The idea is that teaching young players to win in the Minors -- and how to play in big situations -- prepares them to do so once they reach the big leagues. If that is indeed the case, then the Seattle Mariners have a lot to look forward to in the future.
"We believe that winning and development go hand in hand," Mariners farm director Pedro Grifol said. "You want to put them in the position to play meaningful games to the end, and the position to play playoff baseball.
"When you're playing those games, you're putting players in a position where they have to execute they way you need to play to be able to win."
"We played meaningful games until the end," Grifol said. "I could be happier with the way things went as far as putting our players in the position to expedite their development."
The Mariners didn't exactly stack rosters to make this happen. It wasn't uncommon up and down the ladder to see things like 21-year-old Michael Pineda in the Tacoma rotation or teenager Nick Franklin to jump two levels to play in the Double-A Southern League playoffs.
"I've heard comments that you can win in the Minor Leagues if you want to; we didn't do that," Grifol said. "We composed our rosters with our prospects where they needed to be. That's one of the things we were most proud of.
"I can't talk about this without talking about that our scouting department, both international and domestic. you bring players into the system and you turn them loose and let them go with the good coaching staffs I think we had."
Keeping guys at one level all year was not a result, then, of the Mariners wanting to stack a playoff-bound roster. Two things were at play: The Mariners' system has more prospects than it used to and, philosophically, the organization likes keeping players together whenever possible.
"We're starting to create a talent pool in this system where it's tougher to move up the ladder," Grifol said. "We also don't want to interrupt solid seasons. We want to keep teams playing together and create some camaraderie throughout the system."
MLB.com's Preseason Picks
Dustin Ackley, 2B: The No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, Ackley was pushed aggressively and turned things around after an awful start. He made it up to Triple-A in his first season, hitting .267/.368/.407 combined. Not bad, considering he hit .147 in April, but not enough to make him this system's player of the year.
Michael Pineda, RHP: We were high on him back in 2009 and now fully healthy, we thought he'd take off. And that he did, tying for the system lead in strikeouts (154 in 139 1/3 IP), tied for second in wins with 11 and third in ERA (3.36). He held hitters to a .227 batting average against, though the 21-year-old had some difficulty when he moved up to Triple-A, yielding nine homers in 62 1/3 IP and finishing with a 4.76 ERA there.
MLB.com's Postseason Selections
Rich Poythress, 1B: Yes, the 2009 second-rounder had the benefit of calling High Desert his home all year, but his numbers are just too enormous to overlook. The University of Georgia product led all of the Minors with 130 RBIs while blasting 31 homers and hitting .315. The California League All-Star definitely enjoyed hitting at home (.339/.413/.579) but he was no slouch away from the friendly confines (.291/.346/.581), hitting three more homers in five fewer games on the road.
Anthony Vasquez, LHP: A senior signing out of USC as an 18th-round pick in 2009, it's safe to say the expectations for this southpaw weren't too high. Though 23, he had to start in Class A Clinton and work his way up. After eight starts there (1.29 ERA), he was in hitting-crazy High Desert, where he excelled (3.07 ERA) and gave up just six homers in 13 games there. Then it was up to Double-A where he continued to perform well. At three levels, Vasquez had a combined 2.46 ERA to lead the organization. He walked just 24 in 171 2/3 total innings while striking out 125.