This offseason, MiLB.com will be honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. We're taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League baseball. Select a team from the dropdown below.
The Phillies might have missed out on a return trip to the World Series in 2010, but their farm system produced two champions and several big talents this summer. Class A Lakewood brought home its second straight South Atlantic League title in 2010 and the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Phils stormed to a championship, highlighting a season that saw Philadelphia's other affiliates sit out the postseason.
Triple-A Lehigh Valley's struggles continued, finishing below .500 for the third straight year since joining the International League. Double-A Reading narrowly missed a winning record behind a big season from veteran Tagg Bozied in the Eastern League, while Class A Advanced Clearwater had a hard time in the second half in Florida. Short-Season Williamsport finished 43-33 but didn't qualify for the New York-Penn League playoffs.
Phillies' organizational All-Stars
Catcher -- Sebastian Valle, Lakewood (117 games): Valle looked special last year at Williamsport and although his average took a hit in the Sally League, his production rose tremendously while seeing at-bats nearly every day for the BlueClaws. The Mexican Pacific League Rookie of the Year hit .255 and led all Phillies backstops -- including Carlos Ruiz -- with 16 homers and 74 RBIs.
"He had a good year, he improved at all facets of the game," said Chuck LaMar, assistant general manager and director of player development and scouting. "His receiving, his throwing and his ability to see the whole field and his power is unquestioned. He's shown that his whole career."
Valle will need to cut down on his strikeouts and raise his on-base percentage to stay on track -- Joel Naughton (.308, 5 HR, 31 RBIs) and Tim Kennelly (.274, 5, 59) also posted strong seasons behind the plate at Clearwater. LaMar said he's on the radar to reach Philadelphia.
"He improved immensely," he added. "He's definitely a Major League prospect for us."
First base -- Matt Rizzotti, Reading (77 games), Clearwater (31 games), Lehigh Valley (17 games): The 2007 sixth-round pick has the Phillies excited after raking all summer at three levels before hitting .333 in the Arizona Fall League. "All the credit goes to Matt, he played his way out of the Florida State League," LaMar said. "He had a tremendous year and that's the reason he got his promotions."
Rizzotti led the Philadelphia system with a .343 average and connected for 17 homers and 76 RBIs while adding a stellar .430 OBP, also tops among Phils Minor Leaguers. He had 54 extra-base hits, batted .400 with runners on base and was an Eastern League All-Star at Reading.
"He's got to continue to improve defensively and he's gotta hit. We expect him to start the year at Lehigh Valley," LaMar said.
Andy Tracy also posted a solid year with Lehigh Valley, finishing with 21 homers and 80 RBIs. And LaMar lauded Jonathan Singleton, who batted .290 with 77 RBIs at Lakewood.
Second base -- Harold Garcia, Reading (55 games), Clearwater (46 games): Garcia might be best known for the Florida State League-record 37-game hitting streak he put together this season. That success prompted the Phils to bump him up to Double-A Reading, where he kept on hitting.
"He's an outstanding worker," LaMar said. "Truly, his worth ethic is one of the best in our Minor League system and he's made himself into a prospect."
The 24-year-old switch-hitter batted .305 with eight homers and 64 RBIs, the best production among Phils' Minor League second basemen. Garcia, who saw time at short, third and the outfield in the instructional league, added 29 steals and five triples.
"If he doesn't make it as a second baseman, he can move up quickly as a utility guy," LaMar said.
Cesar Hernandez appeared in 65 games for short-season Williamsport but batted .325 with 83 hits, 23 RBIs and 32 steals.
Shortstop -- Freddy Galvis, Reading (138 games): Phillies fans, be glad you have Jimmy Rollins at short -- there aren't many prospects on the radar in the system at this position. Galvis, a great defensive infielder, gets the nod by default after finishing with five homers and 48 RBIs (and a .233 average).
"He's got to put the bat on the ball, he's got to do the little things, but he's in the lineup for the runs he saves defensively," LaMar said. "He's an outstanding defender, he could definitely play defensively in the Majors tonight, but he's got to put the ball in play and use the whole field."
Jonathan Villar posted decent numbers at Lakewood but was traded to Houston in the Roy Oswalt deal. Is Witer Jimenez's season (.272, 20 SB) in the Dominican Summer League even comparable? The Phils could use some help at short, Galvis' .276 OBP is nothing to brag about, but he's at least a switch-hitter and knocked in some runs at the Double-A level.
Third base -- Cody Overbeck, Reading (78 games), Clearwater (58 games): The Ole Miss product started the year on fire with the Threshers, hitting .302 with 11 homers, 19 doubles and 41 RBIs as an FSL midseason All-Star. He jumped to Double-A and, while his average dropped to .255, he remained a productive hitter with 13 more dingers and 41 RBIs. He totaled 24 homers, 82 RBIs and a .354 OBP, despite striking out 134 times. Major League veteran Cody Ransom had a decent year at Triple-A with 18 homers and 63 RBIs.
"He had an outstanding year at both levels and he's coming off hip surgery, so it's great to see him healthy," LaMar said of Overbeck. "He's a guy who needs to improve defensively. He's an outstanding fastball hitter and there's room on this team for someone who can hit a fastball. Cody can do that."
Domonic Brown, Reading (65 games), Lehigh Valley (28 games), Philadelphia (35 games): The Phillies top prospect made his Major League debut after ripping up the Double-A Eastern League, then hitting .346 at Triple-A.
"It's pretty obvious he's got a chance to be a regular player in the future and have an impact," LaMar said.
A lefty-swinging outfielder with speed, Brown hit .327 with 20 homers, 68 RBIs and 17 steals before appearing in 35 games with Philadelphia. He boasted a .391 on-base percentage and was a Futures Game All-Star.
"He started his year at Major League camp, he came in in shape and was determined to show the staff he was capable of playing at that level. And he carried that into the Minor League season," said LaMar. "He did everything we asked him to do and he held his own in the Majors."
Leandro Castro, Lakewood (124 games): The 2009 All-Star ranked second in the system with 78 runs scored and third with 81 RBIs after a promotion to Lakewood.
"He's extremely aggresive in all phases of the game -- he loves to play," LaMar said.
Castro's .257 average was his worst in four seasons and he struck out 91 times, but he reached double figures in homers (10) and steals (22) to go with 27 doubles and nine triples.
"He'll move up as far as his bat will take him," LaMar said. "His running and throwing skills are good enough. We'll keep moving him up and challenging him, and so far he's responded at each level."
John Mayberry, Lehigh Valley (128 games): Mayberry ranked second among Phillies Minor League outfielders with 15 homers before returning to the Majors, where he hit .333 in 15 games. He added 65 RBIs in the Minors and was 20-for-23 in stolen base attempts. His Arizona Fall League stint was limited to one game, but a solid campaign has him in place to see time in Philadelphia again next spring, if he wants it.
"It's time for him to become a Major Leaguer," LaMar said. "His development in the Minors is just about over. I think he'll come into camp and depending on how [Phillies manager] Charlie [Manuel] and I feel, he's got a chance to make our club as an extra outfielder. But it's time for him to get the opportunity to play at the Major League level."
There were other worthy outfielders in 2010, including 31-year-old Rich Thompson (41 steals), Mike Spidale (51 RBIs, 28 steals), Derrick Mitchell (.264, 13 homers, 28 steals), Jiwan James (.270, 64 RBIs, 33 steals), Steve Susdorf (77 RBIs) and even Miguel Alvarez, who hit .329 at Williamsport.
Designated hitter -- Tagg Bozied, Reading (104 games): Bozied isn't a prospect in terms of youthful potential, but his big numbers in 2010 can't be ignored. A corner infielder who has seen his share of time at Triple-A, Bozied joined the Phillies last winter and batted .315 with 27 homers and 92 RBIs at Double-A, leading the system in homers, RBIs and slugging (.631). His .402 on-base percentage was good for second among Philadelphia farmhands behind Rizzotti.
LaMar said Bozied's leadership on the field and in the clubhouse was exactly what the organization had hoped for. The Phils already have signed him and extended an invitation to Spring Training.
"He went and had a heck of a year, he's played at Triple-A and been to the Majors, so he knows what it takes," LaMar said. "He's done everything we could have asked of him, a leader offensively and in the clubhouse."
Right-handed starting pitcher -- Austin Hyatt, Reading (four games), Clearwater (23 games): The 24-year-old from Atlanta cleaned up in the awards department, earning FSL Player of the Week honors twice, two All-Star nods and a selection as the league's Most Valuable Pitcher. He ranked second among all Phillies pitchers with 181 strikeouts, tied for the system's lead with a dozen wins and owned the second-lowest ERA among Phils farmhands (3.32). Expect him to see more time at Reading in 2011, LaMar said.
"He's got an outstanding changeup and his velocity and command of his fastball are good enough," he added. "He's got to improve his control of his offspeed pitchers, and that could be the difference. But we expect him to progress and start out at Double-A."
Left-handed starting pitcher -- Brian Mazone, Lehigh Valley (28 games): Mazone, 34, is no youngster -- he's pitched with the Phillies at the Triple-A level in Ottawa, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Lehigh Valley, believe it or not -- but among southpaw starters, he stood out. He posted a 7-13 record but did not get much run support from the IronPigs, who had the worst offense in the International League, but his 3.82 ERA ranked sixth among Phils Minor Leaguers and he recorded 104 strikeouts as an innings-eater (165).
Like Bozied, he emerged as a veteran leader.
"He's done everything we ask and he's great to have on the club. He takes the ball and he's great for the prospects," LaMar said. "He never complains, he's a professional."
Relief pitcher -- Scott Mathieson, Lehigh Valley (54 games): The 26-year-old Vancouver native led the system with 26 saves. He added three wins, a stellar 2.80 ERA and 83 strikeouts in only 64 1/3 innings. The Triple-A All-Star, who made two appearances in the Majors, held IL foes to a .212 average.
"Great arm," LaMar said. "We had him throwing up to 99 mph a couple times. He's coming off arm problems and he's bounced back. He's an outstanding competitor, he's thrived and he'll compete for a job this spring. It's time for him to prove he can pitch at the Major League level. He's had a couple short looks, but he'll get a long look this spring, so it's time."