Despite some really, really, really long lines, the Indians new ‘Tribe Fest’ generated some exciting buzz and seemed to be a smash with Indians fans. Most teams ditched their old winter promotional tours to go with a stadium hosted extravaganza, but how many of them invited a player who has yet to play in a major league game?
To compare, the Mariners fan fest is next weekend with Jesus Montero and newly re-acquired Michael Morse to headline their winter promotional event. Franklyn Gutierrez, Kyle Seager and Michael Saunders are along for the ride too.
The Indians meanwhile, invited 2011 1st round pick, Francisco Lindor to meet the Cleveland public. Other than adoring Lake County Captains fans in 2012 and media, Lindor hasn’t generally met the majority of Cleveland fans. In fact, I overheard a few people yesterday asking each other “Who is Francisco Linder?”
Those who didn’t find out yesterday will find out rather soon.
The Indians aren’t known as an aggressive farm system, meaning they don’t push young prospects through the system and try to speed up their development. They are all about the process and trying to do what’s best for the players future.
Cody Allen was the lone case that has contradicted that so far. Allen spent time at three different levels in 2012 before joining the Indians permanently in mid-July.
With Tony Sipp struggling, Rafael Perez hurt, Scott Barnes inconsistent and Nick Hagadone punching inanimate objects, Allen was brought up out of necessity, not that he didn’t earn it but it was a rare case of the Indians moving a player through multiple levels, just one season after he was drafted.
Could Lindor be next?
Allen and Lindor were paired together at the event, not by coincidence either. Both the youngest guys at the event, both from the Orlando area of Florida, going to high schools not far from each other and maybe being a part of a new idea of player development.
Despite Jason Kipnis and Vinnie Pestano dominating the even as fan favorites, Lindor fit in with this entire group smoothly. He exuded his usual wise-beyond-his-year’s persona that he’s had since he signed a professional contract before even being allowed to vote. He looked like he belonged wearing the script Indians on his chest and acted like belonged in that locker room, which he had a makeshift name tag near the same corner of where Nick Swisher’s locker will be.
Lindor glows with poise and excitement like a kid on Christmas morning while he’s at the ballpark. His teammates spoke highly of him yesterday in sort of a higher populated environment than he’s been exposed to as a pro so far
It’s easy to look at Lindor’s .257 average after the 2012 season and say he struggled. But if you watched one game, you saw a young kid who played like a savvy vet on and off the field. His glove was smooth and feet were smooth, he cruised around the bases and was a catalyst for the offense, along with double-play partner, Jose Ramirez (who could be another player who moves through the system fast). The only thing that happened to Lindor in 2012 was that the long grind of 140 games wore him down by September. He combated that by adding what looked like some extra muscle this off-season, to prevent it happening again.
Check out other team’s fan-fest lineups around the league. Few or none are bringing a guy who hasn’t played a major league game to meet basically most of their fan base. I could be looking into this too much, but Lindor’s presence at this event could be telling of their plans with him. They could have waited till he even reached AA-Akron or even AAA-Columbus, but after just his first full season of professional baseball, the Indians were ready for Cleveland fans to really meet the 8th overall pick in the 2011 draft.
But what’s best for Lindor and the Indians may be him claiming permanent residence in that locker room with a ‘6’ next to his name in the lineup every day, sooner rather than later.
It’s been quite some time that the Indians publicized a prospect like Lindor at any public, non-media event. While they will always be a bit cautious with how they move players through the system and they will always do what’s best for the player’s future.
You can read more of Justin’s coverage of the Indians and their minor league system at LakeCounty-Sentinel.com