No team had a better winning percentage than the Cardinals' affiliates, finishing with a collective .549 mark. Every club, with one small exception of the Venezuelan Summer League team, finished over .500. Three teams -- Quad Cities, Batavia and Johnson City -- at the bottom rungs were .600 or better. Five teams made the postseason and Johnson City won the rookie-level Appalachian League title.
"Our primary focus is on developing players," Cardinals farm director John Vuch said. "We also want to develop winning players. There's definitely a benefit. You don't want to go overboard. There's times where you do things that may not help you win the game, but it benefits the development of the player. That said, you want to teach guys how to play the game the right way. Hopefully, that results in team success."
And it results in players reaching St. Louis with comprehension that winning is expected when they arrive. Rookie of the Year candidate Jaime Garcia understood that, as did lesser contributors like Allen Craig and Daniel Descalso.
Getting help from the farm system might become even more important in 2011 and beyond if the Cardinals want to get back to the top of the National League Central. With the Reds looking to repeat, the Astros' youth making strides and the Brewers making big offseason noise to improve, the Cardinals will need to continue to complement their superstars with help from within if they want to remain one of the powers of the NL.
"We're in a [good] division, and we're the kind of club that needs to have production from the farm system, getting guys up to the big leagues," Vuch said. "We've gotten marquee players who take up a considerable amount of our payroll. We need players who are more affordable for us. Producing our own is the way to do that.
"Once in a while, you need to make a trade, so you need to have something another team would want. For us, the farm system is a huge part of it. It's only going to become more important in future years."
MLB.com's Preseason Picks
Daniel Descalso, 2B: After a breakout in Double-A in 2009 (albeit with a slowdown upon promotion in the second half), the thinking was Descalso would figure out the Pacific Coast League and top the system in hitting while showing some pop. He didn't have a bad year, hitting .282/.350/.421 with 32 doubles, nine homers and 71 RBIs, and earning his first callup to the big leagues.
Lance Lynn, RHP: Lynn was the choice to earn this nod for the second year in row, with a second straight organizational ERA title in the offing. A rough first half, particularly a 9.28 ERA in June, made that impossible. But Lynn did bounce back to go 7-3 with a 3.58 ERA in 11 second-half starts.
MLB.com's Postseason Selections
Matthew Adams, 1B: When you're taken out of Slippery Rock University in the 23rd round, expectations aren't going to be very high. But Adams, the 2009 draftee, may have raised the bar a bit with his first full season. He finished just two homers and four RBIs shy of an organizational Triple Crown, hitting .310 with 22 homers and 88 RBIs to go along with his .541 slugging percentage. He topped the Midwest League in RBIs and slugging, finished tied for second in homers, third in OPS and fifth in average en route to an All-Star season.
Deryk Hooker, RHP: Hooker has been through a lot since being drafted in the seventh round of the 2007 Draft out of high school, including serving a 50-game suspension for a positive test for a "drug of abuse." In 2010, he made his full-season debut and made up for lost time, earning a promotion from Class A Quad Cities to Class A Advanced Palm Beach. Along the way, he finished with a 2.99 ERA, which would have led the system had he thrown enough innings to qualify. In his 111 1/3 innings of work, he did strike out 127 for a 10.3 K/9 ratio. At the same time, he only yielded 36 walks for a 3.53 K/BB rate.