The 2014 IBI Awards: Most Outstanding Minor Leaguer
Urshela, Lindor impress the most among minor leaguers in 2014
Welcome to the third annual edition of the IBI Awards!
At the end of every year, we here at IBI vote on various categories relating to Cleveland baseball as we continue looking back on 2014 ahead of our 2015 offseason coverage.
Today is the eighth and final installment of the IBI Awards, the Most Outstanding Minor Leaguer.
Previous awards for this season include:
- Most Valuable Hitter
- Most Valuable Pitcher
- Least Valuable Hitter
- Least Valuable Pitcher
- Most Valuable Reliever
- Most Surprising Player
- Best New Addition
Unlike the rest of the IBI Awards, this edition turns the focus from the major league team to the minors. This vote had the most diverse number of players who received votes, with 18 different minor leaguers getting at least one point.
But who came out victorious? Or, more accurately, which two players came out victorious?
A tie at the top between Urshela and Lindor! Co-Most Outstanding Minor Leaguers!
Personally, Lindor’s two down months in Columbus downgraded him out of my ballot, with my five spots going to players who performed at a high level throughout 2014. That is why Urshela got my top vote, with Merritt, Aguilar, Gonzalez, and Haase rounding out the ballot. All five of them are obviously no Lindor, but they are real prospects whose high level of performance in the minor leagues deserved to be recognized in my mind.
But that is just how I voted. Here is what the rest of IBI had to say:
First off, since we are including all players, I omitted short season players Bobby Bradley and Yu-Cheng Changfrom consideration for this since they played in about a third of the games of the full season players. Secondly, I will go into more detail on these players in my upcoming Tony Awards piece for the minor leagues. In any case, to me at least, Urshela had the most complete season of any Indians farmhand. Not only did he finish near the top of the organization in batting average, home runs, RBI, and OPS, but he arguably was the organization’s best defensive player this season. He's in strong consideration for a big league job at some point next season. Gonzalez may not have had the power numbers, but he had everything else with the ability to hit for average, steal bases, drive in runs, and play some very good defense. Merritt led the Indians in several pitching categories and was the best pitcher in the Carolina League. Aguilar had a big year in Columbus and finally started to tap into his power more, and Gallas rebounded from a few injury plagued seasons to have a huge year offensively.
He may not be the popular pick, but Giovanny Urshela takes the cake for Most Outstanding Minor Leaguer, following his progress as a top-level prospect this season. Prior to 2014, Urshela seemed a project, destined for a long and challenge-filled Minor League career, but a quick start with the Akron RubberDucks earned him a promotion to Columbus and his production didn’t falter as many expected it would. Lonnie Chisenhall best watch his back, as Urshela is a solid defender with a potentially powerful stick that could easily replace the long-swinging lefty that currently occupies the hot corner.
I had to go with Lindor at the top of this list. He did exactly what we hoped this season, which was to play well in Akron, move up to Columbus, and put himself on the cusp of gaining the shortstop job in Cleveland. This was the timeline we all hoped would for, and Lindor held up his end of the bargain. The numbers he posted as a 20-year-old in AA were impressive. He held his own later in the season in Columbus, another impressive feat for the best prospect the Indians have had in a long time. Bobby Bradley had a debut that makes you dream. I’m not sure what his ceiling is anymore, but it’s obvious that he has an advanced bat that could move through the system quickly. He could turn into a special player. Urshela was a guy I pegged as a possible surprise coming into the season, and he didn’t disappoint. His bat finally caught up to his glove, and he looks like he might have a future as an everyday third baseman. To me, Luis Lugo might be the best pitching prospect in the system right now. You have to look past his ERA. Those 146 strikeouts in 126 innings are impressive for a 20-year-old at Lake County. He’s underrated. Lastly, Aguilar had a fantastic season at Columbus and should be squarely on the Indians radar as one of the first call-ups next season if an injury occurs. The biggest thing for me in terms of his development was his much improved plate discipline in 2014.
I’m a bit biased here since I spent the summer working for the Akron RubberDucks but I think most of us can agree that the emergence of Anthony Gallas was one of the more interesting developments of the minor league season for the Tribe. He finally managed to stay healthy all year and prove what he’s capable of. I became acquainted with him throughout the season and there’s not a nicer, more soft-spoken guy who works harder than he does.
The future looks as bright as at any time in Tribe history. Ross Atkins, Brad Grant, and the rest of the scouts and player development people should be commended.
Picking anyone other than Francisco Lindor as the most outstanding minor leaguer of the year sounds insane, but just hear me out. Rodriguez accomplished many feats this year, the most impressive being 22 home runs and 88 RBI. That performance was good enough for third in the organization behind Carlos Santana and Zach Walters (with WAS org. and CLE org. combined).
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Half Season Outstanding Minor Leaguer
2. Gabriel Mejia
5. Casey Shane
My list would have had Bradley at #1 even though it would be just 1/2 year. He was outstanding in Arizona. Lindor did what I would consider expected which is an outstanding accomplishment as he's had a lot of hype and was in the higher levels of the system. But Bradley's jump from HS to rookie ball was as good as I've seen in the system since Manny.