Today we continue the IPI’s year end awards with the announcement of the Offensive Player of the Year. This award goes to the position player in the Indians organization that had the best year.
It should be noted, like with all the awards, that this is 100% based on performance and not on prospect standing. Also, the players eligible for the award had to play in at least two-thirds of their team’s games. For a player who played from the start of the season on a full season team this would be 96 games, for a short season Single-A player this would be 50 games, and for a short season rookie league player this would be 37 games.
Aguilar had a big year for the Indians at the plate, especially in the power and production department. He finished 2nd in the Indians organization in home runs (23) and was 1st in RBI (82). Even though he played just 95 game for Low-A Lake County he still finished 7thin the Midwest League in home runs (19), 16thin RBI (69), 17thin doubles (27), 2ndin slugging percentage (.544), 2ndin OPS (.915), and was 2nd in home runs to at bat ratio (1 in 18.4).
Abraham is an unheralded prospect who continued his workman-like approach and had a very good first season in High-A this year. He finished 5th in the Indians organization in home runs (17) and 3rd in RBI (72). He also finished 7th in the Carolina League in games played (131), 4th in doubles (31), 6th in home runs (17), 5th in RBI (72), 8th in total bases (197), 4th in walks (70), 6th in strikeouts (114), 7th in on-base percentage (.360), 9th in slugging percentage (.432), and 8th in OPS (.792).
Fedroff came back with a much more consistent bat this season and hit over .300 for the first time since his pro debut at short season Single-A Mahoning Valley in 2008 (.319). He showed the ability to get on base and be a tablesetter at the top of the lineup. His .308 batting average was the 2ndbest in the entire organization and his .385 on-base percentage was unofficially the best in the organization this year for full season players.
With all of the raw, young talent on the rookie level Arizona roster this year, the one player who probably shined the most was Garcia who actually was not as highly rated coming into this season as some other players. While the numbers are taken with a grain of salt coming from the offensive-oriented Arizona League, he finished 3rd in the league in triples (8), 6th in home runs (6), 10th in total bases (92), 9th in walks (23), 8th in slugging percentage (.544), and 13th in OPS (.915).
Head is an undrafted free agent signing and will turn 29 years old next month, but he just continues to get better and better with age. He earned himself a promotion to the big leagues and finished the season 1st in the Indians organization in home runs (24) and 4th in RBI (70). He finished 3rd in the International League in home runs (24), 6th in total bases (222), 2nd in slugging percentage (.526), 8th in OPS (.864), and 3rd in home run per at bat ratio (1 in 17.6).
Mills won the award for Comeback Player of the Year thanks to his strong season which was one of the best offensive performances in the Indians’ system this year. He split the season between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus so he did not rank in any league categories, but he finished 9th in the Indians organization in batting average (.289) and 3rd in home runs (18).
There were actually four very good performances at short season Single-A Mahoning Valley this year as in addition to Myles others considered for the award were third baseman Jordan Smith, catcher Jake Lowery, and shortstop Tony Wolters. He finished tied for 4th in the Indians organization in batting average (.302) and was 5th in the NY-Penn League in batting average (.302), 7th in on-base percentage (.394) and 8th in stolen bases (20).
Phelps barely made it in for consideration for this award as he played in 97 games for Triple-A Columbus this year. While he disappointed with his play in the big leagues this year he had another very good season for Columbus. He finished 7th in the Indians organization in batting average (.294) and finished 8th in the International League in on-base percentage (.376), 11th in slugging percentage (.492), and 7th in OPS (.868).
Rodriguez did not start playing until short season leagues kicked into action in late June, but he got off to a great start at rookie level Arizona. In 25 games there he hit .408 with 3 HR, 14 RBI, 12 stolen bases, and .987 OPS before being quickly promoted to Low-A Lake County where in 34 games he hit .250 with 0 HR, 5 RBI, 6 stolen bases, and .630 OPS. He finished 3rd in the Indians organization in batting average (.304).
Valbuena is a player that a lot of people gave up on after a dismal 2010 performance in Cleveland (.193 AVG, 2 HR, 24 RBI, .531 OPS), but he came back this season and spent most of the season in Columbus and was one of the key cogs to the offense. He finished 5th in the Indians organization in batting average (.302) and 2nd in RBI (75). He was 11th in the International League in batting average (.302) and 11th in RBI (75).
And the Tony Award goes to…Jesus Aguilar
It was an interesting year for the Indians in their minor league system as there were few great hitting or pitching performances this year. There were certainly a lot of good performances at the plate at all levels of the organization, but no standout performances that were of the elite quality (i.e. Carlos Santana in 2009: .290 AVG, 23 HR, 97 RBI, .943 OPS).
Outfielder Jerad Head and infielder Luis Valbuena both had very nice seasons for Triple-A Columbus, and it was great to see the return of first baseman Beau Mills. Players in the lower levels like outfielder Luigi Rodriguez, outfielder Bryson Myles, and infielder Robel Garcia all had good, promising seasons.
But the one player who really stood out from the pack purely from a numbers perspective was 21-year old first base prospect Jesus Aguilar. He came into the season as a relative unknown for many as a prospect. The power was known, but it was uncertain how he would fare at a higher level this season. Well, he more than held his own this year at Low-A Lake County where he dominated the Midwest League before the Indians were forced to move him up to High-A Kinston in order to give him a better challenge.
Aguilar’s power is a given. He looks like a tight end at the plate with his big 6’3” 241 pound frame, and when he swings the bat and barrels up the ball it goes a long way. This has always been the case for him throughout his four year minor league career, but the difference this season is he showed some improved and more consistent bat-to-ball ability this year at LakeCounty. He is also off to a raging start in the Arizona Fall League, so his prospect standing has jumped significantly.
Aguilar still has a ways to go with his plate discipline, but as long as he continues to put up production and power numbers like he did this season then the Indians can live with the strikeouts. He is now one of the only legit power prospects in the lower levels of the Indians system, and is arguably the best power prospect in the entire system. If he finishes his time up in the Arizona Fall League with a good showing he may even get some consideration as a Top 10 prospect going into next season, if he has not already.
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