.
They also know time is on the prospect's side.
"If young players are focused on batting average, home runs, errors, who is around them and how many years [Indians shortstop] Asdrubal Cabrera has or focus on things they can't control, then it's an impossible transition to pro ball," Atkins said. "Francisco seems to be naturally focused on the process and enjoying being here and playing baseball every day. He's handled it all as well as we could imagine."