What is wrong with you people?
Can't you just enjoy a good thing? Do you have to nitpick, criticize and tear down that which has brought so much joy to others?
That's what I want to say every time I see another Fantasy analyst ripping Francisco Lindor to shreds.
I understand they're just doing they're job. They don't want you to make a bad pick and come crying to them later. Real humanitarians, those guys.
But what their cold den of analytical integrity is sorely lacking is imagination. Given his profile and his progression to that point, not to mention the progression of others like him, what he accomplished in 2015 wasn't so hard to imagine.
That's not to say it didn't surprise me. I'm always surprised when a prospect of any standing is that good that soon, which is why I'm nervous about investing an early first-round pick in Carlos Correa, the shortstop who beat out Lindor for AL Rookie of the Year honors. But the issue there is the price tag, or what I'd be sacrificing to draft Correa. Thanks to the ongoing efforts to denigrate him, Lindor lasts to Round 7 on average even though, again, Correa barely beat him for top rookie honors.
There are reasons to be skeptical of Lindor's performance. I'll grant that, sure. Even more so than Correa? I'll grant that as well. It's true what they say, that Lindor never showed in the minors the kind of power he had in the second half last year, when he nearly overtook Correa with a .345 batting average, 10 home runs and a .930 OPS in 287 at-bats.
But if that was the expectation for him this year, he'd be going alongside Correa in the first round. He's already heavily discounted in anticipation of regression, but if he was really supposed to be exactly the hitter he was in the minors, he wouldn't have ranked among the top 15 prospects two or even three years in a row, according to some publications.
"But defense," you say, "those scouts really loved his defense." Yes, they did, but they also saw a player whose high contact rate -- he never struck out in more than 16.3 percent of his plate appearances in the minors -- was sure to translate into a high batting average once he put some meat on his bones. And sure enough, he hit .313 last year with a 15.8 percent strikeout rate that would have ranked in the top 50, ahead of even Miguel Cabrera, among qualifying hitters. They saw an athletic player whose speed would allow him to leg out a high number of doubles and triples, not to mention a healthy number of stolen bases, and lo and behold, if you project his doubles and triples over 650 plate appearances, he would have had the 28th-highest combined total in all the majors.
They even saw a player whose swing gave him the capacity for moderate power as he grew bigger and stronger and developed a better understanding of the strike zone. No, really. The 2014 edition of the Baseball America Prospect Handbook said he "could still be a threat to hit 15 homers once he fills out," and the 2015 edition said he "got noticeably stronger in the weight room and worked to get in better hitting positions to tap more into his strength." Mission accomplished, right?
It's kind of like how Rafael Furcal went from never hitting more than one home run in a minor-league season to hitting between 12 and 15 during a four-year stretch in the majors. Same for Starlin Castro. He never hit more than three in a minor-league season, but pretty much from the get-go, he has been good for 12 to 15 in the majors.
And that's all anybody's asking of Lindor.
That's all he needs with everything else he brings to the table. If he had maintained last year's pace over 650 at-bats, he would have finished with 17 home runs, so it's not like his power surge was something out of this world. It seemed like the natural progression for someone with so much extra-base ability. And while you could point out that his .348 BABIP was also high, making his .313 batting average unsustainable, again, it wasn't outside the realm of possibility a shift-proof, line-drive hitter with good foot speed.
Ah yes, the foot speed. We haven't even seen Lindor's full potential as a base stealer yet. In the minors, he routinely delivered between 25 and 30 -- and that was in shorter seasons. The Indians played it safe with him after his promotion last year, but considering he was 12 for 14 on the base paths, they won't want to bottle him up forever.
What I envision for Lindor is a .300 batting average with 15 home runs and 30 stolen bases. Even if you want to dial it back and say 12 home runs and 25 stolen bases, that still makes him something akin to Jason Heyward -- similar plate discipline and everything. And where would Heyward have ranked among shortstops in Head-to-Head points leagues last year? You got it: No. 1.
Obviously, Lindor isn't No. 1. His per-game production trails Correa's by a wide margin. But top three seems like a safe bet, and top three would make him a steal in Round 7.