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Shortstop Lindor headlines formidable Tribe pipeline

Shortstop Lindor headlines formidable Tribe pipeline

Shortstop Lindor headlines formidable Tribe pipeline

CLEVELAND -- If first-round draftee Clint Frazier wants to further impress the folks in Cleveland, he'd do well to follow the example of Francisco Lindor, a fellow position player out of the high school ranks who the Indians selected with the eighth overall pick of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.

Lindor is Cleveland's top prospect. The 19-year-old shortstop headlines a crew of ambitious up-and-comers who have their sights set on Progressive Field, a group of talent that also includes outfielder Tyler Naquin, third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall and pitchers Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar and Mitch Brown.

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"[Lindor's] been unbelievable," vice president of player development Ross Atkins said last month. "The guy, every night, gets two or three hits, makes an exceptional play. The things that were very, very small limitations or just goals for him, he seems to be taking off the list one at a time."

Lindor is a ballplayer, plain and simple. At shortstop, he's slick with the glove and strong in his throws. He can do damage in the batter's box or on the basepaths, all while drawing on natural instincts that make the challenges of the game that much easier to overcome.

In 59 games for Class A Advanced Carolina, Lindor is batting .296 with 14 doubles, four triples and a home run. He's driven in 20 runs while scoring 33 more himself. Lindor has also stolen 13 bases in 17 tries and drawn 25 walks.

"The leadership, his commitment, his professionalism -- we haven't experienced anything like that from a high school player," Atkins said. "There's no secrets. He outworks people. The talent is clearly there, and then he outworks them on top of it. And then, when you do that, you end up being the best player in the league, and he's done that. He's doing that right now. He's made himself into one of the best prospects in baseball, if not the best."

Naquin is Lindor's teammate in Carolina. The Indians nabbed him with the 15th overall pick of last year's Draft. In 59 games this year, the outfielder is hitting .307 with 18 doubles, three triples and five homers. He's scored 38 runs while notching 23 RBIs.

Neither Lindor nor Naquin has Major League experience, but Chisenhall and Bauer both do. Chisenhall was supposed to be the Indians' regular third baseman in 2013, but a lack of offensive production led the organization to demote him to Triple-A Columbus on May 13. There, he joined Bauer, who's been back and forth between Columbus and Cleveland this year.

After batting .213 in 26 games with the Indians, Chisenhall went down a level and the hits started to fall. Over 22 contests with the Clippers, the third baseman is batting .379 with five doubles, two triples and six home runs. He also has 23 RBIs.

"[He's been] a little inconsistent, but it's getting better," Indians manager Terry Francona said last month. "That's what we want. I think the biggest thing was for him to be able to take a deep breath. He probably needed that."

As for Bauer, his numbers with Columbus seem wildly different from start to start, and that's partly by design, as the organization encourages its pitchers to experiment during Minor League outings. What's important are big league games, and Bauer has impressed in the three he's pitched for Cleveland this season. The right-hander is 1-2 with a 2.76 ERA across 16 1/3 innings. He's walked 15 and struck out 11, while allowing one home run.

"You know what? He keeps 'em off the scoreboard," Francona said after Bauer's May 13 outing. "I'll tell you what. There's so much to like about him, and he's still developing, but even in the midst of that -- you know, coming up like he does isn't the easiest thing to do -- and he gives us a chance to win every time he pitches."

Like Chisenhall and Bauer, Salazar plays for the Clippers, too. The Dominican Republic native is 0-1 with a 5.12 ERA in five starts in Columbus. Salazar began the year pitching at Double-A Akron, where he went 2-3 with a 2.67 ERA in seven starts.

Cleveland drafted Brown in the second round of the 2012 Draft. The high school hurler went with the 79th overall pick, same as 2013 third-rounder Dace Kime. Brown has made five starts for Class A Lake County, going 1-1 with a 11.49 ERA.

Other top prospects include Dorssys Paulino, Ronny Rodriguez, Tony Wolters, Jose Ramirez and Dillon Howard.

With the 2013 Draft, the Indians' farm system appears to be in good shape. There are players who will accomplish big things at Progressive Field, and others still who might prove valuable in a trade, a la former Tribe pitching prospects Drew Pomeranz and Alex White, who were shipped off in 2011 as part of a four-player deal that brought starter Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland.

"If you don't have those players in your system, you don't have them available, you can't make a trade like that," said Brad Grant, the club's director of amateur scouting. "We've done a good job of identifying the right guys as a department and drafting the right guys."

Grant said that before the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, but his recent statements indicate that he's happy with the way things turned out this year, as well. Cleveland's selections, too, must be thrilled by the opportunity to play professional baseball.

In order to reach the game's highest level, their talent must be combined with hard work and professionalism. Oh, and a little patience is necessary, too -- except maybe for Lindor.

"We always have rough timetables, but players dictate them," Atkins said about the promotion process. "We plan for what we think will occur, and then in cases like Francisco, he continues to speed it up."

Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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