Bucs bestow final '22 awards on pair of top prospects

November 10th, 2022

The Pirates announced their final batch of Minor League awards, naming Endy Rodriguez the Honus Wagner Player of the Year -- which honors the Pirates Minor Leaguer who put together the most impressive overall season -- and Quinn Priester the Bob Friend Pitcher of the Year.

The announcement was made by John Baker, the organization’s director of coaching and player development.

Rodriguez, the Pirates’ No. 6 prospect per MLB Pipeline, wasn’t just the best performing prospect in Pittsburgh’s Minor League system, but one of the best in baseball.

In 125 games with Single-A Greensboro, Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis, Rodriguez led all Pirates Minor Leaguers in batting average (.323), on-base percentage (.407), slugging percentage (.590), OPS (.997), hits (148), doubles (39), extra-base hits (68) and total bases (270). Rodriguez’s 25 home runs were the second-most among Pirates’ Minor Leaguers as well.

On Wednesday, Rodriguez was named the MVP of the South Atlantic League after hitting .302/.392/.544 with 16 home runs and a 151 wRC+ for Greensboro.

Rodriguez, who was acquired from the Mets in the three-team trade that sent Joe Musgrove to the Padres, posted a .777 OPS with a 111 wRC+ for the Grasshoppers in his first 57 games to start the season. But in late June, Rodriguez took off and never stopped.

On June 24, Rodriguez began an on-base streak that spanned 30 games. During that stretch, Rodriguez slashed .402/.504/.757 with nine home runs and a 231 wRC+, a run of excellence that prompted the Pirates to promote him to Altoona.

Rodriguez kept on hitting upon joining Altoona, hitting .356/.442/.678 with eight home runs and a 199 wRC+ in 31 games. In late September, Rodriguez earned another promotion, this time to Triple-A Indianapolis.

"Endy’s really put a lot together in professional baseball," Priester said. "It’s really, really fun to watch him play. He was hitting .300 in Greensboro. He came up and didn’t miss a beat with us. Went to Triple-A and didn’t miss a beat there. I think everybody’s pretty excited for the things that Endy can do."

Priester’s season didn’t begin until June as he recovered from an oblique injury, but after a pair of rehab starts with Bradenton and Greensboro, the 22-year-old looked like he didn’t miss a beat. In 19 starts, the Pirates' No. 3 ranked prospect posted a 3.29 ERA with 89 strikeouts across 90 1/3 innings.

Priester, the 18th overall pick in the 2019 Draft, was especially sharp in July, posting a 1.69 ERA with 25 strikeouts across 26 2/3 innings. On July 24, Priester struck out a season-high eight batters and allowed just one run (none earned) across six innings. By season’s end, Priester had earned a promotion to Indianapolis alongside Rodriguez. The right-hander is currently participating in the Arizona Fall League.

"That is the kind of player anyone should hope to work with," Rodriguez said through team director of communications Melissa Strozza. "He is such a pleasure to work with. He’s so nice, so polite. When it comes to on the field, that’s the guy you can trust with a late game in the World Series. He just keeps a good eye on the game. He works very hard and he stays very focused." 

The Bob Friend Pitcher of the Year was named after the former Pirates pitcher who posted a 3.55 ERA in 15 seasons in Pittsburgh.