"Overall, I feel it was a productive year," Indians farm director Ross Atkins said. "Ultimately, our goal is to win in the Major Leagues. When we're not winning there, it's hard to feel overwhelmingly positive. But there were individual successes and organizational successes in 2010."
Much of that has to do with the overall youth of the organization, from top to bottom. Many players came from the system to help out the youngest roster, on average, in the big leagues. Michael Brantley, Jason Donald, Carlos Carrasco and Carlos Santana all provided some glimpses of what's to come. Youth was the key all the way down, as the Indians' affiliates had a successful 2010 campaign.
The Indians' farm system finished with a .505 winning percentage, good for 14th overall in the big leagues. All four of their full-season clubs finished .500 or better, with two -- Lake County in the Class A Midwest League and Columbus in the Triple-A International League -- winning championships. High Class A Kinston made the Carolina League playoffs, but lost in the opening round.
Winning is all well and good, and while it's become more important in recent years, the first objective of any farm system is to produce players who can contribute to the parent club down the road. The reason the Indians can truly be optimistic is because they succeeded on both fronts.
"I think we increased our depth in pitching, not only from an acquisition standpoint, but also from a progress standpoint," Atkins said. "We feel good about our starting and relief options throughout the system.
"We also saw progress from our core prospects, the guys we expected [to improve], both pitching and position players. We also got some nice surprises."
That development means that there should be more exciting young players reaching Cleveland in the near future, with organizational depth allowing the Indians to get the best out of their system. Even if it takes a little time to completely turn things around in the American League Central, it certainly looks like things are headed in the right direction.
"It definitely bodes well for our future," Atkins said.
MLB.com's Preseason Picks
Carlos Santana, C: The thought was perhaps the backstop would get a full year in Triple-A before hitting Cleveland, but after hitting .316 with a .447 on-base percentage and .597 slugging percentage over 57 games, he got brought up to take over behind the plate for the Indians. He was holding his own over 46 games before a knee surgery ended his season.
Nick Hagadone, LHP: Acquired from the Red Sox in the Victor Martinez deal, 2010 was supposed to be the year when Hagadone took off, a year further removed from Tommy John surgery. He started out well, with a 2.39 ERA in 37 2/3 innings and getting bumped up from Kinston to Double-A Akron. After seven starts and a 5.19 ERA, the lefty got moved to the bullpen, where he was more effective, with a 3.68 ERA and .229 batting average against in 12 outings. While he struck out 89 in 85 2/3 innings, command was an issue. He walked 63, so maybe a relief role will suit him best.
MLB.com's Postseason Selections
Jason Kipnis, 2B: It was a bit of a tough call between Kipnis, the 2009 draftee, and Chun Hsiu-Chen, the catcher and Futures Game participant. But Kipnis gets the edge for doing it at a higher level. The second-round selection out of Arizona State played at three levels, finishing by playing a key role for Columbus in the International League playoffs. Playing second base for the first time, he hit a combined .307/.386/.492 with 16 homers and 74 RBIs to go along with 32 doubles and eight triples.
Matt Packer, LHP: A number of pitchers had solid seasons in the Indians' system, but Packer truly stood out with a 2.04 ERA that led the organization and was second in all of the Minor Leagues. He walked just 22 and struck out 123 (fifth in the system), all while making a double-jump from Low Class A Lake County up to Akron. The southpaw showed the ability to start and relieve, giving the Indians options as this 2009 senior sign far exceeded expectations in his first full season.