Service Time Stands in the Way of Francisco Lindor

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Lindor Battles Service Time, Strives to Make Opening Day Roster

Despite popular belief, Jose Ramirez is likely not the culprit for Francisco Lindor’s long odds at making the Opening Day roster. The real culprits are Major League service time and Super Two status.

The Indians’ front office is in somewhat of a perplexing position. Widely regarded as a top-five prospect in baseball, Lindor is lighting it up in Spring Training. However, the Indians seem unwilling to change their tune on his status for 2015, adamantly stating it would take something exceptional for Lindor to make the Opening Day roster.

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At only 21 years old, Lindor made a big splash in Double-A Akron in 2014 before receiving a late season call-up to Columbus. After struggling briefly, Lindor finished strong for the Clippers, hitting .273 with 5 homers in only 38 games. His glove is ready for the Majors, and his bat seems to be coming along nicely, as he has two homers already in Spring Training including an inside-the-park shot that showed off both his pop and his wheels. He has hit the ball hard just about every time he has come to the plate.

Lindor’s performance has been impressive enough to make things interesting for the Tribe. However, like Chicago Cubs’ prospect Kris Bryant, his performance on the field may be the last thing dictating his place in the organization. Super Two status enables players with less than three but more than two years of service time to qualify for arbitration a year early, giving said player four years of arbitration instead of the usual three. Specifically, the player must be in the top 22% of all players with between two and three years of service time. That threshold generally falls somewhere in June or July.

Accordingly, the Indians’ insistence on grooming Lindor in Triple-A could be more of a financial decision than anything, though that is nothing for fans to be in an uproar over. All clubs use service time as a part of their decision-making process.

The point is that even if Lindor tears the cover off the ball all Spring, he is fighting an uphill–if not unwinnable battle. Jose Ramirez has proved competent at shortstop, as an above average glove with decent ability to get on base. Even with a fantastic performance through the first few months of the season, it is very unlikely Lindor would be worth more than a half of a win or so more than Ramirez. The Indians can ship Lindor to Columbus until his service time leaves him ineligible for Super Two status, and promptly bring him up around the All-Star break. The result is cheaper years of control for what could be a blossoming star.

Look for Lindor to make an impact similar to what Asdrubal Cabrera did for the 2007 Tribe, arriving late in the year to help the team make a push for the AL pennant. With the Tribe expected to be in contention all season, Lindor could provide the spark needed to push the team over the edge.

The good news is, whenever he makes his debut, Lindor looks like the real deal for the Tribe.

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