After a successful season on the field, two more members of the Cleveland Indians organization received recognition for their work throughout the 2016 season this week in separate announcements from Baseball America.
President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti was announced on Tuesday as Major League Baseball’s Executive of the Year by the publication. Akron RubberDucks manager David Wallace was selected on Wednesday by Baseball America as its Minor League Manager of the Year.
Antonetti, 41, spent his first season in the presidency role while working in his 18th year as a member of the Indians organization. He oversaw a positive offseason last winter with new general manager Mike Chernoff that included the additions of two integral members of the playoff run by Cleveland this season in Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis. His team was later active in a big way at the trade deadline, making the rare blockbuster move for the club by dealing four prospects to the New York Yankees for reliever and future ALCS MVP Andrew Miller. The Indians also had another major trade vetoed in a proposed five-player swap for Milwaukee catcher Jonathan Lucroy before the club later added a pair of outfielders in Brandon Guyer from Tampa Bay and Coco Crisp from Oakland.
All three acquisitions played important roles during the playoffs for Cleveland. The Indians finished with their fourth consecutive season with a winning record and claimed their first American League pennant since 1997.
Antonetti is the first Indians executive to win the award since his predecessor, Mark Shapiro, took home the honor as general manager of the Indians in 2005.
Wallace handled the immense challenges of managing at the minor league level like a champion, which is exactly what his RubberDucks were in the Eastern League in 2016.
The 37-year-old, working in his third season at the helm of the ‘Ducks and his eighth season as a coach and manager for the Cleveland organization following a seven-year professional playing career in its farm system, was able to overcome the slew of obstacles that he encountered over the course of the year and turn his young club into champions. Under his leadership, his team was able to endure a 12-game June losing skid and returned to the Double-A postseason after losing its two most talented players in outfielders Clint Frazier and Bradley Zimmer to organizational promotions. The roster was in flux from the beginning of the season all the way to the finish, where Wallace accommodated the needs of the organization in catering to the rehab assignments of Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall at the beginning of the season and Yan Gomes in the final days of the schedule.
Wallace saw several top players promoted to Triple-A Columbus over the course of the season, including top prospects Frazier and Zimmer, utility man Yandy Diaz, starting pitchers Adam Plutko and Shawn Morimando, and relievers Perci Garner and Ben Heller. Each of those last four made their Major League debuts during the 2016 season, with three coming in an Indians uniform and Heller’s with the Yankees after being traded to New York with Frazier and others for Miller.
Akron used a total of 27 position players and 32 pitchers over the course of the season. Just three position players accumulated more than 100 games played this year.
The RubberDucks finished the season 77-64, atop the Eastern League Western Division, and they knocked off the Altoona Curve in four games in the divisional round to advance to the league championship series. In the title match, they swept the 87-55 Trenton Thunder in three straight to bring the Eastern League Championship to Akron.
Wallace became the first Indians minor league manager to be named the Baseball America Minor League Manager of the Year since current Indians third base coach Mike Sarbaugh won the award in 2010 while managing Cleveland’s Columbus affiliate. Current Tribe skipper Terry Francona won the award back in 1993 while coaching for the Chicago White Sox’s Birmingham affiliate.
The two awards this week add into a successful offseason for the Indians organization.
Francona was named the American League Manager of the Year for the second time during his four-year Indians tenure in November. Shortstop Francisco Lindor received the AL Gold Glove at shortstop and the Platinum Glove as the league’s top defender, becoming the first Indians player to ever receive that award. Starting pitcher Corey Kluber finished third in the AL Cy Young voting, while rookie outfielder Tyler Naquin earned a third place finish in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting. Lindor, Kluber, and utility man Jose Ramirez each received votes during the AL Most Valuable Player voting.
Photo: Icon Sportswire