I must admit, I was a bit surprised when the Indians drafted Francisco Lindor with the eighth pick overall. I expected them to select another pitcher, likely another college arm like Drew Pomeranz and Alex White, the 2010 and 2009 first round draft picks, respectively. I knew that they liked Trevor Bauer out of UCLA (what’s not to like about him; he actually had a better 2011 season than teammate and first overall pick Gerrit Cole) – unfortunately Bauer went third to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Once he was gone, I honestly thought they’d go with RHP Sonny Gray from Vanderbilt, or the pick of most experts, LHP Jed Bradley from Georgia Tech. Instead they took Lindor, and Bradley went 15th overall to the Milwaukee Brewers, while Gray went 18th overall to the Oakland Athletics.
Lindor is the fourth central Florida high school player selected in the top 10 since 1998. The most recent (and most noteworthy) was Zack Greinke in 2002. Lindor was the starting shortstop on USA Baseball’s 16-and-under and 18-and-under national teams. Susan mentioned his stellar performance in Taiwan as a member of the 16-and-under team; he was also selected as the captain. Eric Kibler, the assistant coach, told the Orlando Sentinel that Lindor was “unforgettable” as a player. In this story, Kibler added, “His passion, his respect and appreciation for the game, there just are not too many people I have met in my life who really understand what it means to be a baseball player, like Francisco.” Kibler was the one that appointed him captain of that squad and said that he’d been around very few young players that has “the kind of passion to get greatness that he (Lindor) has.”
A number of Major League scouts were very impressed by Lindor, and one even claimed that he’ll likely be a household name someday. Some sports writers thought that he would be selected prior to the Indians’ 8th pick; MLB.com ranked him as the 9th best overall player in the draft (Jed Bradley was ranked 8th, Sonny Gray at 10th); ESPN’s Keith Law thought he would go eleventh overall to the Houston Astros (he thought the Indians would take Jed Bradley); Baseball America selected him going eleventh to the Houston Astros (they also thought the Indians would take Jed Bradley); John Heyman from Sports Illustrated ranked Lindor in the top two of 2011 prospects. Lindor has obviously been on a lot of teams’ radars; when he made a phenomenal play against West Orange in April, 35 scouts were in attendance. He worked out for several teams recently, including the Seattle Mariners, who selected second.
Lindor is a switch hitter, but has more power from the right side. Because of his build and abilities, many people compare him to Alfonso Soriano. Some have questioned his power, but Montverde coach Tim Layden challenged that and said it was possible that he could’ve hit 20 home runs this past season if he wasn’t hitting leadoff.
The pitcher the Indians were connected to, Sonny Gray, was said to have good raw ability and a fastball up to 94 mph. He has some command issues, but is still projected to pitch at the top, or near the top of a rotation. Jed Bradley was considered the second best left-handed pitcher in the draft, behind Virginia’s Danny Hultzen (who went second overall to Seattle). He has a solid four pitch mix, but nothing that’s earth shattering according to scouts. Scouts think he will make the Major Leagues quickly, and call him a potential workhorse; he’s gotten comparisons to Andy Pettitte. Lindor was accepted to Florida State, but I’ve yet to hear any rumbles that he may attend college instead of signing with the Indians. The more I read about him, the more I like him; hopefully I’ll get to see him with one of the Indians’ minor league affiliates in the near future.
A side note about the 2011 draft – this is the first time since the amateur draft started in 1965 that the first four selections were all pitchers. The top four picks: 1. Gerrit Cole, RHP, UCLA (Pittsburgh Pirates) 2. Danny Hultzen, LHP, Virginia (Seattle Mariners) 3. Trevor Bauer, RHP, UCLA (Arizona Diamondbacks) 4. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Owasso HS, Oklahoma (Baltimore Orioles).
I’ll try to write on the Indians’ latter picks – Tampa Bay apparently has to get their 40 picks out of the way first (kidding…but they seriously seem to have about every other pick at this point).
A little bonus material: Susan already shared a video of his home run performance; I have to share this brief, fun one that displays his raw athletic ability with some high hurdle jumps. There’s nothing earth shattering in this one, but you see some fielding and a couple of at-bats.