Two Spectacular Shortstops

Francisco+Lindor+has+been+a+big+reason+for+the+Indians%27+success+this+season.+%28Courtesy+of+Wikimedia%29
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Two Spectacular Shortstops

Francisco Lindor has been a big reason for the Indians' success this season. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

Francisco Lindor has been a big reason for the Indians' success this season. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

Francisco Lindor has been a big reason for the Indians' success this season. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

Francisco Lindor has been a big reason for the Indians' success this season. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)


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By Sam Belden 

Francisco Lindor has been a big reason for the Indians' success this season. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

Francisco Lindor has been a big reason for the Indians’ success this season. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

The World Series gets underway this week, and the degree to which the two combatant teams resemble each other is remarkable. Both represent Midwestern cities. Both will be fighting to raise the Commissioner’s Trophy for the first time in more than 65 years. And both have young, dynamic shortstops who are shaping up to be franchise icons for years to come.

The Chicago Cubs, the top team in the MLB by most measures, have 22-year-old Addison Russell. Acquired as the main return for the midseason sale of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel back in 2014, the veritable glove wizard sometimes struggles to stand out among a positively stacked lineup. However, his 25 doubles and 21 homers are signs of burgeoning power, and his total of 95 RBIs, while inflated by Chicago’s ridiculous offense, suggests consistent practical importance to the team.

The Cleveland Indians, meanwhile, feature 22-year-old Francisco Lindor. A native of Puerto Rico and a graduate of Florida’s Montverde High School, Lindor has been one of the organization’s top prospects since being selected with the eighth pick of the 2011 draft. Called up to be the Indians’ starting shortstop last summer, he began his career playing in the shadow of reigning American League Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa, but he has ably reversed that narrative this year, blasting nearly 50 extra-base hits and playing sterling defense to guide his team to the playoffs.

While few would dispute that Lindor has had the more impressive Major League career to this point, the number of similarities between the two shortstops is striking. Both are 22 years old. Both are wrapping up their first full season. Both have the potential to develop into major five-tool stars.

While there are clear distinctions between the two — Lindor is a better pure hitter than Russell, for instance, while Russell has a slight edge in the field — their similarities are more striking than their differences.

Why do I bring this up? After all, the Cubs and Indians are markedly different teams. The former is an absolute juggernaut, bursting at the seams with potent bats and quality arms. The latter was the luckier team in 2016, hobbled by injuries but still standing tall thanks to some timely bullpen performances.

Well, Russell and Lindor aren’t the only talented young shortstops in the league right now. While Correa was eclipsed as the best youngster in the game this year, he still performed. Presumptive NL Rookie of the Year Corey Seager is also a future superstar, clouting 40 doubles and 26 home runs this year. The Red Sox’s Xander Bogaerts also performed well this year, ranking among Boston’s best players on both sides of the ball. Older young guns like Elvis Andrus, Anthony Rendon, Didi Gregorius and Andrelton Simmons all had representative campaigns.

It’s all adding up to what could be a new golden age for shortstops in the MLB, and Lindor versus Russell could end up as the first of many outstanding World Series head-to-heads among this group.