Now that we’ve reached the end of the minor league season and we’ve wrapped some things up, it’s time to put a bow on the 2021 minor league season in the Cleveland Indians system.

2020 was supposed to be a year where Cleveland’s minor league strength – its prospect at High-A and below – were supposed to get a chance to prove their skills and standings to elevate the club’s status as a farm system, or show them where they need to improve. Instead, the pandemic wiped that out and we only saw a handful of bigger named prospects get time to train at the Alternate Training Site in Lake County and a few more get to Arizona for fall instructs. That doesn’t constitute as enough to make up for a lost year, so pushing that down to 2021 was a big deal for Cleveland with several key prospects ready for Rule 5 status this fall.

After a late start in May, Cleveland was able to get many of its prospects on the field at some level, some with aggressive assignments, some who got hurt and some who made their debuts later. As with any season, you saw some prospects falter – maybe due to not being able to face live pitching or build consistency of stamina in 2020 – and some took off and surprised, or somehow picked up right where they left off.

Overall, the system still remains in about the same place. A strong core of the group made it to Double-A by assignment or promotion and plenty were at least at High-A. Some of the younger prospects certainly suffered by not having a 2020 season or even not having the chance to play at the defunct shortseason level, which would have helped many.

Still, now that the 2021 minor league season is written in stone, it’s time to hand out our honors from Indians Baseball Insider.

Over the next handful of days, we will release candidates and honorees for each award. Some of these awards are going to be behind the paywall, and some will be free for all readers. I will indicate which awards those will be.

Here are the 2021 IBI awards to be on the lookout for:

2021 IBI Prospect of the Year (Paywall)

This will be awarded to who we thought was the best prospect in the Cleveland system in 2021 regardless of being a pitcher or hitter. Consideration is given to performance, foremost, but prospect status, age relative to level, along with the consistency of their performance this season.

2021 IBI Hitter/Pitcher of the Year (Paywall)

Whichever player IBI deems to be its 2021prospect of the season, the opposite position will be used for this award. So if a hitter is named our 2021 Prospect of the Year, this will be the 2021 Pitching Prospect of the Year. If it is a pitcher, it will be Hitting Prospect of the Year. The same guidelines apply for choosing this award.

2021 IBI Comeback Prospect of the Year (Paywall)

This award is meant to recognize the prospect in the Cleveland system that came back in a big way in 2021 from either previous poor performance, injury, fallen prospect star, or seemingly came out of nowhere. The prospect considered for this award had to have played a full season previous above the complex league and considerations were given to the same areas: performance, consistency, prospect relevance and age to level.

2021 IBI Breakout Prospect (Paywall)

This IBI honor is for a Cleveland prospect that broke onto the scene. That could mean a number of things. They could now be a big league prospect and they previously weren’t, they were a prospect and vaulted up the rankings from earlier in the year, and just a completely unexpected performance in general.

2021 IBI Relief Prospect (Free)

This is pretty straight forward with one thing to keep in mind – big league relevance. Many minor league relievers can put up big numbers but have little chance of being an impact big league reliever. There were some relievers in the system this year who put up big numbers, but likely don’t have a big league future. The ones nominated here should all have some potential for having a big league future of varying levels.

2021 IBI Rookie (Prospect) of the Year (Paywall)

This award is a little interesting in 2021. There wasn’t a 2020 season to see the 2020, and in some cases, the 2019 prospect draft picks or signings. So in 2021 for this honor, we had to consider 2019, 2020, and 2021 prospect signings or draft picks that had previously never played an official pro season.

2021 IBI Defensive Prospect of the Year (Free)

Not many stats are good for evaluating defense at the minor league level – if any. So this one had some stats to go on, but mostly off of the eye test from prospects the crew saw in person. This is among players who obviously play big league defense and have a future in that role in some capacity.

2021 IBI Surprise and Disappointing Prospects (Paywall)

Also pretty self-explanatory here – Surprise Prospect of the Year is any prospect who might have been a breakout of did something unexpected to put themselves on the prospect map either in this system or overall. As far Disappointing Prospect, any player who had mostly a full 2021 season was considered if they had a bad season. We through about age relative to level as well as stats and previous performance and rank, as long as they previously played a full season.

2021 IBI All Prospect Team (Free)

We put together a First and Second All-Prospect Team in the system. Pretty self-explanatory as well.

Stay tuned for the nominees and awards over the next week.

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