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Baseball Prospectus took to the experts of the baseball world – both others in the industry, and their own in-house crew – to determine: of the four big-time shortstop prospects in baseball, which one would you choose to build your franchise around?

Well, Cleveland Indians prospect Francisco Lindor won the thing going away over Javier Baez, Addison Russell and Carlos Correa. The gist of the selection seems to be that Lindor, while offering plenty of awesomeness and upside, is pretty much the safest bet of the crew. He’s got Gold Glove-caliber defense (which tends to translate well to the bigs without a lot of risk), and he’s got “off-the-charts” makeup. He’s going to do some good things with the bat, too, so it’s not like it’s just about making the safe pick.

I found it interesting how frequently you see this kind of line of thinking come up in the piece: Baez has the potential to be the more impactful, better player … but the experts just can’t pick him over Lindor. It’s a risk versus ceiling kind of debate, and if I can only choose one guy to start my franchise, I’m not so sure I can fault the experts here. The question is a loaded one, and it seems to imply: don’t you dare screw this up. With Baez, there’s some risk of screw-up, even if he’s got 10 WAR potential (Lindor almost certainly does not). It’s a good read.

(If the question instead had been, imagine you’ve got a solidly-built franchise, and you can steal any shortstop prospect in baseball from any other organization, I’m pretty sure Baez would have been the overwhelming choice.)

… and to all that noise, I say pfft, yeah, but does Lindor have a GIF that makes you drool like this:

(h/t Dylan Heuer)

  • lnfihDeL

    Anyone have the video source of that Baez gif?

  • Ill see you at Sluggers.

    Even with the risks that come with Baez, I still think he is going to be the next Derek Jeter, in my world anyways.

    • BlameHendry

      Jeter never had Baez’s power, and Baez will probably never have Jeter’s batting average or glove

      • Jon

        Baez will probably never have Jeter’s ….. glove

        Which is actually a positive, for Baez

        • notcubbiewubbie

          AMEN!!!!!

        • Brocktoon

          That’s only because Rueben Rivera beat him to it.

    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

      He’s really nothing like Jeter at all, A-Rod would be the better comparison over Jeter

      • JCubs79

        I think he meant an iconic player for him personally. I don’t think he was comping the skill sets.

        • Ill see you at Sluggers.

          Correct. I just think he will be an iconic figure for us Cub fans, similar to the way The Captain is for the Yankees. It’s been a while since Mr. Cub was hitting homers out of Wrigley and I’m hoping that we have “the guy” again. I’ll be at the Round Rock Express-Iowa Cubs games on May 20th & 22nd in Round Rock, and I’m beyond excited about finally getting to see Baez in person.

          • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

            If you’re looking for the next Derek Jeter of the Cubs, you’re much more likely to find him in Albert Almora, skillset wise and personality wise

            • Jon

              “personality wise”
              Didn’t Almora get engaged? He’s going to have to call that shit off.

              • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                Ha that would be relationship wise, although I’m not sure how Almora feels about gift baskets

  • Dumpgobbler

    Lindor is awesome. He’s quite similar to Almora in my eyes. Outstanding D, huge make up and well do things with the bat as well. Hard to fault someone who would take that over Baez IMHO. Now Lindor doesn’t have close to the ceiling Baez does, but if the Indians wanted to do an even swap, Lindor for Baez, I’d have to think long and hard about it.

  • Jon

    If I had to pick the player least likely to be a bust, and it’s a life or death matter, I would take Lindor.

    But the concept of “building your franchise around”, (which is a silly concept in baseball to begin with, you don’t necessarily need that guy, aka basketball), I think I would easily have to take Baez and his ceiling, because the ceiling of Lindor isn’t that of a 7-8 WAR player.

  • PejaO42

    Makes sense to pick the lower celing high floor guy, though personally, I like the go big or go home view. This is always why I stay away from Roulette table…

    • PejaO42

      *also, not always

  • scorecardpaul

    now this, I could watch for hours

  • Kyle

    They’re all wrong due to a combination of risk-averse bias and misweighting offense vs. defense.

    • Jon

      Every draft /IFA period has a slick glove /light bat option like Lindor. They aren’t rare

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Lindor is not a light bat option: he’s consistently put up very solid OBP.

        • Jon

          No SLG%

          • DocPeterWimsey

            Oh, wait: sorry, I though you meant “light bat” as in “offensively inept,” not “no power.” Given his miLB numbers, I wouldn’t put a Brett Butler offensive ceiling out of Lindor’s reach: and that will mean that Lindor will create a lot more runs than most other SS.

            • Jon

              It reminds me a lot of the Jeter/Rey ordonez Shortstop debate in the mid 90s
              Both were crazy hyped young SS, in the NY market none the less , but Jeter was the better overall player because he had the better bat and Ordonez eventually faded

              • DocPeterWimsey

                Only Mets fans were debating that: the rest of baseball was debating ARod vs. Nomar vs. Jetes.

                However, Lindor’s bat skills are far, far better than Ordonez’s. Ordonez swung at everything and had less power than in his late 20′s than Lindor has shown in his teens. Ordonez was one of those rare guys who’s OBP and SLG both were nearly the same as his BA: and they made for bad BAs!

                • Brocktoon

                  O RLY
                  [img]http://bronxbanter.arneson.name/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/topless.jpg[/img]

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      But in this specific exercise, isn’t a risk-averse bias built into the question? To me, it is. And, for that reason, I’d take Lindor.

      And I freaking love Baez.

      • Kyle

        Enjoy your boring, safe, 3.5-win defense-first SS while I try to figure out whether I’ve got a 7-win SS or a 6-win 3b.

        • DarthHater

          …or Mark Reynolds.

  • ssckelley

    If I was the Cubs and I had a choice between Baez or Lindor I am taking Baez in a heart beat. Lindor has a higher floor but since we already have Castro at shortstop I will take the much higher ceiling in Baez. But if I am starting a franchise from the ground up then I agree with BP and take Lindor.

  • Edwin

    I’m not really sure what Baez’s ceiling looks like at the MLB level. Even with his incredible power, with his K% and BB% issues I figure his ceiling is pretty much a 4-5 WAR player.

    • Jon

      Ceiling assumes he is able to work through those issues

    • CubsFaninMS

      I would say Gary Sheffield may be Baez’s ceiling. Sheffield had several 6-WAR seasons. If he can’t resolve his K issues, though, he may be a light-walking Adam Dunn (only one season close to 5 WAR). With the importance of Baez’s position, if he can put his fielding together he’s very likely to have some Sheffield-like WAR seasons.

      • bbmoney

        I don’t mind putting the 6-WAR type of label on what Baez could be.

        But the Sheffield comps should probably stop. Yes the swing appears similar and the ridiculous bat speed is there. But he’s almost certainly not going to be like Sheffield in the sense that Gary walked (13.5%) more than he struck out (10.7%!!!) in his career. Baez probably will never have that kind of discipline or quite the ability to put bat to ball.

      • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

        ” If he can’t resolve his K issues, though, he may be a light-walking Adam Dunn ”

        No. If he can’t make sufficient contact, he is going to be a replacement level player. Adam Dunn had a respectable K rate and a really good BB rate in the minors.

      • Edwin

        Sheffield’s highest K% in a season was 17.2%. He also drew double digit % of walks most of those seasons.

        Looking at past seasons where players had a K% 22% and higher and BB % 10% and lower, there just aren’t that many 6 WAR seasons.

        • bbmoney

          To be fair there also aren’t many 40 HR SS’s.

          So Baez is the kind of guy that could do that with those numbers if he can play a reasonable defense at SS (or possibly 2b) and hit for that kind of power we think he can.

          All theoretical of course….a lot of if’s.

        • jp3

          Sheffield had a .376 OBP in his last year in the league when he was 40 years old… Wow that’s ridiculous, forgot how long he was good

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Sheff had outstanding pitch recognition as a teenager. That puts him well above Baez’s ceiling.

  • Blackhawks1963

    If I had a choice then I pick Lindor as well. He’s the closest thing to a sure thing and should be an elite shortstop for many years. Baez comes with risks. Immense talent, but 30% plus K rate and the violence of his swing are cause for concern. And, whether he truly has the chops to play shortstop in this league remains to a seen.

    To me, Almora remains the one prospect with the highest potential for a long and productive major league career. He doesn’t have the eye popping upside of Baez or Bryant, but he is the outfield version of Lindor and I think a guy who will be a cornerstone asset for 15 years in the big leagues. Absolutely my favorite prospect in the system.

    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

      Speaking of Almora, through 29 PA this year he hasn’t walked yet. But he has only K’d 1 time.

      The dude can just flat out make contact.

    • ssckelley

      Yep, I agree on the Almora assessment as I have been saying the same thing. Out of the top prospects the Cubs have Almora has the highest floor and is the safest bet to be a MLB player for a long time.

      Still excited for Bryants and Baez’s ceilings though, they are HOF ceilings.

      • Blackhawks1963

        Almora reminds me of a hybrid between Mark Grace and Jacoby Ellsbury. I admit to being very bullish on this kid. The OBP will come, but he can flat out rake and really has no weakness in his game.

        • Jon

          Minus the booz(Grace) and injuries(Ellsbury)..I hope.

          • GoCubsGo

            Ells injuries were flukes, so let’s hope every player in our system avoids that.

  • GoCubsGo

    It also seemed to me that Lindor won a couple of votes because they don’t think Baez is going to stick at SS. Lindor still would have won, but man, he kept getting brought up all over the place by people still picking Lindor. Good stuff.

  • fromthemitten

    Lmao on that guy in the background who is looking at his phone and immediately has that “oh shit” look when he realized he missed Javy crushing it

  • TK

    I sense that this convo has begun to stray a bit into an overall critique of Baez. If you are going to be critical, its only fair to grade on a curve . . . of all the comps Ive heard (I HATE COMPS!), Id have to say that if Baez ends up anywhere near those projections, AS A SS, I’d be thrilled! How much more valuable would Sheffield, for example, had been as a SS instead of OF?????? To even be able to loosely make a comp with such a productive player about a SS is saying A LOT. Take all your WAR crap and shove it up your crack . . . this guy is great, period.

    • Edwin

      How much less valuable would Sheffield have been if he struck out twice as much and walked twice as less?

      I’m not trying to make this into a critique of Baez, I just don’t buy into him having that much higher of a ceiling than the other SS prospects.

      • Jon

        I have to admit, I’ve been browsing various infielder comps based on K% and BB%, and if we want Baez to be the player we all want him to be, something has to give, in both those categories. If not the results could be Jose Hernandez.

  • Spoda17

    Can’t really argue with this. I will say this, as much as I love Baez’ potential, power and bat speed, I really think that his swing is so violent that sooner rather than later he is going to have health, and or, performance issues. Swinging like that at 20 is a lot different then at 25… etc…

  • bushybrows74

    The best comp for me is Alfonso Soriano. Baez is going to start at 2b and get moved to LF after a year or two. He will be a .270/ .320/.500 player. Will hit 400 career HR and we will complain that he swings at too many low and away pitches.

    • Jon

      Soriano would be a real convenient comp because then he could just be another Hendry liability Theo had to deal with.

    • SenorGato

      Yeah, this is kind of how I see Baez, though he won’t have Soriano’s speed. OTOH never liked Soriano as a base stealer and I could see Baez being a good baserunner early on in his career.

  • terencemann

    Have any of the pundits written a good comparison between Lindor and Andrus when he was still a prospect? I kind of feel likey’re similar?

    • terencemann

      like they’re*

      I think I invented a new word….

    • Edwin

      Just a quick glance at the numbers, it looks like so far Lindor has easily been a better offensive player than Andrus was. But that’s without taking things like age difference/ league difference into account.

  • ABK

    DAT BAT SPEED DOE

  • Diego Javier

    And they call themselves experts…

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    The problem as I see it with Baez is that he only has one swing which is blls to the walls. This year Rizzo had modified his two strike approach and is doing quite well giving up on the power stroke and just trying to guide the ball for a hit to keep the line going. Baez says he only has one swing. He’s going to need to learn then. If he shortens his stroke with two strikes he be a monster. If he strikes out 30% of the time he won’t reach that elite potential. In a lot of respects Bryant is a much more advanced hitter than Baez.

    • Rebuilding

      He still has plenty of time to make the same adjustment. At every level so far we’ve seen Baez start with a K% well above 30% and watched it consistently drop over his time there.

      At Kane County it got down to 20.4%
      At Daytona in 2012 – 24.4%
      At Daytona in 2013 – 23.1%
      At TN in 2013 – 28.8%

      Had he stayed at those levels longer it’s possible he would have gotten under 20%. I’m guessing he will be around 21-23% for his career which is certainly acceptable with his power

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Most guys post higher K rates in MLB than they do in miLB. K-rates usually don’t change all that much, either: and when they do, it more often is for them to get higher if guys opt to sacrifice contact for power.

        At any rate, the guys with the highest K rates in MLB last year all had Javier’s K-rates or (most commonly) lower in AA.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Javier’s K issue is *not* his swing: it’s his pitch recognition. He doesn’t swing through strikes anywhere near as much as he swings at pitches in the dirt or that are in the LH batters box.

  • Kyle

    I feel like most of the time these discussions must be taking place in some Sliders-style alternative universe where Lindor isn’t a really meh hitter.

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