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Getting to know Francisco Lindor

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Mr. Smile is coming to Queens.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, the Mets traded for one of the best players in baseball in Francisco Lindor. He had been Cleveland’s superstar, fantastic on both sides of the ball and both on and off the field. He’s the kind of guy a team builds around, a guy with with a megawatt smile and gregarious personality, and he should fit in well with the Mets’ already fun clubhouse. But since everyone reading this is probably a Mets fan, they may not know the full story on his career in Cleveland.

Lindor was born in Puerto Rico in 1993 and spent twelve years living there. He moved to Florida when he was 12, and Cleveland drafted him in the first round with the eighth overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, ahead of players like Javier Baez, George Springer, and the Mets’ own Brandon Nimmo.

Lindor spent the next four or so years rising through the ranks of Cleveland’s minor league system. Going into the 2012 season, he was ranked as one of the game’s better prospects by all of the major national outlets, and he rose in those rankings in each of the three years that followed. In 2015, he started out the season with Cleveland’s Triple-A team, and on June 14, 2015, Cleveland called him up to the big leagues.

That same day, Lindor made his debut and recorded his first hit. He hit .313/.353/.482 in his rookie season with 12 home runs and 51 runs batted in. He racked up 4.0 fWAR and finihed second overall in the American League Rookie of the Year voting, just behind his fellow start shortstop Carlos Correa.

The next season was one of the biggest of Lindor’s career thus far. Cleveland made it to the World Series for the first time in nearly twenty years and had a chance to break a 68-year championship drought. They ended up falling just short to the Chicago Cubs, who broke a much longer drought of their own, but Cleveland’s success was largely a result of Lindor’s performance. He hit .303/.358/.435 with 15 home runs, 78 runs batted in, and totaled 5.5 fWAR. He was an All-Star for the first time, won his first Gold Glove and first Platinum Glove Award, and he finished ninth in the American League MVP voting.

2017 was more of the same for Lindor, as he hit .273/.337/.505, with his home runs jumping from 15 the year before to 33 in a season where he was worth 5.7 fWAR. He got another All-Star appearance, won his first Silver Slugger Award, and finished fifth in the American league MVP voting. 2018 was probably his best season yet. Lindor hit .277/.352/.519, hit 38 home runs with a 130 wRC+ and had a career-best 7.6 fWAR. He was an All-Star yet again, won another Silver Slugger Award, and finished sixth in the American league MVP voting.

In 2019, Lindor hit .284/.335/.518 with 32 home runs and 4.4 fWAR. He was back at the All-Star Game again, won his second Gold Glove Award, and finished 15th in the MVP voting. In the shortened 2020 season, Lindor hit just .258/.335/.415 with 8 home runs and an even 100 wRC+, but he was still worth 1.7 fWAR. It’s important to remember that the season was just sixty games.

Heading into next season, Steamer projects a .262/.336/.485 line, 33 home runs, and 4.8 fWAR for Lindor. However those projections are probably weighing the 2020 season a bit heavily for Lindor, which could easily be an aberration in a career with a Hall of Fame trajectory thus far.

No matter whether Lindor is at his floor or ceiling this year, the Mets have secured one of the game’s best, someone who is a superstar infielder, who can hit well, and play excellent defense. And if the Mets extend him like many believe they will, they could have their face of the franchise for years to come.