Lindor continues ascent with Futures Game appearance

Lindor continues ascent with Futures Game appearance

MINNEAPOLIS -- Let the mask Francisco Lindor wore during the 2014 Sirius/XM All-Star Futures Game be a lesson that even the surest-handed shortstops are susceptible to the bad hops of a baseball.

Lindor took one off the nose a couple of weeks ago at Double-A Akron, suffering a non-displaced nasal fracture that cost him a few games but did nothing to diminish his standing as one of the game's top prospects. He got the start and batted second for the World Team on Sunday at Target Field, and the mask was along for the ride as he went 0-for-2 and had a relatively quiet day in the field.

"At first, [the mask] was kind of weird," Lindor said, "because it was pretty thick and I couldn't see side to side. But they made it smaller and they made it better."

They don't make shortstop prospects much better than Lindor.

His instincts, his reactions, the speed of his first step, his soft hands and his seamless throws are -- dare we say -- Omar Vizquel-like. There is a natural fluidity to Lindor's defense that can't be measured or taught.

As for every other element of his game, well, if Lindor's bat and legs were as advanced as his glove, we'd be talking about him appearing in the All-Star Game, not the Futures Game.

The kid's only 20, and these things take time, so let's attempt to slow down that talk of him impacting the Indians by year's end.

Lindor, though, has already shown enough development that a promotion to Triple-A Columbus could be imminent.

"It's something that we're thinking through right now," general manager Chris Antonetti said. "I think our focus is trying to really understand and think through what's the best developmental environment for Francisco, and there are a lot of things that go into that. A promotion to Triple-A could be something we consider in the second half."

The biggest takeaway from Lindor's 2014, to date, is that he's added some bulk to his 5-foot-11 frame. He's still listed at 175 pounds -- as he was last year -- but Lindor said he's now actually at 190, and that added weight is helping him answer past questions about his power and durability.

"I can see the ball carry a little more," he said, "and I'm capable of holding up during the season. So far, I feel good. Last year, I got a little tired. This year, I'm stronger."

The switch-hitting Lindor has six homers in 364 plate appearances for the RubberDucks after hitting just two in 464 plate appearances between Class A and Double-A last year. He's been opportunistic enough to drive in 46 runs, and he's also contributed 11 doubles and four triples. So while his power is still not fully formed, it's starting to reveal itself a little more.

Lindor has also worked hard on his baserunning, an area the Indians specifically targeted for him to address this season. Though not really a speedster, Lindor is already just one stolen base shy of his 2013 total of 25.

"Every step along the way, Francisco continues to get better," Antonetti said. "It's especially impressive when you consider he's always been and continues to be one of the youngest players at his level. That continues to be the case, but he's a guy that, again, puts in the work and tries to get better in every facet of his game. Whether it's hitting left-handed, hitting right-handed, his defensive play, on the bases -- he's constantly trying to get better and be the best in all those aspects of the game. He takes such great pride in being a good player."

Lindor -- one of seven Puerto Rican natives named to the World Team at the Futures Game -- was good enough to earn this Futures Game selection for the second straight year and, likely, the last. With Asdrubal Cabrera in a contract year, it's become second nature among fans and media to assume Lindor will be the everyday starter in 2015.

But he can't get to that point by assuming it's in hand.

"If you have your foundation of strength, which is family and the mental side of the game, if that's strong, you don't worry about those other things," Lindor said. "I can't worry about getting to the big leagues, because I can't control it. To be honest, I'm trying to focus on what I'm doing today. Being around all these guys, I'm so excited about this."

And despite the odd bouncer off the nose, Lindor is providing plenty to be excited about.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.