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Prospect Smackdown: Francisco Lindor vs. Chris Owings

In our first installment of the series, I asked whether Billy Hamilton or Adam Eaton would steal more bases at the major league level in 2014. You The People leaned heavily in favor of Hamilton, with 83 percent of you voting for the fastest man in organized baseball, despite the questions surrounding his playing time.

The high vote total and great engagement in the comments were exactly what I was looking for with this series, so it’s with some enthusiasm that I march on with the Prospect Smackdown series.

As I wrote the initial entry, the format is simple. We’ll give you two players (or sets of players), ask you a question about those players, lay out information about those players and then ask you to vote. The goal here is less to convince you of something and more to learn how you judge the players we scout, rank and analyze every day.

Feel free to vote anonymously or to explain who you vote for and why in the comments, and feel free to suggest future smackdowns, too. And before we get started, here’s wishing a Merry Christmas to those who celebrate!

Prospect Smackdown No. 2 – Who is the better fantasy prospect: Francisco Lindor or Chris Owings?

The case for Lindor

A plus hit tool and plus speed give Lindor intriguing potential as a three-category fantasy force at shortstop. Averages of .300 or better with 20-plus steals don’t seem to be out of his reach and there’s a chance Lindor hits for more (read: any) power has he ages, too. With a stellar defensive skill set and a budding reputation as a potentially “special” player, Lindor is the type of prospect the Indians will likely make room for once he’s ready, which could be as soon as late 2014. If he can hit near the top of the order, he could do a pretty decent Elvis Andrus impersonation, albeit with a bit less speed.

The case against Lindor

Lindor has no power right now, and until he bulks up there’s reason to believe MLB pitchers will simply attempt to overpower him, as they won’t fear the long ball. If that remains the case, we could see Lindor develop into more of bottom-of-the-order hitter, which would obviously limit his R and RBI opportunities. There’s also some “empty average” potential here, especially if Lindor can’t improve his SB% or if he slows down at all as he ages. In a nutshell, the ceiling isn’t that high from a fantasy POV even if he’s an elite MLB prospect.

The case for Owings

At a base level, the case for Owings is that he has a chance to be a five-category contributor in a way that Lindor does not. Owings has the chance to hit for impressive power for a middle infielder, which is a characteristic that Lindor lacks entirely. He’s not a speed demon, but Owings has the wheels to produce double-digit stolen base totals early in his career. While there are holes in his swing, Owings has shown the ability to hit for a high average in the minors. And Owings figures to be a No. 2 or perhaps No. 5/6 hitter in a traditionally composed lineup, which couyld give him more R and RBI opportunities than Lindor. From a fantasy POV, the upside is higher and Owings is ready for the majors now.

The case against Owings

Owings’ high batting averages in the minor leagues are largely bolstered by high BABIPs, and his strikeout rate has been scary in years past. There exists the possibility that Owings won’t hit enough to fully utilize his power, and there’s also the chance that he won’t reach base enough to be a significant contributor in the steals category. Owings also has to compete with Didi Gregorius (and to a lesser extent Cliff Pennington) in the short term, and Aaron Hill is under contract through 2016. Basically, if the D-Backs decide Gregorius is better or scrappier, Owings might be hard-press for consistent playing time.

The Author

Ben Carsley

Ben Carsley

5 Comments

  1. RotoLando
    December 24, 2013 at 8:49 am

    I gotta go with the power for a fantasy league. If Lindor does put it all together he maxes out as what, Jason Bartlett 2009? That’s great, but could he repeat that, or would it be Jason Bartlett, every year before and after 2009?

    I’ll take the potential for power from a MI every time.

  2. Tony
    December 24, 2013 at 9:46 am

    This is an interesting match up, but I still feel Lindor has the edge. I have been burned by guys flashing in the PCL before (oh Grant Green.) Really I wonder if somebody like Marcus Semien might not be a better prospect than Owings. Hard to say.

    Be interesting to see a pitching matchup for the next series. Trying to think of a creative one. Maybe who will be the better fantasy pitcher after the all star break next year, Drew Smyly or Alex Meyer? Lots of variables in that one (innings cap, injury, quality of teams, control and heat.)

    • December 24, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      I imagine Owings and Lindor will be ranked within 10-15 spots of each other on my final list, but Semien would be much lower/probably not make a Top 100.

      I will indeed venture into the world of pitching for my next smackdown – something around Meyer is a good one!

  3. […] the way, you can put in your two cents about Lindor over at Ben Carsley’s latest edition of Prospect Smackdown! Meanwhile, Corey Seager is probably a good bet to move off of short, while I like the chances of […]

  4. Penelope
    December 27, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    This is an interesting question. Long-term SS projections are borderline impossible. Frankly, Lindor’s defensive value is so high that there’s almost zero chance the Tribe move him somewhere else. On the other hand Owings’s bat could end up good enough that he finds time at another position and sticks there. For that reason, I go Lindor.

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