Minor League Team Of The Year

Before the 2009 season, there was little reason to predict the Indians’ Double-A team was destined for a record-setting run.

Sure, the team had a group of good young arms, some expected up-and-coming bats and even a handful of notable prospects. But boasting a plethora of the Indians’ top minor leaguers was nothing new, as many of Akron’s teams this decade have been solid on paper from the start. By the time the 2009 Aeros had cruised into the postseason and quickly wrapped up the Eastern League championship—the franchise’s third since 2003—it was clear that talent plus chemistry and a strong yet approachable leader in manager Mike Sarbaugh proved to be a recipe for success.

“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.”

The Aeros got off to a 28-8 start and never looked back, leading the circuit from start to finish, culminating with a dominating 95-54 record between the regular season and playoffs. Along the way, the team set myriad franchise marks while winning a handful of individual honors.  

In the playoffs, Akron needed just three games to dispatch Reading in the Southern Division series, then rolled over Connecticut three-games-to-one for the league title. Now, the Aeros add one more feather to their cap as Baseball America’s Minor League Team of the Year.  

“What’s interesting about winning here is they have the (Eastern League’s) manager of the year, the pitcher of the year and the top hitter,” Indians farm director Ross Atkins said as the team celebrated its title run with champagne in the clubhouse. “They’re not just solid professional baseball players; we’re talking all major league core prospects who are very young and have a lot of upside.”

Built To Win

Depth from the lower levels of the Indians system helped give Akron a needed push in the second of the season. Thus, there’s no underestimating the importance that a handful of young players—including three 2008 draftees—made upon being promoted to Akron. This includes 2008 first-round pick Lonnie Chisenhall, who struggled initially in his debut with Akron after a promotion from high Class A Kinston. But the 20-year-old third baseman was a force in the playoffs, leading all EL postseason players with a .467 average and .500 on-base percentage in seven games.

Among the many accomplishments of the regular season was a perfect game in May thrown by righthander Jeanmar Gomez against Trenton en route to Gomez earning the league’s pitcher of the year honors. Josh Tomlin was the staff horse, logging 145 innings to lead the team (and rank eighth in the EL) while leading the league with 14 victories.

Righthander Hector Rondon emerged as the best prospect of the bunch in his stay with Akron, going 7-5, 2.75 with 73 strikeouts and 16 walks in 72 innings. Rondon’s statistics would have been even more impressive had the Indians not briefly experimented with him as a reliever, a knee-jerk reaction with the Tribe’s major league bullpen already blowing up in May. Once Rondon was moved back into his more familiar starting spot, he quickly got back on track and was soon promoted to Triple-A Columbus.  
“Gomez and Tomlin were solid for us all year,” Sarbaugh said. “I thought our pitching was just solid the whole year.”

Follow The Leader(s)

There was no more dominant hitter in the Eastern League than league MVP Carlos Santana, the catching prospect the Indians acquired midway through the 2008 season from the Dodgers for veteran Casey Blake. The 23-year old switch-hitting catcher entered the 2009 season with a major league-ready bat, needing only to refine his skills behind the plate.

While working on receiving, Santana batted .290/.413/.530 during the regular season—proving mature beyond his age by drawing 90 walks and striking out 83 times. Santana, who may start 2010 at Triple-A Columbus, won’t take long to get to Cleveland. He has refined his receiving skills, improved his ability to block balls in the dirt and continues to work on learning English so he can successfully handle a major league staff.

“He’s as gifted throwing as any guy I’ve ever seen outside of Pudge (Ivan Rodriguez) early in his career,” Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said before the 2009 season got underway.  

Bridging the divide between Latin American players and others was a concern for Sarbaugh early in the season. He credited first baseman Beau Mills, whose father Brad was named the Astros’ manager in the offseason, with a key role as a leader on a younger team.

“We ended up with a really nice mix in the clubhouse,” Sarbaugh said. “Early in the year I had some concern because we had a lot of Latin American players, and I’ve seen some teams that have had some separated clubhouses between the Latin players and the American players. I tried to go out of my way early to create an atmosphere with everyone out there could feel comfortable, and I thought we were able to do that.”By Stephanie Storm
Before the 2009 season, there was little reason to predict the Indians’ Double-A team was destined for a record-setting run.

Sure, the team had a group of good young arms, some expected up-and-coming bats and even a handful of notable prospects. But boasting a plethora of the Indians’ top minor leaguers was nothing new, as many of Akron’s teams this decade have been solid on paper from the start. By the time the 2009 Aeros had cruised into the postseason and quickly wrapped up the Eastern League championship—the franchise’s third since 2003—it was clear that talent plus chemistry and a strong yet approachable leader in manager Mike Sarbaugh proved to be a recipe for success.

“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.”

The Aeros got off to a 28-8 start and never looked back, leading the circuit from start to finish, culminating with a dominating 95-54 record between the regular season and playoffs. Along the way, the team set myriad franchise marks while winning a handful of individual honors.  

In the playoffs, Akron needed just three games to dispatch Reading in the Southern Division series, then rolled over Connecticut three-games-to-one for the league title. Now, the Aeros add one more feather to their cap as Baseball America’s Minor League Team of the Year.  

“What’s interesting about winning here is they have the (Eastern League’s) manager of the year, the pitcher of the year and the top hitter,” Indians farm director Ross Atkins said as the team celebrated its title run with champagne in the clubhouse. “They’re not just solid professional baseball players; we’re talking all major league core prospects who are very young and have a lot of upside.”

Built To Win

Depth from the lower levels of the Indians system helped give Akron a needed push in the second of the season. Thus, there’s no underestimating the importance that a handful of young players—including three 2008 draftees—made upon being promoted to Akron. This includes 2008 first-round pick Lonnie Chisenhall, who struggled initially in his debut with Akron after a promotion from high Class A Kinston. But the 20-year-old third baseman was a force in the playoffs, leading all EL postseason players with a .467 average and .500 on-base percentage in seven games.

Among the many accomplishments of the regular season was a perfect game in May thrown by righthander Jeanmar Gomez against Trenton en route to Gomez earning the league’s pitcher of the year honors. Josh Tomlin was the staff horse, logging 145 innings to lead the team (and rank eighth in the EL) while leading the league with 14 victories.

Righthander Hector Rondon emerged as the best prospect of the bunch in his stay with Akron, going 7-5, 2.75 with 73 strikeouts and 16 walks in 72 innings. Rondon’s statistics would have been even more impressive had the Indians not briefly experimented with him as a reliever, a knee-jerk reaction with the Tribe’s major league bullpen already blowing up in May. Once Rondon was moved back into his more familiar starting spot, he quickly got back on track and was soon promoted to Triple-A Columbus. 

“Gomez and Tomlin were solid for us all year,” Sarbaugh said. “I thought our pitching was just solid the whole year.”

Follow The Leader(s)

There was no more dominant hitter in the Eastern League than league MVP Carlos Santana, the catching prospect the Indians acquired midway through the 2008 season from the Dodgers for veteran Casey Blake. The 23-year old switch-hitting catcher entered the 2009 season with a major league-ready bat, needing only to refine his skills behind the plate.

While working on receiving, Santana batted .290/.413/.530 during the regular season—proving mature beyond his age by drawing 90 walks and striking out 83 times. Santana, who may start 2010 at Triple-A Columbus, won’t take long to get to Cleveland. He has refined his receiving skills, improved his ability to block balls in the dirt and continues to work on learning English so he can successfully handle a major league staff.

“He’s as gifted throwing as any guy I’ve ever seen outside of Pudge (Ivan Rodriguez) early in his career,” Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said before the 2009 season got underway.  

Bridging the divide between Latin American players and others was a concern for Sarbaugh early in the season. He credited first baseman Beau Mills, whose father Brad was named the Astros’ manager in the offseason, with a key role as a leader on a younger team.

“We ended up with a really nice mix in the clubhouse,” Sarbaugh said. “Early in the year I had some concern because we had a lot of Latin American players, and I’ve seen some teams that have had some separated clubhouses between the Latin players and the American players. I tried to go out of my way early to create an atmosphere with everyone out there could feel comfortable, and I thought we were able to do that.”

Minors | #2009 #Awards #Team Of The Year

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