With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Indians squad each day this week. Today's topic: How's Your Star?
CLEVELAND -- Francisco Lindor kept Cleveland alive in the ninth inning. The shortstop ranged far to his right, moving past second base, and then made a spectacular catch-and-fire play to nab Dexter Fowler at first base to end the frame. Game 7 of the World Series remained a tie and Indians fans had Lindor to thank.
What happened in the next inning was beyond Lindor's control, and now the shortstop and his Tribe teammates are heading into the 2017 campaign with designs on winning it all this time. Cleveland fans have become accustomed to Lindor's theatrics. In the Fall Classic, the world got its look at Lindor, who is unquestionably the Indians' star now and potentially for years to come.
"We have a really good, talented player who is smart and loves to get better," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Lindor. "That's a nice combination."
Cleveland boasts an assortment of players who can be deemed stars. Corey Kluber has an American League Cy Young Award in his trophy case. Andrew Miller is one of the elite relievers in the game. Edwin Encarnacion -- the Indians' blockbuster free-agent addition this past winter -- is one of baseball's premier sluggers. Left fielder Michael Brantley, second baseman Jason Kipnis and closer Cody Allen have more than made a name for themselves.
In parts of two big league seasons, though, it is Lindor who has become the face of the franchise.
The 23-year-old Lindor burst onto the scene in 2015 and finished as the runner-up to Houston's Carlos Correa in a close AL Rookie of the Year vote. For his encore, Lindor turned in a brilliant showing in his first full season in the Majors. Last year, Lindor was named to his first All-Star team, finished ninth in Most Valuable Player balloting and earned both a Gold Glove and Platinum Glove for his work at short.
In 158 games last year, Lindor posted a .301/.358/.435 slash line to go along with 15 home runs, 30 doubles, three triples, 78 RBIs, 99 runs scored and 19 stolen bases.
Only three shortstops in history have hit at least .300 with 15 home runs and 75 RBIs at 22 years old or younger. That short list includes Cal Ripken Jr., Alex Rodriguez and, now, Lindor. Only 13 players (regardless of position) under the age of 23 have enjoyed a season with at least a .300 average, 15 homers, 75 RBIs and 15 steals. Lindor makes that list as well, along with the likes of Mike Trout and Ken Griffey Jr.
Lindor also joined Alan Trammell as the only shortstops in baseball history to win a Gold Glove before the age of 23. Lindor was Cleveland's first Gold Glove-winning shortstop since 2001, when Omar Vizquel took home the honor.
"It's unbelievable," said Encarnacion, who has known Lindor since he was a kid in Puerto Rico. "Since he was young, he worked and played this game. And the way he's played this game, he's going to be a superstar."
Lindor's contributions have not been limited to the playing field, either.
Last year, Lindor launched a charitable program at Progressive Field called the "Lindor Smile Squad," which provides baseball experiences to people with disabilities. Throughout the season, Lindor also teamed with Major League Baseball and the R.B.I. (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program for speaking appearances and clinics in Cleveland and in other cities during Tribe road trips.
"He's just a fantastic young man," Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "I had a chance to chat with him a little bit ... at the Winter Meetings. I think he's going to be a tremendous asset for the Indians and the industry for a really long time."
The good news for the Indians is that Lindor is under contractual control through the 2021 season. Given the way Cleveland has operated in the past, it would not be surprising if the team looks to sign its budding star to a long-term extension that would keep him in the fold even longer.
Lindor is hoping that means more trips to the World Series.
Last month, as Lindor reflected back on the Tribe's trip to the Fall Classic, he said he learned how excitable he can get in big moments. It was not uncommon to see Lindor bouncing on the field, smiling wide, after something went Cleveland's way. In the ninth inning of Game 7, for example, he practically skipped off the infield after making the incredible play to rob Chicago of the go-ahead run at the time.
"And I learned that I get very anxious when I can't control the game," Lindor said. "When I'm in a situation where I can control it, when I'm hitting or fielding the ball, I'm under control. When I'm not under control, I can get very anxious. I think that's just part of the game. I loved it. I'm looking forward to next year and hopefully this makes me a better player."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.