For some, 2016 Spring Training marks the start of a brand new Major League Baseball season. For others, this time of year marks the height of the presidential primary elections. While many pontificate over who is best suited to lead the country, The Sports Fan Journal fam decided to take a look at which player, manager, or front office member is the best candidate to lead their team to the top of the baseball mountain.
What if I told you there was a better rookie shortstop than Carlos Correa in 2015? While it's difficult to fathom anyone being better than the Astros phenom, Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians was just that.
The eighth overall pick by the Tribe in the 2011 draft burst onto the scene last season slashing .313/.353/.482 with 12 home runs and 12 stolen bases in 99 games.
Along with those terrific offensive numbers, Lindor was outstanding in the field with a 10.5 UZR (the higher the number the better) and 10 defensive runs saved (and here’s a disclaimer that defensive metrics are imperfect, but they give you a general idea). For comparison’s sake, Correa posted a -6 UZR and 0 defensive runs saved.
Cleveland, like Seattle, was many people’s pick to win their division last year. The Indians were armed with the reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer. That pitching staff was accompanied by Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana on offense. That pitching staff with those three guys leading your offense should make a really good team. Instead, they won 81 games and missed the playoffs.
There was talk over the offseason that the Tribe might dismantle their pitching staff. They opted not to and look poised to contend in what looks to be a tough AL Central in 2016. If they’re going to contend, Lindor is going to need to continue his production from last year over a full 162.
Extrapolated over 162 games, his 2015 numbers put him in the upper echelon of Major League shortstops. The problem for Cleveland is that Lindor will very likely regress this year. A quick look at his Minor League numbers shows that Lindor posted professional career highs in average, slugging percentage and home runs.
All signs point to those numbers all dipping this year. While Lindor will still be a tremendous defensive shortstop, his offense will suffer some as the league starts to figure him out. His average will dip some, along with his on-base percentage, but the most drastic change will be seen in his power numbers. And as those power numbers drop, so will his overall production.
There’s good news for Lindor and the Tribe, though. Even with a slight regression, Lindor is going to be a positive addition to a lineup that was sorely lacking at the shortstop spot prior to his arrival last summer. He’ll still be near the top of the league defensively, and he’ll provide plenty of offense next to Santana, Kipnis, Brantley and the newly acquired Mike Napoli.
So where does that leave the Indians? Unfortunately for them, they’re likely due for another disappointing season in what could be the best division in baseball. The defending champion Royals are still mostly intact while the Tigers, White Sox and Twins have only gotten better.
With their pitching staff and offense, the Tribe will hang around the playoff race. If Lindor is able to put together another year like 2015, they’ll be right in the thick of things down the stretch. However, as Lindor regresses, Cleveland’s lineup will be impacted enough that it will keep them from the postseason once again.
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