Baseball is the one sport where you don’t necessarily need a bunch of superstars on your roster to win. Of course, you need to have high-caliber players and individuals capable of carrying the load, but you don’t exactly need a star player at every position. But the teams who stockpile the most coveted players put themselves in position to compete deep into the playoffs — like any other sport. So who has the best positional star duo in Major League Baseball? The answer is the Cleveland Indians.
The Indians are one of the deeper and more talented teams in baseball. They have a deep rotation, and many big-name players on their roster. But it’s the infield duo of Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor that propels their team.
Last season, Ramirez was a finalist to win the American League Most Valuable Player of the Year Award and rightfully so. He hit .318 to go along with 29 home runs and 83 RBIs and was a hard out throughout the 2017 season. He also recorded just 69 strikeouts and hit for contact in the process. That approach and production has only furthered for Ramirez in 2018.
Currently hitting .299 to go along with an MLB-best 28 home runs and 69 RBIs, he’s been a force to be reckoned with in the heart of manager Terry Francona‘s order. The third baseman is also on track to record a career-high in stolen bases (Ramirez has stolen 19 bags this season) and has drawn a career-high 56 walks. But the 25-year-old’s heroics aren’t just at the plate. Ramirez is also one of the better fielding third basemen in the game. Whether it be his slick glove, long-range, or ability to field grounders with one hand with ease, he’s a staple at the corner infield position for the Indians. The same goes for Lindor.With the electric infield duo of @MrLapara and @Lindor12BC, the @Indians have the best pair of star players in @MLB.Click To Tweet
While Manny Machado made the transition to shortstop before the season began and is having one of the best offensive years in Baltimore Orioles’ history, he hasn’t played shortstop long enough to be crowned the best at the position; that honor goes to Lindor. Ranging from his strong arm, ability to stretch out for grounders, to his ability to turn double plays with ease, the shortstop is a sight for Cleveland sports fans’ eyes. And at the plate, he’s been just as remarkable — this year especially.
In 2016, Lindor hit .301, but dropped his average to .273 the ensuing year. At the same time, while the averaged dipped, his power numbers increased, as he went from 15 home runs the year prior to 33 in 2017 and also drove in 89 runs. This year, Lindor has finally put it all together. Currently hitting .297 to go along with 25 home runs and 62 RBIs, he’s been a vital source of offense at the top of the Indians order. He’s now a complete hitter and player and an indispensable product in The Land.
If you took Ramirez and Lindor out of the Indians order, they would be at or below .500 competing with the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers for the American League Central.
So, why aren’t other teams’ one-two punch better than Cleveland’s?
- Boston Red Sox (Mookie Betts–J.D. Martinez): Betts is the second best player in the American League, but Martinez is average defensively
- New York Yankees (Aaron Judge–Giancarlo Stanton): Judge and Stanton are respectable fielders and some of the game’s best power hitters, but they strikeout too often
- Houston Astros (Jose Altuve–Carlos Correa): Altuve is playing out of his mind in the field and at the plate, but Correa has been underwhelming, to put it nicely, offensively
- Seattle Mariners (Jean Segura-Robinson Cano): Segura is an All-Star player, but Cano is 35 and serving an 80-game suspension
- Atlanta Braves (Freddie Freeman–Ozzie Albies): Freeman and Albies are superb players, but Albies needs more MLB-experience to be considered a bonafide star
- Washington Nationals (Bryce Harper–Daniel Murphy): Harper is struggling at the plate, and Murphy is not playing well in a walk year at 33
- Chicago Cubs (Kris Bryant–Anthony Rizzo): Bryant is a versatile star, and Rizzo is an above-average fielder, but the first baseman is becoming an inconsistent hitter
- Arizona Diamondbacks (Paul Goldschmidt–Jake Lamb): Goldschmidt is the best first baseman in the game, but Lamb’s struggles to stay healthy hold back the D’Backs
- Los Angeles Dodgers (Justin Turner–Cody Bellinger): Turner and Bellinger are each top-tier players, but are wildly inconsistent at the plate
- San Francisco Giants (Buster Posey–Brandon Crawford): Posey is still the best catcher in the game, but Crawford must prove that he can sustain his production at the plate
- Colorado Rockies (Nolan Arenado–Charlie Blackmon): Arenado is the best third baseman in the game, but Blackmon is 32 and has not executed at the All-Star level he did the two years prior to signing his extension
Ramirez is 25, and Lindor is 24. You could make the case that neither infielder has peaked or entered the core years of their prime, which is scary to think about. They’ve come into their own to form the best left side of the infield in the game in all facets and have been the backbone of the Indians’ success in recent memory.
The Indians have one of the best 25-man rosters in baseball. Their starting rotation, which features Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger, Carlos Carrasco, and the recently emerging Shane Bieber, is capable of matching up with any team. The Indians lineup is also potent. With Michael Brantley, Edwin Encarnacion, Yonder Alonso, and Yan Gomes in place besides Ramirez and Lindor, the Indians lineup poses a threat to any team it may face in potential postseason play. If they aspire to make themselves a complete ballclub, the Indians must look into acquiring bullpen aid between now and the July 31 Trade Deadline considering that they were 30th in bullpen ERA (5.39) going into Friday night.
When you can say that you have two of the best players at their respective positions playing alongside each other, you have something special brewing. And the Indians have exactly that in their star infield pairing of Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor.