We started saying this last season, but one of the best things about the Cleveland Indians is their best players are 23 years old (Francisco Lindor) and 24 years old (Jose Ramirez).
Although everyone recognizes the talent of Lindor, who is not only the Tribe’s best players, he is one of the games’ premier players. But including Ramirez could be construed as controversial, seeing that many people in media still consider him a utility player.
That’s despite the fact that the switch-hitter collected 565 at bats last season. He is an everyday player, it’s just that he played two different positions, starting the season in leftfield, before shifting to third base when Cleveland released Jose Uribe.
There is no question that Terry Francona is managing a very talented roster, with many players having made All Star Game appearances.
Having a team with Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Edwin Encarnacion, Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar on it is a good start, but add in Carlos Santana, Cody Allen, and you can see why the Indians are the favorite to defend their American League Central Divison title.
But the young duo of Lindor and Ramirez are arguably the stars of the team.
We all know Lindor’s pedigree. He was a first round draft pick and the organization’s top prospect from the minute he signed his professional contract.
He quickly rose up the list of top 100 prospects in minor league baseball, finally arriving in the top 10 in 2015, when he was (finally) called up to the Indians in June 2015.
Ramirez was never ranked as a top prospect, despite consistently being one of the youngest players in each minor league he participated in. People forget he was just 20 years old when he arrived in the big leagues in 2013, primarily to serve as a pinch-runner for the playoff push.
Perhaps if he was drafted and not an international free agent signing, he would have received more love from the people who cover prospects.
Check out these minor league numbers:
Player A: .279 batting average 354/384/738
Player B: .304 batting average 355/411/766
You may be surprised that the player with the better minor league hitting numbers is Ramirez. That’s why we shake our heads at the thought that his hitting in 2016 could somehow be an aberration.
His minor league statistics show the man can hit.
Ramirez is probably the best defensive second baseman on the club too, but we understand Kipnis’ position on the team, and that Francona is loathe to move an established player out of his spot.
Remember that because of the duo’s ages, they should get nothing but better over the next four to five seasons. We are already seeing the pair developing power, with both having four home runs in the first 14 games this season.
We can easily envision both being 20+ homer guys, perhaps as soon as 2017.
It struck us the other night what a great era for sports our area is having. We get to see LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love on a nightly basis on the basketball court.
And right next door, at Progressive Field, we see Kluber, Miller, and two of the game’s best young and up and coming stars in Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez.
We can’t wait to see what kind of players they will be in two or three years, because they are certainly special right now.