Indianapolis didn't necessarily reap the benefits all season, but the early-season success and development of Jose Tabata, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez earned the trio midseason promotions to Pittsburgh. Tabata used two months in the Minors to find a more consistent approach at the plate and to learn when to take more risks on the basepaths. Walker learned a new position -- second base -- which put him in line to take over Aki Iwamura's job.
Brandon Moss never found a place in the Pirates' outfield, but he thrived in a full season with Indianapolis. Not only did Moss lead the club in doubles and homers, he also paced the International League with 96 RBIs. Moss rediscovered his old swing with the help of hitting coach Jeff Branson and, with that, regained some confidence.
Despite having their offense pilfered by the Pirates and never equally replenished, Indianapolis entered the final week of the season with a chance to get into the playoffs. The club finished with a .500 record or better at home for the seventh straight season. Thirteen of the team's 36 home wins came in the month of June.
Few Major League callups will surpass the one catcher Erik Kratz enjoyed on July 14. After almost nine years in the Minors, Kratz was told he was headed to Pittsburgh during the Triple-A All-Star Game. Kratz was brought to tears when he was interviewed moments later on TV.
What went wrong?
Right-hander Brad Lincoln had moderate success with Indianapolis early in the year, though that didn't translate into success with the Pirates or overwhelming success when he returned to Triple-A in late July. Lincoln finished with an uninspiring 4.12 ERA in 17 Triple-A starts, though there were flashes of the potential the Pirates still believe Lincoln has.
Though Indianapolis' starting pitchers fared mostly OK during the season, the group lacked any impact arms outside of Lincoln. Waiver pickup Hayden Penn and trade acquisition Dana Eveland flopped in their chances to prove themselves as valuable depth options. Michael Crotta (5-10, 4.93 ERA) struggled in his first taste of Triple-A, while Daniel McCutchen and Jeremy Powell posted undistinguished numbers.
After a stellar season start at Double-A, Daniel Moskos didn't last long after being promoted to Indianapolis. The 2007 first-round Draft pick allowed 20 earned runs, walked 20 and struck out 18 in 17 1/3 innings. Reports out of Indianapolis were that Moskos was slow to take suggestions and not always willing to make mechanical adjustments. This, combined with the left-hander's unimpressive results, had him sent back to Double-A.
Though results aren't the primary measuring stick in the Minors, Indianapolis still would have liked to have done better in the won-loss column. The club finished short of a .500 record for the fourth straight year.
On the rise
Alex Presley: The outfielder had a successful stop in Indianapolis on his three-level climb this season. Presley hit for the cycle in just his third game with Indianapolis and ended up hitting .294 in 69 games. Between Double-A and Triple-A, Presley combined for 166 hits, becoming just the sixth Pirates Minor Leaguer since 1995 to have that many base knocks in a season. All this earned him a September callup to Pittsburgh.
Charlie Morton: Surprised to see his name here? Well, theoretically, things can only go up for Morton, who had a forgettable Major League showing in 2010. This isn't just by default, though, as Morton did show some promising signs late in the year when he returned to Pittsburgh's rotation. Morton posted a 3.83 ERA in 14 Triple-A starts, and more importantly, he slowly regained some confidence in his abilities.
Jean Machi: This right-hander is hardly ever mentioned when the Pirates talk about their Minor League pitching depth. However, with a shortage of high-level pitching prospects, Machi could prove to be a serviceable bullpen arm in Pittsburgh next season. He saved 23 games and finished with a 3.92 ERA in 58 relief appearances. This was Machi's first full season in Triple-A.
Batting average: Steve Pearce, .326
Doubles: Moss, 32
Triples: Presley, 6
Home runs: Moss, 22
RBIs: Moss, 96
Stolen bases: Tabata, 25
Wins: Powell, 11
ERA (starter, minimum 75 IP): Morton, 3.83
ERA (reliever, minimum 30 IP): Wilfredo Ledezma, 0.94
Saves: Machi, 23
Strikeouts: Crotta, 89
Moss, Most Valuable Player; Presley, Rookie of the Year; Powell, Most Valuable Starting Pitcher; Kratz, Slugger of the Year; Machi, Henry Smock Relief Pitcher of the Year
Indianapolis is going to get a boost by the arrival of some young pitchers who played on Altoona's Eastern League championship club this season. That's a good thing, too, given that the Pirates didn't end the season with many prospects at their highest Minor League level.
Presley will likely start next season back in Indianapolis, where he had a strong showing in 69 games. Lincoln could be back there, too, if he doesn't make the Major League rotation out of Spring Training. Regardless, look for the Indianapolis club to tout some strong starting pitching, but little in the way of offense. The organization simply lacks impact bats in its high Minor League levels right now.