In 2009, there was not much success from a big league standpoint when it came to the Cleveland Indians. Thankfully, as Jacob let us know throughout the entire season, there was a lot of success just a quick trip down Route 77 as the Akron Aeros won the Eastern League at the Double-A level. And given their triumphs in the playoffs as well as the regular season, the Aeros have been named Baseball America’s Minor League Team of the Year for 2009.
The 2009 Aeros finished the season 95-54, including the playoffs. The year featured an incredible start (28-8) and finished with a dominating postseason. They were not without individual accolades as Carlos Santana and Jeanmar Gomez were both named Eastern League Players of the Year, and head coach Mike Sarbaugh was quick to point out that the rest of the guys also played a large part in the team’s successes.
“I know it sounds cliché, but this was a great group of guys to manage,” said Sarbaugh, who was named the league’s manager of the year. “They cared about each other, they cared about winning and yet they had fun each day along the way.”
Like Santana and Gomez, Sarbaugh took home his own hardware by winning Eastern League Manager of the Year.
Another player that helped Akron along the way include Hector Rondon, who was later moved to Triple-A Columbus. Rondon quickly moved his name up the Top Prospect list with an electrifying performance at the Double-A level thanks to a 2.75 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 72 innings of work. Baseball America was quick to point out that his numbers would have been even better had the Tribe brass not overreacted to the deplorable bullpen at the big league level by moving Rondon’s arm into the pen.
Santana’s work has been much-discussed around these parts. To think that the Indians were able to acquire a player who projects to be a top level hitter in the major leagues for a utility player (Casey Blake) who would be on the final year of his contract is definitely a check in the “solid trade” column for Mark Shapiro. He drew more walks (90) than strikeouts (83) and had an OPS of .943 during the regular season. While Lou Marson and company will start behind the plate for the Indians this season, they’re only serving as seat warmers for Santana as he looks to help fans forget about another catcher that was an extremely good hitter and clubhouse leader in Victor Martinez.
For comparison purposes, last year’s winner of the Minor League Player of the Year Award was Baltimore’s Matt Weiters – also a catcher. Dubbed “Mauer with Power,” Weiters was able to transition to the major league level very well, finishing the 2009 season with an OPS of .753 and nine home runs in only 96 games.
Many of last year’s Akron Aeros will be finding a new home in Columbus come the 2010 season – including Mike Sarbaugh – where they will then become the target of DP’s undivided attention. While the inaugural season with the Clippers turned into more of a revolving door thanks to the turnover at the big league level, this year should provide more stability thanks to the rebuilding process that will be Indians baseball for the forseeable future.