Indians Should Stick to the Plan With Francisco Lindor


Demotion of Jose Ramirez Should Not Mean a Call Up for Francisco Lindor

If you were too focused on the Cavs last night, or living under a rock, you may not have noticed that the Indians finally demoted Struggling shortstop Jose Ramirez and his .180/.247/.487 slash line to Triple-A Columbus. Just what the move means for the big league club is uncertain, the Indians have yet to announce a corresponding move to replace him, but I can tell you what it shouldn’t be.

Under no circumstances should the Indians call up Francisco Lindor.

I know, a lot of you fly into a fit of rage at that statement. Catch me on the right day and I might be right there with you. When Lindor wasn’t really a serious consideration, it was fun to throw his name around as a possible solution (#FreeLindor anyone?). But the fact of the matter is that we have reached that period of time where Lindor is a real possibility for a call up and whether or not to do so is in the best interests of both the Indians and Lindor.

From an on-the-field perspective, the Indians could certainly use Lindor for his defensive skills. He’s a plus defender with the arm and range that makes scouts drool. There is little to no doubt that Lindor couldn’t come up and make an imediate impact on the left side of the infield. When paired with the suddenly well improved defense of Lonnie Chisenhall and suddenly the defense of the Indians doesn’t look so bad.

Unfortunately, there is another component to this – hitting. Does Lindor have the necessary skills, at this point, that would indicate success at the big league level? After all, most fans have been clamoring for the move to Lindor not for his defense, but because Ramirez has been so God-awful at the plate.

In the better part of five minor league seasons, Lindor has amassed a slash line of .277/.353/.383. That’s solid, especially the .353 OBP. I’ll take a guy that doesn’t make outs. However, what you have to remember is that with Lindor you are getting absolutely no power, at least not initially. He may develop some serviceable power in the future,  but his .383 slugging and 106 isolated power clearly indicate you’re getting a lot of singles with a few doubles mixed in.

So far this season in Columbus, Lindor has done very little in terms of earning a promotion. In 231 plate appearances he’s only managed a .269/.342/.393 slash line, 23 runs, and 21 RBI. Lindor has only produced a 10% walk rate, which is not terrible, but is not great either. His 14% strikeout rate is encouraging, but figures to increase substantially, at least initially while he adjusts. For waht it’s worth, over the past month Lindor has hit .295/.363/.450.

If Lindor was truly ready for a call-up to the big leagues, you would hope to see a little bit more maturity in terms of approach and more eye-popping numbers. Looking at Lindor’s you don’t get that same sense that, “this kid is ready.”

Jul 13, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; World shortstop Francisco Lindor throws the ball during the All Star Futures Game at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Compare that to 2011 when the Indians were facing the same challenging decision with Lonnie Chisenhall. With the team scuffling offensively and struggling to find a foothold in the standings, the Indians finally caved and called up Chisenhall, the fan labeled “savior of the franchise,” with the hopes that he would jump-start the offense. He didn’t and he stumbled mightily under the weight of expectations. His numbers prior to his call-up, .267/.353/.431, not much different from those currently posted by Lindor.

There is also the other part of this situation that everyone fails to mention, that being the expectations. Much like Chisenhall, Matt LaPorta, and Andy Marte before him, Lindor has been labeled by many as the savior of the franchise. Talent plus expectations multiplied by time has given Lindor an almost mystical quality. The Indians need to make sure that Lindor is ready to face those expectations.

Look, the Major Leagues is a whole different animal from the minor leagues. The pitchers are better, the scouting reports more in-depth, and the stakes greater. Some of the best players in baseball struggled in their first go around at the big league level. For example, Mike Trout hit .220/.281/.390 in his first cup of coffee with the Angels, a 40-game trial run in 2011. He wasn’t the Mike Trout we know today, the perennial MVP candidate and Mickey Mantle 2.0. When he struggles, and the ever-rational Cleveland fans turn on him, he has to have the mental fortitude to work through it.

Will the Indians make the move finally to Francisco Lindor on Monday? Right now, it would appear to be no. Early reports are indicating that Zack Walters will get the call-up (Looks like it is Walters and Giovanny Urshela for Ramirez and Lonnie Chisenhall). This will undoubtedly leave many fans upset, and possibly even irate, but it might be for the betterment of everyone involved, especially Lindor. So stay patient Tribe fans. Lindor’s time will come eventually.

Next: Cleveland Indians Option Lonnie Chisenhall