CLEVELAND -- The Indians' farm system has been beefed up considerably the last two years in the trade department, and that's evident with one look at MLB.com's Top 50 Prospects list, which was unveiled on MLB Network on Wednesday night. The Tribe has two prospects on the list -- catcher Carlos Santana at No. 11 and outfielder Michael Brantley at No. 46. Both were brought to the organization in trades in July 2008. Santana is projected as the Indians' catcher of the not-too-distant future, but he'll begin 2010 at Triple-A Columbus. He's coming off a sensational season at Double-A Akron, where he picked up Eastern League MVP honors after batting .290 with 30 doubles, two triples, 23 homers, 97 RBIs and 91 runs scored in 130 games. He led the league in slugging percentage (.530), OPS (.943) and walks (90), while ranking second in homers, RBIs and on-base percentage (.413).
On the defensive end, Santana threw out 30 percent (24 of 79) of the baserunners who attempted to steal off him. His performance both behind and at the plate helped the Aeros capture the EL crown. "I'm very happy," Santana said after the season. "My team won the championship, and we had a big celebration. It was very good." But the offseason wasn't as kind to the 23-year-old Santana. His stint in the Dominican Winter League was cut short when he came down with a nasty case of the flu, and then it was discovered that he had broken the hamate bone in his right hand. He had surgery to remove the broken bone in December and is currently in the midst of a rehab program. The Indians are expecting Santana to be ready for Opening Day in Columbus, and the expectation is that he'll be in Cleveland by season's end. The Tribe wants him to use his first exposure to the Triple-A level to refine his defensive game. "It has to do with helping the pitcher control the running game, attacking hitters and executing a game plan," general manager Mark Shapiro said. "All the physical tools and natural ability, as well as the effort and energy, are there. And his bat is close to Major League ready." The Indians will decide this spring if the 22-year-old Brantley is Major League ready. His strong September showing in his first taste of the bigs last year provided a nice audition. Brantley took over the leadoff duties for an injured Grady Sizemore and batted .313 (35-for-112) with four doubles, eight walks, four stolen bases and 11 RBIs in 28 games. He became just the second Indians player in the last 50 years (joining Josh Bard in 2002) to hit safely in his first eight Major League games. "Being able to show a little bit of what I can do, my capability and my talents, right away was a relief," he said. "I didn't want to try to do too much. I wanted to stay within myself, calm down and relax." Overall, Brantley reached base safely via hit or walk in 25 of his 28 games, which speaks to his potential to eventually take over the leadoff duties full-time. But will Brantley be on the Tribe's Opening Day roster? That remains to be seen. The club has an open spot in left field, and Brantley figures to take it over sooner, rather than later. However, the Indians will also keep in mind that Brantley's 2009 season in Columbus (.267 average, .711 OPS, 46 stolen bases) proved he still has room for some adjustments and improvements.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.