With Carlos Correa playing in his first major league game last Monday, the fantasy gods provided me the most obvious topic for a Rotographs post as the guy on the SS beat on Mondays. Well, the gods have smiled on me again with Francisco Lindor getting the call and likely to start his first major league game tonight.
Unfortunately, writing up Lindor isn’t quite as fun and exciting as it was to write up Correa. You’ve likely heard this said elsewhere, but a lot of Lindor’s real baseball value apparently comes from his glove. That obviously isn’t of as much interest to fantasy players outside of the fact that his defense could keep him in the lineup regularly.
I started evaluating Lindor’s fantasy value, as I did with Correa, by running the rest-of-season Steamer projections through the z-score method to see how his projected production would rank among shortstops. Before getting into the accuracy of the projection, Lindor’s ROS projected production has him ranked 29th at his position. No reasonable amount of altering his projection is going to make him worthy of normal mixed league ownership a la Correa.
It’s not until you get to the depth of a 16-team league that Lindor becomes a consideration. A 16-team mixer and 10-team AL-only leagues are the sweet spot for Lindor. If your mixed league is deeper than 16 teams or your AL-only league deeper than 10 teams, Lindor is worth owning as long as he’s getting semi-regular at-bats. Playing time and the counting stats that come with it are more than sufficient in a league of that depth. As for his dynasty value, someone else is better suited to advise you on that than I am.
But in a 16-team mixer or a 10-team AL only league, he’s on the bubble of being ownable. Well, at least according to the Steamer projections. At 29th among shortstops, he just misses the cut in a 16-team mixer if eight shortstops outside the starting 16 are used to fill the middle infield slot. If you run just the AL shortstops through the z-score method, Lindor ranks 14th at his position. But young players tend to have upside in their projectability, so Lindor is worth adding in those formats. The question is how much upside is there in his projection.
First of all, the 313 PA projected for Lindor seems reasonable. Last week I projected Correa for 350 plate appearances, and Lindor may not warrant every single day playing time. He figures to get the majority of the work or else he’d likely still be in the minors, and the Steamer PA projection has him getting the majority of the work. But it rightfully doesn’t get too aggressive in that regard.
Actually, it doesn’t get aggressive in any regard. Starting with his batting average, Steamer projects him to hit just .235. That’s despite the fact that Lindor hit in the .275-.280 range in the upper minors. The main reason for that is Lindor made plenty of contact. In his cumulative time spent at Double-A and Triple-A, his strikeout rate was easily below 20 percent. And to Steamer’s credit, they don’t project contact issues as his strikeout rate is projected to be just 16.7 percent.
However, Steamer is not high on his BABIP potential with a projection of just .272 in that statistic. To some degree it makes sense. Perhaps the thing I like least about Lindor is his batted ball profile in the minors. In the entirety of his time spent in the minors, his ground ball rate was 50.5 percent. That’s not quite Christian Yelich bad, but it’s not a great sign. To be fair, it was closer to 45 percent in the upper minors, so he may be working to improve in that area.
Even with a tendency to hit too many balls on the ground, a .272 BABIP may be too conservative. Lindor isn’t a total burner, but he can run a bit. With the exception of his short stint at Triple-A last year, his speed score was in the neighborhood of 6.0 throughout the minors. With the ability to make contact at a decent clip and some speed, I just don’t agree that his BABIP is going to be on the bottom end of the .270-.310 range that is loosely considered normal. Pencil me in for something closer to .250 for Lindor’s average.
As for his speed, I can’t quibble with the 10 steals projected by Steamer. Lindor stole nine bases in Triple-A this year in 261 PA, which isn’t much less than the number of plate appearances he is expected to get at the big league level. The problem is that Lindor has not been an efficient base stealer in the minors. Between this year and last at Triple-A, he was just 12-for-26 in stolen base attempts. If he’s that inefficient in the majors, he won’t see the green light, and the projection of 10 steals will be too high. But since we’re trying to see what his upside is, I’ll go along with 10 steals.
As for his power, there isn’t much to analyze. As mentioned, he doesn’t elevate much, which hurts his home run potential right off the bat. But he also hasn’t displayed a ton of power even when he does put the ball in the air with just a 6.1 percent home run per fly ball rate throughout the minors. Maybe he hits five home runs instead of the four he is projected to hit, but there’s no reason to expect much power from Lindor.
In the other counting stats, Lindor’s projected to combine for 56 R+RBI. Given that the three guys who have played short for Cleveland this year have combined for 56 R+RBI in 329 PA, roughly the PA Lindor is projected for, 56 R+RBI for Lindor seems like a very appropriate projection.
After all of that, it’s pretty apparent Lindor doesn’t have a ton of upside unless he fundamentally changes some things. The most important things for his fantasy value will be getting a few more batted balls off the ground and on a line and being more efficient on the base paths. But if we just bump up his batting average and leave the rest of his Steamer projection alone, he jumps up the AL-only projected SS rankings from 14th to just 13th.
We’ve been spoiled this year by rookies. Joc Pederson came out of the gate on fire. Kris Bryant is holding his own. Joey Gallo is doing his thing hitting bombs and striking out. And Correa had a pretty good first week. But don’t expect Lindor to join them as a mixed league relevant fantasy option just yet.