(This continued series focuses on how players performed this season with a look to 2019.)
2018: Well, this should be short. Signed in December of 2016 after having Tommy John surgery that August, the Braves never planned on Lindgren throwing a pitch last season. However, this season, he was considered a bit of an x-factor. If he bounced back, Lindgren was a potential high-leverage arm for the pen. But he never threw a pitch in live action and was quickly shelved with another Tommy John surgery.
Contract Details: Age-26 when 2019 opens. Team-controlled through at least 2022. Probably arbitration-eligible this season as a Super 2 player. Lindgren logged 134 days on the Yankees active and disabled lists during his time with the team. Since then, he’s logged two years of service time on the DL. Therefore, he has two years and 134 days of service time in the majors. Last year’s Super 2 cut-off was 2.123. While we won’t know until after the season what this year’s cutoff is, the smart money is on Lindgren being arbitration-eligible. Lindgren has either one or two options remaining as his 2015 option was muddled by injuries.
Previewing 2019: There are a few balls in the air when it comes to Lindgren. 1) When he did pitch for the Yankees back in 2015, he flashed a low 90’s fastball with sick movement to go with a plus-plus slider. It was easy to see how he earned the nickname “The Strikeout Factory.” Do the Braves have yet another arm with 30%+ strikeout rate potential? Most definitely.
2) Two Tommy John’s in such a small time frame is worrisome because, well, it’s two TJS in a small time frame. But also, the recovery time after the second surgery is typically a bit longer. Since Lindgren had the surgery in late March, he might not be able to return until next summer. Of course, what kind of pitcher will he be once he returns? The TJS success rate is so much better now than it ever was before and Lindgren can point to his new teammate, Jonny Venters, as a person who defied all the odds to come back. Nevertheless, it is not a 100% guarantee that the pitcher will ever return to his former self.
3) His contract situation combined with the team’s 40-man issues does not favor him this offseason. While Lindgren is in a similar situation as Daniel Winkler was last offseason – little time in the majors, but arbitration-eligible – Winkler had two advantages. One, he had pitched the previous season and was coming off a freak injury. The other advantage Winkler had was there was more room to fit him on the 40-man roster.
This isn’t the first and it won’t be the last time we talk about this, but the Braves’ 40-man roster is going to get tight this offseason. That will likely move the Braves to make a few quantity-for-quality deals like the Adam Duvall trade. Well, that was the thought process with that deal, at least. Cash in three bubble 40-man guys for one player that you want to keep. We might see that this offseason, but the Braves will still have a pretty packed 40-man with money to spend to improve the roster. I imagine the Braves would love to keep Lindgren based the sheer investment they have put into him.
The Braves can try to do what the Yankees attempted two years. Give him his walking papers and try to bring him back on a minor league deal with incentives. Of course, that put Lindgren on the market in the first place. That still seems like the most probable way that Lindgren remains in the organization as completes his rehab.
Did you know? Back in 2014, after he was selected as a second-round pick out of Mississippi State, Lindgren faced 104 batters while climbing from the rookie leagues to Double-A. He struck out 48. That comes out to a 46% strikeout rate. Are you at all curious where he got his nickname from?