Phillies Opposition Roadblock: Francisco Lindor

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Apr 15, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor before the game between the Cleveland Indians and the New York Mets at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 15, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor before the game between the Cleveland Indians and the New York Mets at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Philadelphia Phillies are hosting the Cleveland Indians this weekend in an Interleague series at Citizens Bank Park.

As I looked through the roster for Cleveland, I was thinking about some of the wily vets they have sitting in their clubhouse.  Guys like Mike Napoli, Johnny Gomes, and Juan Uribe help to balance out the roster pretty well.  They all have had solid careers, and seem to be reigniting now in the twilight of those careers in the north-central Ohio city.

However, I went with one of my brother’s favorite non-Philly ballplayers here in the latest edition of my regular Phillies Opposition Roadblock series.  He talks about this kid all of the time.  He drafted him in our fantasy baseball league fairly early.

Francisco Lindor is the type of player who sparks that kind of interest, and who sparks an entire offense.  For a team such as the Indians, who rank 16th in Majors in runs scored, about as mid-level as you can get, a player with Lindor’s offensive ability is very important for success.

As a rookie last season, Lindor put up numbers that the Indians had hoped for when Baseball America made the touted shortstop their number one organizational prospect back in 2013.

Lindor played in 99 games for the Tribe a year ago and slashed .313/.353/.482 to go along with a dozen home runs and stolen bases, 51 RBI, and 50 runs scored. He is one of the key players the otherwise aging Indians know they can count on building around as they move the franchise forward.

As 2016 began, Lindor carried high expectations from fans and the organization into the season.  As we approach the one month mark, the 22-year old is meeting those expectations once again.

He is hitting a solid .288/.361/.484 and leads the team in both average and runs scored (12).  Hitting in the middle of the order in front of Michael Brantley and Napoli, he has seen early success.  His performance has also helped Jason Kipnis to enjoy strong numbers throughout April.

With their own team not scoring a ton of runs, the Phillies hope that strong pitching performances will continue.  Adam Morgan hopes to pick up where he left off at AAA Lehigh Valley, while Jerad Eickhoff looks to bounce back from a tough outing in Milwaukee, and Vincent Velasquez looks to simply continue to dominate.  If they want to shut down the Indians, it starts with Lindor.

The bad news is that Lindor has raked lefties early in 2016 (.406/.457/.563), and the left-handed Morgan has the chore first at getting him out tonight.  On the other hand, Lindor has been abysmal versus right handers, so Eickhoff and Velasquez will have to take advantage of those struggles (.195/.292/.244).  It is extremely obvious that the switch-hitter would much rather bat right-handed.

The problem with getting Lindor out is that he will rarely over swing.  He has a gap-to-gap stroke that he will not sacrifice for power.  What you will see is a very exaggerated leg kick that can make him susceptible to the inner half of the plate.  However, when you look at a spray chart of his swings, the ball is everywhere.

It seems as though the only place lefties can get him out in the zone is by throwing him low and away within the strike zone.  Otherwise, Morgan will have to rely on pitches outside the zone, because Lindor is considered strong on every pitch inside the zone versus southpaws.

Eickhoff and Velasquez will have a seemingly more simplistic situation getting him out, because Lindor appears to really struggle on pitches high and tight in the zone.

Lindor will be one of my more interesting picks this season.  He is not someone any of us are very familiar with, and could truly be difficult to get out throughout the weekend for the Phillies. If they control the young stud shortstop, they have a far better chance of winning yet another series.

Next: Series Preview: Indians at Phillies

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