Francisco Lindor Rumors
Of all the baseball news that broke in 2013, the story of how David Murphy's contract with the Indians became public has to be the most unique. Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer relates how Murphy and the Tribe had agreed to terms but were keeping the deal under wraps until it was finalized...only to have Murphy's five-year-old daughter spill the beans to her kindergarten class during a lesson about Thanksgiving. “She was in preschool and they were learning about Pilgrims and Indians,” Murphy told reporters last month. “She spoke up that her dad was going to the Indians. Obviously, the word spreads quickly because of social media. It’s not the best situation, but it’s a good story to tell her when she gets older.”
Here's some more Tribe-related notes from Hoynes, as part of a reader mailbag...
- The Indians don't have any current interest in Jake Westbrook, who pitched in Cleveland from 2001-10. Westbrook hit free agency after the Cardinals bought out his 2014 option but it's been a pretty quiet winter of rumors about the veteran right-hander. Hoynes reported in October that the Tribe would "keep an eye" on Westbrook but nothing seems to have come of that interest. Westbrook, 36, posted a 4.63 ERA in 116 2/3 IP with the Cardinals last season and had trouble missing bats, as he recorded only 44 strikeouts (against 50 walks).
- A right-handed power bat isn't high on the club's priority list as the Indians are focused on adding pitching.
- Hoynes figures the Indians will post a $20MM bid for Masahiro Tanaka since they "have nothing to lose" in doing so, given that only the team that signs Tanaka has to pay the $20MM posting fee. While the Indians may check on the Japanese righty, however, Hoynes thinks larger-market teams will offer Tanaka a much bigger contract offer.
- Hoynes thinks Ubaldo Jimenez will end up signing with the Blue Jays, Diamondbacks or Yankees. The Tanaka signing could affect this prediction as the latter two teams are known to be heavily interested in Tanaka and Toronto will likely be interested as well.
- Francisco Lindor is only likely to see time as a September callup, and that's only if the Indians' star prospect rebounds from a 2013 back injury and impresses in his first taste of Double-A and Triple-A baseball. Lindor's progress will also naturally impact the Tribe's future decision on Asdrubal Cabrera, who will be a free agent next winter. Cleveland is known to be listening to trade offers for Cabrera, who is coming off a down year in 2013.
Is this the beginning of a new era for shortstops?
Four publications -- Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus (subscription required), Keith Law at ESPN (subscription required), and FanGraphs (compiled by yours truly) -- recently released their midseason Top 50 prospects lists. The rankings featured as many as eight elite shortstop prospects. That position is widely considered to be the most important (non-pitcher) spot on the baseball field and those potential star athletes are highly-sought-after commodities on the open market, through trades and via the draft.
Of those eight prospects featured on the four lists, five of the players are found in American League organizations, suggesting we may be soon entering another Era of the Shortstop, similar to what we experienced in the early 2000s with the likes of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, and Miguel Tejada in the AL.
Let's have a closer look at those eight shortstop prospects...
1. Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox: Bogaerts was the highest ranked shortstop on all four lists. Boston is clearly planning for the day that the Aruba native is ready to contribute at the big league level as they recently had him playing games at the hot corner -- an area of weakness for the playoff hungry club. However, the recent trade of Jose Iglesias, as well as the pending free agency of veteran Stephen Drew, should provide a clear path to the Major League shortstop job for Bogaerts, who has more than held his own at the Triple-A level.
2. Francisco Lindor, Indians: Just 19, Cleveland's top shortstop prospect earned a mid-season promotion from High-A to Double-A after a strong showing both in the field and at the plate. Veteran incumbent Asdrubal Cabrera's uninspired 2013 season could help convince the front office that his time with the organization is coming to an end. Lindor, who is only in his third professional season, could be ready for the Majors by the middle of 2014. He could develop into a perennial Gold Glove winner at shortstop.
3. Carlos Correa, Astros: The first overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft, Correa has produced above-average offensive numbers in Low-A ball despite being just 18 years of age. The Puerto Rico native has shown a natural hitting ability, but he has yet to tap into his raw power. There are concerns that he'll eventually outgrow shortstop, but he should have the offensive chops to be an above-average player at just about any position on the field.
4. Javier Baez, Cubs: Baez has arguably the best raw power out of any player on this list, and he already has 27 home runs in 98 games this year. Like Lindor (a fellow 2011 first-round draft pick), he's already reached Double-A. Unlike the Indians prospect, though, his offensive game is raw. He has a very aggressive approach at the plate, which has resulted in just 29 walks with 111 strikeouts in 391 at-bats. As is the case with Correa, there has been some talk of moving Baez to third base. However, with fellow prospect Mike Olt (recently acquired from the Rangers) -- a plus defender at the hot corner -- that move doesn't make a ton of sense now. He could also move out to right field, but the Cubs organization features a lot of depth in that area. If and when everything clicks for Baez, though, Chicago will certainly find a spot for him.
5. Addison Russell, Athletics: Russell, a 2012 first-rounder, burst onto the prospect landscape in a big way last season. His strong play earned him an aggressive assignment to High-A ball to open the 2013 season despite being just 19 years old. He struggled in the first two months of the season but has posted an OPS near 1.000 during the past two months. Russell probably won't be ready until 2015, so current big league shortstop Jed Lowrie likely has one more season of job security before he finds himself at another position or on another club.
6. Alen Hanson, Pirates: The emergence of Jordy Mercer has added some middle infield stability at the big league level for the Pirates but he's not likely to be the long-term answer at shortstop. Hanson, 20, is the best in-house option to eventually take over the position -- although his name has popped up more than a few times in recent trade rumors. After a strong showing in High-A ball, the Dominican native was recently promoted to Double-A. The switch-hitter has shown the ability to steal 20-30 bases with solid line-drive pop.
7. Raul Mondesi, Royals: Previously known as Adalberto Mondesi, this shortstop prospect is one of the youngest players in full-season ball, having just recently turned 18. His inexperience has shown in 2013, and he walked just four times in May and June. His raw ability is undeniable, though, and he's made adjustments with a strong month of July -- including 13 walks and his highest monthly OPS of the year at .817.
8. Corey Seager, Dodgers: Seager -- whose brother Kyle Seager plays for the Mariners -- is perhaps the most underrated shortstop on this list. The teenager has enjoyed his time in the Midwest League, and he's been on fire over the summer months with an OPS approaching 1.000. He's also slugged eight of his 11 home runs in June and July. Like Correa, Seager is expected to outgrow shortstop but he's shown enough skill at the position to suggest he may be able to stick there for a few more years. He's likely at least two seasons away from reaching Los Angeles.
The Indians are looking for lefty relief help, tweets MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. Rich Hill is the only lefty reliever on Cleveland's active roster, and he has struggled this season, posting a 6.51 ERA and 5.5 BB/9, albeit with 11.7 K/9. The Indians haven't had much better luck this season with fellow lefty relievers Nick Hagadone, Scott Barnes and David Huff. Here's more out of Cleveland.
Pat McManamon of FOXSportsOhio.com confirms that the Indians are looking for relief help, particularly of the left-handed variety, but says not to expect much beyond that. McManamon reports that GM Chris Antonetti is pleased with the Indians' starting pitching, offense and defense, which only leaves the bullpen as a possible spot to upgrade. Antonetti remains open to a bigger trade, but he is unlikely to trade a young talent like Francisco Lindor or Danny Salazar, and he says he "feel[s] good about the group of guys that we have."
Antonetti also notes that it's a tough market for buyers, according to McManamon. "[Y]ou could make the argument that there are 24, maybe 25 teams that are buying or at least holding onto players," Antonetti says. That's particularly problematic for the Indians, since one of the few clear sellers (the White Sox) is in the Indians' division, and two other potential ones (the Twins and Royals) are as well. Those teams might not want to trade within the AL Central. Antonetti says it might actually easier to make deals in August, despite the barrier of the waiver process, because more teams will realize that they're out of the race by then.
We're still roughly one month away from the deadline to delay Super Two status for minor leaguers, at which point a flood of young talent is likely to hit the Major Leagues. Here's a look at some news on some of the game's top prospects, as ranked by Baseball America, Keith Law and Jonathan Mayo prior to the season...
- Two separate scouts told Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports that the Indians' Francisco Lindor could be the best prospect in baseball by the end of the season. Lindor, a 19-year-old shortstop, reminds both scouts of Jurickson Profar thanks to excellent plate discipline, defense and ability to hit for average (Twitter links). The main question surrounding Lindor is whether or not his power will develop.
- A Mets source tells ESPN's Adam Rubin that preventing Zack Wheeler from reaching Super Two status is a priority. Rubin pegs the June 17-20 series against the division rival Braves as a likely target for Wheeler's debut. In an appearance on WFAN Radio today, GM Sandy Alderson stressed the developmental side of things, stating that they need to make sure Wheeler is ready (via Newsday's Marc Carig on Twitter).
- Oswaldo Arcia may never play another game in the minor leagues again, writes Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN. Arcia was initially called up to fill a void when Darin Mastroianni hit the disabled list, but he's hitting .299/.333/.506 with three homers thus far with the Twins. In his article, Mackey recounts a titanic opposite-field blast in a B-game by Arcia last Spring Training that grabbed the front office's attention and served as a launching pad for his career.
While the Indians would like to upgrade their rotation, they aren't interested in rental players, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick reports (on Twitter). Here’s the latest on the Indians, who have a 50-49 record after defeating the Tigers last night...
- Asdrubal Cabrera would appeal to a team like Oakland, but the Indians would have to be blown away to move their shortstop, Crasnick reports (on Twitter).
- The Indians are very likely to hold onto Shin-Soo Choo now that they’re just 3.5 games out of a playoff berth, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com writes (Twitter link).
- Rangers GM Jon Daniels should trade for an impact hitter and a starting pitcher, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports writes. The Rangers had a scout watching yesterday’s Tigers-Indians game, so Morosi suggests Choo could be an option for Texas. The Rangers also scouted Justin Upton, but it sounds as though Arizona won’t move the outfielder before the offseason.
- Though no players are off limits, a trade "would need to be exceptional" for the Indians to part with top prospect Francisco Lindor, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports (on Twitter).
The Indians have signed first overall pick Francisco Lindor, according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (on Twitter). Jim Callis of Baseball America reports that the sides agreed to a $2.9MM deal (Twitter link). Sportsmeter, LLC represents the 17-year-old. The Indians believe Lindor has the potential to develop into an impact shortstop, according to MLB.com's Jordan Bastian.
You can keep track of which top picks have signed with MLBTR's list.
Historically speaking, July 26th has been a busy day for the Indians. The Indians and Cardinals swapped Mark DeRosa and Chris Perez on this date in 2009; the Tribe acquired Carlos Santana for Casey Blake on this date in 2008; the Indians acquired Shin-Soo Choo for Ben Broussard on this date in 2006; they sent Russell Branyan to Milwaukee on this date in 2004 and they signed Marco Scutaro as an amateur free agent in 1994. This year, they're buyers. Here's the latest on the Indians and their division rivals...
- Indians GM Chris Antonetti says the Tribe has had continued dialogue with the agent for first round pick Francisco Lindor, though there’s no real update on the talks (Twitter link).
- Tigers owner Mike Ilitch told Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News that he'd be "extremely disappointed" if the Tigers don't make the playoffs this season. GM Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland are in the final years of their respective contracts.
- The Rockies and others continue to pursue Kevin Slowey, according to Yahoo's Tim Brown (on Twitter). Earlier in the month, it became clear that the Pirates and Rockies were among the clubs with interest in the Twins right-hander.
We've already learned that right-hander Gerrit Cole will be the Pirates' choice with the first overall pick in today's amateur draft, and it seems that the next two picks are also starting to crystalize. "Barring huge late surprises," tweets Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com, the top three look to be Cole, Anthony Rendon (to the Mariners) and Trevor Bauer (to the Diamondbacks). Here's the latest as we're just hours away from the 2011 draft...
- Cole, Rendon and Bauer are the first three picks for Baseball America's Jim Callis in his final mock draft. This represents a reversal for Callis, who said on Friday that "[Danny] Hultzen to Arizona was the biggest lock in the first six picks." Instead, Callis has Hultzen falling to the Nationals at No. 6.
- Francisco Lindor had a great workout with the Mariners and there were rumors Seattle could take the high school shortstop with the No. 2 pick, reports Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus. Still, Goldstein predicts Seattle to draft Rendon in his latest mock since Jack Zduriencik didn't see much of Lindor in game action and, if the M's did branch out to take a high school player, they might prefer Bubba Starling.
- Marc Hulet of Fangraphs and MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo also have Cole, Rendon and Bauer as the first three picks in their last mock drafts.
- Also from Mayo, he names the ten best draft picks in history according to their placement in the draft order. For instance, Alex Rodriguez is the best first overall pick ever, Reggie Jackson is the best second overall pick ever, etc.
- Now that it appears Cole will be Pittsburgh's pick at No. 1, the second-guessing has already begun. "I think history suggests that the Pirates may be making a mistake here," writes Dave Cameron of Fangraphs, who cites the surprisingly weak crop of pitchers taken with the first overall pick. (The jury is still out, of course, on David Price and Stephen Strasburg.)
- Meanwhile, Tom Krasovic of West Coast Bias asks five scouts and an executive who they would rather draft between Cole and Bauer. Cole won the informal poll, but only by a 4-2 margin.
- Nationals owner Mark Lerner says his team won't hesitate to spend to get the draft picks they want, reports James Wagner of the Washington Post (via the Post's Adam Kilgore). "Last year we had great luck in going after kids with signability issues like A.J. Cole and Robbie Ray, and hopefully we’ll have the same opportunity again this year if the opportunity presents itself," Lerner said.
- The Rockies are looking at Hawaii second baseman Kolten Wong or UNC shortstop Levi Michael with the 20th overall pick in the first round, tweets ESPN's Keith Law. Colorado apparently won't be selecting Utah first baseman C.J. Cron.
- The Tigers have had success finding Major League players in the late rounds of recent drafts, reports MLive.com's Matt Sussman. Detroit won't have a pick until the 76th overall selection after losing its first round pick to Boston as compensation for signing Victor Martinez.
- MLBTR's Dan Mennella already posted a set of draft links earlier today, so click here for even more draft news on this busy day in baseball.
A few items of note on the club formerly known as the Colt .45s as Albert Pujols smacks a walkoff homer, his second jack of the day:
- The Astros continue to deny any rumors that they've been trying to work out a pre-draft deal with Stanford pitcher Chris Reed with the intent of selecting him at No. 11 overall, tweets Stephen Goff of the Houston Examiner. Goff predicts the Astros will take Archie Bradley (Twitter link), and ESPN.com's Keith Law writes in his latest mock draft that they'll take prep shortstop Francisco Lindor or Bradley if he's still available.
- The Astros have improved their farm system under GM Ed Wade and his stable of area scouts, according to Goff. Wade's first draft as Astros GM was in 2008, when Houston selected Jason Castro and Jordan Lyles, both of whom have reached the bigs.
- In contrast to their relative improvements in drafting and developing minor league players, Wade admitted that releasing Bill Hall represented a failure in judgment, writes Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle.
Draft junkies, you're missing out if you don't read Keith Law's latest chat at ESPN. Insider is required to read it, and is well worth your money, but here are a few highlights.
- With the fifth overall pick, Law sees the Royals taking a college arm or Dylan Bundy. Law and Jim Callis of Baseball America projected them to take Matt Barnes or Gerrit Cole, respectively, in late May mock drafts. MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo went with high school outfielder Bubba Starling in a mock draft published today. Mayo mentions UCLA righty Trevor Bauer and high school shortstop Francisco Lindor as well, but Law says the Royals are not on Lindor.
- One team that is in on Lindor is the Mariners at #2, as ESPN's Shannon Drayer tweets that they worked him out at Safeco Field. However, Law says that while the Ms like Lindor and Starling, he doubts they'd pass on Anthony Rendon if the Pirates take someone else.
- Law hears rumors that the Tigers and Red Sox are in on high school outfielder Josh Bell, a Boras Corporation advisee who sent a letter to the MLB Scouting Bureau saying he intends to honor his commitment to the University of Texas and does not want to be drafted. Law hears a "widespread rumor" about the Tigers drafting Bell and offering $6MM, presumably with the #76 overall pick (their first).
- The Red Sox don't know how the draft will change under the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement, so they intend to take advantage of this year's draft, GM Theo Epstein told Ian Browne of MLB.com. Boston will select four of the first 40 players under second-year scouting director Amiel Sawdaye.
- Law hears high school righty Robert Stephenson "very strongly" for the Dodgers at #16. He also hears that the Dodgers can't go over slot with any pick, so hopefully Stephenson is comfortable with $1.8MM or so. High school shortstop Javier Baez and high school righty Taylor Guerrieri have been projected for the Dodgers in various recent mock drafts.
- Derek Fisher, a high school outfielder with "light-tower raw power" according to Law, will be a tough sign with demands of $2MM or more.
- Silly numbers like Danny Hultzen's reported $13MM demand "just get ignored," says Law. To get to know the University of Virginia southpaw, check out Josh Barr's article for the Washington Post. The article says Hultzen has visited with officials from only the first six teams picking in the draft, and told those clubs what he'll need to sign.
- The Mets are leaning toward a college arm at #13, writes Law. Mayo went with Vanderbilt's Sonny Gray in today's mock.
- For a look at each team's picks within the first 90, click here.