CLEVELAND -- This might very well be the season in which highly-touted Indians prospect Francisco Lindor kicks down the door to the Major Leagues. For now, though, the shortstop will have to settle for an invitation to big league camp for the second year in a row.
On Tuesday, Cleveland announced that Lindor is among the club's seven internal non-roster invites to Spring Training this year. With Jose Ramirez entrenched at shortstop for the Indians, the team plans on sending Lindor back to Triple-A Columbus to begin what will be an important season of development.
"Lindor gets talked about a lot and it's kind of cool, because he's such a high-profile prospect," Indians manager Terry Francona said on Monday. "There's a reason he's a high-profile prospect. It's what he's done on his journey through the Minor Leagues. But he's still a prospect, and we need to let him develop. Getting a guy here too quick isn't developing -- that's getting him beat up."
The other internal players invited to Spring Training this year include catcher Jake Lowery, outfielder Tyler Naquin, outfielder James Ramsey, pitcher Will Roberts, infielder Ryan Rohlinger and outfielder Jordan Smith. Cleveland now has 20 non-roster invites scheduled to join the team's 40-man roster in Goodyear, Ariz., for camp this spring.
The 21-year-old Lindor, who is rated as the Tribe's No.1 ranked prospect by MLB.com, has climbed steadily from Class A Advanced to Triple-A over the course of the past two seasons. Since being taken in the first round (eighth overall) of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, the switch-hitting shortstop has turned in a .278/.355/.381 slash line to go along with strong defense.
Last year, Lindor hit .276 with 11 home runs, 16 doubles, four triples, 28 stolen bases, 49 walks, 62 RBIs and 75 runs in 126 games spent between Double-A Akron and Columbus. He appeared in only 38 games (180 plate appearances) at Triple-A, though, and his on-base percentage (.307) and OPS (.695) fell below his career norms.
The Indians want to give Lindor more development time at the Triple-A level before potentially promoting him to a regular role with the Major League team.
"When Lindor gets here," Francona said, "we want him to impact our team offensively, defensively, on the bases. That takes time, so we're going to let him settle in."
Naquin (ranked as the Tribe's No. 3 prospect by MLB.com) and Ramsey (No. 5) highlight the rest of Cleveland's list of internal invites.
Last season, the 23-year-old Naquin hit .313 with four homers, 12 doubles, five triples, 14 stolen bases, 30 RBIs and 54 runs for Akron. The former first-round pick (15th overall in the 2012 Draft) had his season end prematurely on June 27, when his left hand was broken by an errant pitch. This will be Naquin's second big league camp with Cleveland.
The 25-year-old Ramsey was acquired via trade from the Cardinals on July 30 in exchange for starter Justin Masterson. In 95 games between Double-A Springfield and Columbus, the outfielder posted a .295/.382/.509 slash line with 16 home runs, 23 doubles, two triples and 52 RBIs. Ramsey (selected in the first round of the 2012 Draft by St. Louis) also started for Team USA in the XM Futures Game last season.