By Julian Guilarte
World Baseball Network
New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor brings joy and energy to any team he plays on, and he played on the Puerto Rico team in 2017 that lost to the United States in the final of the World Baseball Classic.
In 2017, he was 23 years old and just breaking into the Major Leagues with Cleveland. He is now arguably the best player on the Puerto Rican team. He will now be looked upon as a leader. Can he lead this team to their first World Baseball Classic and take care of unfinished business?
Lindor had a great tournament in 2017, hitting two home runs, driving in four runs and compiling an OPS of 1.049. Puerto Rico was undefeated and dominated the entire tournament before they ran into Team USA. Fast forward six years, and a lot has changed for Lindor, including his uniform and his role in the clubhouse and on the field.
Lindor is also a winner, and his teams have made the postseason in five out of his eight MLB seasons. In 2016 with Cleveland, he was one win away from a World Series title against the Chicago Cubs. A five-tool player and has been one of the best shortstops in MLB during his career, Lindor has 184 home runs, 581 RBI, and an OPS of. 816 and 125 stolen bases. His defense is also exceptional, as he’s won two gold gloves and a platinum glove. He’s a four-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger award winner. Lindor entered MLB in 2015 and since that time he has the highest WAR (42) of all active shortstops and rates as the best defender via FanGraphs.
Team Puerto Rico is among the group of the most talented teams in the World Baseball Classic, but they’ll face stiff competition in their own pool to begin the tournament. Pool D consists of the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Israel and Nicaragua.
The Dominican Republic has a stacked roster and is a favorite to win the whole tournament. They are led by their ace Miami Marlins starting pitcher Sandy Alcantara and a loaded lineup that includes San Diego Padres outfielder Juan Soto, third baseman Manny Machado and Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez.
Venezuela will also be a tough out. Two of the five teams in the pool will advance to the quarter-finals. Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña and Yankees infielder Gleyber Torres are among the notable MLB players for Venezuela. Pool D will be played in Miami in LoanDepot park.
Puerto Rico will be managed by Yadier Molina, who just retired from MLB after catching his entire career with the St. Louis Cardinals. Molina played on team Puerto Rico in 2017 and now will get his first crack at managing. Could this potentially lead to a future in coaching for Molina?
For now he’s focused on representing his country and trying to deliver that elusive title. Some notable MLB players returning for Puerto Rico are infielder Javier Báez, relief pitcher Edwin Diaz, and outfielders Kiké Hernandez and Eddie Rosario. Diaz’s brother Alexis will be a newcomer, and he currently pitches for the Cincinnati Reds.
A big x-factor for Puerto Rico could be starting pitching Marcus Stroman. Stroman pitched six no-hit innings against Puerto Rico on Team USA, and no,w Stroman hopes to tip the scales back in Puerto Rico’s favor.
For Lindor, it would be his first championship of any kind and it would solidify his legacy in Puerto Rico.