Francisco Lindor might be the Indians' top prospect, but he isn't a Major Leaguer yet. So when the Indians hosted the American League Wild Card Game last October, the young shortstop was watching it from the same place most fans were: his living room.
"I was going crazy watching the game on the couch," Lindor said. "I was thinking how excited I am to be a part of this organization and the great moments that will be happening in the future."
There weren't many great moments that night for the Indians, who lost, 4-0, to the Rays, but the future looks bright with Lindor. He was the seventh overall pick of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft and, ever since, he has been penciled in as the Indians' shortstop of the future.
Now, just a few years later, the future is fast approaching. Lindor was still just 19 years old when he reached Double-A Akron in 2013, and he is on track to take over as the Indians' starting shortstop job when Asdrubal Cabrera's contract is up at the end of the upcoming season.
Lindor began last season by hitting .306 with 20 stolen bases in 83 games at Class A Advanced Carolina to earn a second straight trip to the Futures Games, where the Puerto Rican native played for the World team. Lindor was then promoted to Akron, where he hit.289 with a .407 on-base percentage in 21 games before a lingering back injury ended his season in late August.
"He had an outstanding year," Indians assistant director of player development Carter Hawkins said when Lindor was shut down. "It was great. It was great to see how well he did when he got to Akron, too."
When Lindor moved to Akron -- thereby getting closer to Cleveland, both geographically and developmentally - the shortstop said he could tell the goals of the game were different.
"The game changed a lot," he said. "It's more competitive. At the lower levels, guys are playing just to develop a little more. Even though we play to win [there], and in Double-A we develop as well, in Double-A, it's more like a grownup's game.
"It's a job. It's a fun job, but they just try to win. That's the main thing -- winning, winning, winning."
Lindor clicked easily with Akron manager Edwin Rodriguez, a fellow Puerto Rican native. It was Rodriguez who helped Lindor understand the differences between Double-A and the low Minors, that it was time to begin the final stages of his development.
Lindor said he also received guidance from Mike Aviles. The Indians infielder played for Puerto Rico during the World Baseball Classic and when he returned to Spring Training after Puerto Rico's runner-up finish, Aviles had a message for Lindor.
"I remember him coming back from the WBC and saying, 'Alright buddy, we did our thing, in a few years it's going to be on you up-and-coming Puerto Ricans,'" Lindor said. "He always tells me how the game is played. He's a very helpful, very open-minded guy."
For now, Lindor is focused on joining Aviles in Cleveland. While it is possible Lindor, ranked No. 4 on MLB.com's Top 10 shortstops list, will make his Major League debut some time in 2014, he is set to begin the season back in the Minor Leagues.
Lindor's goal is to make it to the Major Leagues and win the World Series, but he knows the decision of when he will get that opportunity is out of his hands. In the meantime, he'll keep working hard to join the Indians fun.
"I'm in Akron now and a little bit closer to Cleveland, and I feel it," Lindor said. "But I want to play my game and do my thing.
"I leave it up to the Indians. I'm just going out there enjoying the game. It's a fun game and I've got to enjoy it and play it with a smile."