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Pirates' 2022 Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year

Emmet Mahon

At the conclusion of each minor league season, clubs often name their best position

player and pitcher in their system. It can be a glimpse into a promising future, a surprise, or an

indictment on a system’s dearth. Players so honored can have long and successful, if not

spectacular, career. They can also end up the answer to a trivia question. One year’s top player

can become next season’s head scratcher. Look no further than the Pirates 2021 minor league

player and pitcher of the year. Matt Frazier and Adrian Florencio, respectively, had seasons that

can only be categorized as disappointments. Frazier, at AA Altoona, played in 116 games with

439 at bats that produced a slash line of .219 BA and .616 OPS. He had 6 HR and 44 RBI while

stealing 18 bases. He had an All-Star campaign compared to Florencio, at Hi A Greensboro.

Avert your eyes if you are easily frightened. In 21 appearances, including 15 starts, he went 1-10

with a ghastly ERA of 8.07 and a WHIP of 2.02 covering 58.0 IP. He was eventually removed

from the active roster and returned to rookie level Bradenton. Despite his struggles, Frazier

remains the Pirates 16th best prospect according to MLB Pipeline.

2021 demonstrated that extrapolating any definitive assessment of an organization’s

future is futile. Most years do. There have been promising players, 2016’s group was Josh Bell

and Mitch Keller, 2018 was Ke’Bryan Hayes and J.T. Brubaker. But some years you end up with

the likes of Max Moroff and Yeudy Garcia in 2015, or Mason Martin and James Marvel in 2019.

The latter of whom was out of the organization after one season of his selection. Previous

winners were, with apologies to Dennis Eckersley, a hodgepodge of nothingness. Some of these

luminaries were Jim Negrych, Jeff Sues, Rudy Owens, Kyle McPherson, Andrew Lambo and the

infamous John Van Benschoten.

With past as prologue, the minor league player and pitcher of the year appears to be much

closer to the Bell and Keller variety than of the Moroff and Garcia class. General Manager Ben

Cherington’s effort to revitalize the moribund farm system has provided several outstanding

prospects across all levels that could be considered for this designation. Identifying the system’s

top prospects requires actual analysis, comparison, and projection.

The players chosen for the 2022 Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year span the

spectrum from, did not see that coming, to bona fide, blue-chip prospect putting all the tools

together. Many players had breakout seasons, increasing their rankings, and offering long term

hope to even longer suffering Pirate fans, Players considered were both imported and home


For the Player of the Year, there was no debate. Endy Rodriguez, acquired from the

Mets as part of the Joe Musgrove trade, stormed through three levels of the Pirates system. A

rarity for the Pirates, Rodriguez left them no choice. He started the season at Hi A Greensboro,

playing 88 games, batting .302 with an OPS of .936. He clubbed 16 HR and drove in 55. That

earned him a mid-season promotion to AA Altoona. All he did there was continuing to destroy

opposing pitchers’ psyches by hitting .356 with an absurd OPS of 1.120. He added an additional

8 HR and 32 RBI in only 31 games. He wasn’t finished making the minors his personal

playground. Having nothing left to prove at AA, he was promoted to AAA Indianapolis, the last

stop before Pittsburgh. In 10 games, he dwarfed his AA numbers. Terrorizing the International

League by batting .455, having an OPS of 1.208 with another one home run and 8 more RBI. He

displayed great positional flexibility and improved defense in addition to his greatly improved

offensive profile. Where he begins 2023, and how long he stays there, will generate significant,

and passionate, debate amongst fans.

The Pitcher of the Year was not so clear cut. From AA down to the Florida Complex

League, several young arms put themselves on the map. From youngsters like Anthony Solometo

and Bubba Chandler’s dominating the rookie ranks, to a pair of 2020 draft picks, Nick Garcia

and Jared Jones at Greensboro, there are pitchers that if the stars align, could rival some of the

great young staffs that have previously burst upon the majors at one time. However, for 2022, the

choice came down to two starters closer to the majors in 2018 11th round selection, Michael

Burrows and 2019 1st rounder, Quinn Priester, with Priester winning by a nose.

Both started at AA Altoona and ended up at AAA Indianapolis. Both spent time on the

shelf and both displayed dominating stuff. Priester started 15 games and threw 76.0 innings. The

result was an ERA of 2.84 and a corresponding WHIP 1.184. He struck out 75 and walked 22.

The 9.0 K per 9 inning is a stat you want to see from a front of the rotation arm. He stated two

games with Indianapolis, going 1-1with a 3.16 ERA over 9.1 IP. More encouragingly, he struck

out 10 and did not walk a batter. Considering the Pirates overly cautious approach and Priester’s

late start to 2022, not to mention his value, expect him to spend the bulk of 2023 at AAA where

his workload will be closely monitored.

2022 is in the books. As stated earlier, this year’s production can be an indicator of the

future, but far from a guarantee. Like Rodriguez, players will make huge strides forward. Like

Frazier and Florencio, there is the danger of a plateau, or worse. For now, one can allow

themselves some optimism and hope. Spring training begins Friday, February 24, 2023, with

games starting the next day. We will start to get a better idea at that time.

Notable Performances from across the Pirates four full season affiliates:

Indianapolis AAA:

Ji-hwan Bae .289/.792 OPS, 8 HR, 53 RBI, 30 SB

Osvaldo Bido 32 G, 111.1 IP, 3-8, 4.53 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 122 K, 64 BB

Michael Burrows 12 G, 42.1 IP, 1-4, 5.31 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 42 K, 12 BB

Altoona AA:

Jared Triolo .282/.795 OPS, 9 HR, 39 RBI

Matt Gorski .277/,844 OPS, 8 HR, 32 RBI

Michael Burrows 12 G, 52.0 IP, 4-2, 2.94 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 69 K, 19 BB (Promoted

to AAA)

Greensboro Hi A:

Dariel Lopez .286/.805 OPS, 19 HR, 58 RBI

Nick Garcia 25 G, 113.0 IP, 4-4, 3.66 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 109 K, 46 BB

Jared Jones 26 G, 122.2 IP, 5-7, 4.62 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 142 K, 51 BB

Bradenton Low A:

Jace Bowen .256/.805 OPS, 14 HR, 66 RBI, 20 SB (Promoted to Hi A)

Tsung-Che Cheng .270/.794 OPS, 6 HR, 52 RBI, 33 SB

Pu Yu Chen 22 G, 98.1 IP, 4-8, 4.58 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 103 K, 36 BB

Joelvis Del Rosario 20 G, 93.0 IP, 7-4, 3.40 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 76 K, 25 BB

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