One year from now I have no idea who will be winning this battle of young shortstops. I've changed my mind too many times over the past 18 months. Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, Corey Seager, Trea Turner, they're all great. But what I do know is that if I had to decide right now, on May 5th, 2017 which of these I would build my team around, it would be Francisco Lindor. And I don't think it's that close.
Since last October Lindor has had the benefit of being in the public eye for a while. His Indians were in the World Series and he played well. Then Puerto Rico made it to the WBC finals and he played well. I wrote about Franky after the first couple weeks of the 2017 season. Cleveland had started hot and he had hit a dramatic, go ahead grand slam in the ninth inning to give the Indians a huge early season win over the Rangers. Baseball could tell the Lindor breakout was coming, we just didn't have the stats to show it yet.
Now we do. Check out this table from a recent FanGraphs blog by Jeff Sullivan:
If you find this interesting I recommend reading the whole article. Jeff is a lot smarter than me and is also a better writer. But basically this table shows two changes since Lindor's rookie year:
1. He is swinging less often
2. When he swings he is making more contact
These are good things to see from a young hitter. Lindor's combination of contact and patience has resulted in a .302 batting average with a .372 OBP. That's great. He's improving. But what could potentially make him really special is if the increase in power is legit. After hitting 15 home runs a season ago Lindor already has seven in the season's first month.
Jeff's blog concludes with Lindor being best compared to Mookie Betts. The similarities make sense. Both are small and play elite defense. And both developed (are developing) power after already reaching the majors. Jeff points out Mookie broke out at age 23 last season with 31 homers. Lindor's age this year? 23.
This isn't to say Franky is Mookie Betts. It isn't to say he is going to hit 31 homers this year. The point of this blog is to show that Lindor is still getting better. Even if he doesn't end up hitting for a ton of power he's going to be a top three shortstop in baseball for a while. His combination of defense and OBP gives him a ridiculously high floor as a player. Before this year the only argument against ranking Lindor as the best young shortstop in baseball was that he didn't have the power upside of Seager and Correa. Now he does. His floor is a top three shortstop. His ceiling is the best baseball player alive not named Mike Trout.