Pirates announce honors for top Minor League performers

November 8th, 2022

The Pirates recognized excellence in their farm system on Tuesday as they announced the recipients of the organization’s Minor League awards.

was named the Willie Stargell Slugger of the Year, Tyler Samaniego was named the Kent Tekulve Reliever of the Year, was named the Bill Mazeroski Defender of the Year and Tsung-Che Cheng was named the Omar Moreno Baserunner of the Year. The announcements were made by John Baker, the club’s director of coaching and player development.

Despite being limited to 81 games due to injury, Gorski, the Pirates' No. 22-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, slugged the third-most home runs among Pittsburgh’s Minor Leaguers (24). Gorski, a second-round selection by the Pirates in the 2019 MLB Draft, began the season with High-A Greensboro but quickly earned a promotion to Double-A Altoona in late May after a scorching hot start.

At the time of his promotion to Altoona, Gorski led all of Minor League Baseball in home runs (17) and led the South Atlantic League in RBIs (37), slugging percentage (.754) and OPS (1.131). Gorski led all of Minor League Baseball with 23 home runs when he went on the injured list on June 30.

"I should be proud of all the power and stuff, but I’m really just proud of the way I handled everything," Gorski said. "At the beginning of the year, obviously didn’t start where I wanted to. Didn’t move up from last year. So just handling that adversity and getting up to the next level is just what I’m most proud of. Just getting my feet under me."

Gorski finished the season with a .956 OPS, a significant leap forward from the .710 OPS he posted in 2021. By season’s end, Gorski earned a promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis. Along with the home runs, Gorski also stole 21 bases on 24 attempts, joining Andres Alvarez as the only two Pirates Minor Leaguers to reach the 20-20 club this season.

The Willie Stargell Slugger of the Year goes to the best hitter among Pirates Minor Leaguers.

Samaniego, selected in the 15th round of the 2021 MLB Draft, finished his first full professional season with a 2.45 ERA, 14 saves and 47 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings with Greensboro and Altoona. At one point, Samaniego did not allow a hit in 41 consecutive at-bats. The numbers are all the more impressive given that Samaniego was primarily a first baseman coming out of high school and didn't convert into a full-time pitcher until transferring to the University of South Alabama from Northeast Mississippi Community College. 

"It's a great feeling, for sure," Samaniego said. "I considered myself more of a thrower in the past. It feels really good being recognized as that, especially with all of the talented arms that we have in this organization and all of the talented arms they have around me in Greensboro and Altoona. It definitely means a lot to get that recognition."

The southpaw dominated with Greensboro to begin the season, posting a 0.53 ERA with 24 strikeouts in 17 innings before earning a promotion to Altoona. A couple of rough outings with the Curve inflated his ERA, but the lefty didn’t allow a run in 20 of his 24 appearances with Altoona.

The Kent Tekulve Reliever of the Year award is named in honor of the Pirates' career saves leader.

No. 24 prospect Triolo, who won a Minor League Gold Glove Award at third base in 2021, spent time around the diamond this season. Along with playing 746 2/3 innings at third base, Triolo played 155 innings at shortstop and 62 2/3 innings in center field, a position he had not played professionally until this season. Among Eastern League third basemen who played at least 60 games at the hot corner, Triolo was tied for first in assists (165). Triolo was also second in total chances (237) and fielding percentage (.970), as well as third in double plays (15).

Triolo, who was also named Altoona’s team MVP, slashed .282/.376/.419 with nine home runs and 24 steals.

The Bill Mazeroski Defender of the Year award goes to the top defender among Pirates Minor Leaguers.

Cheng led all Pirates Minor Leaguers in steals, swiping 33 bases in 39 attempts for Low-A Bradenton. Cheng, who signed with the Pirates as a non-drafted free agent in 2019, impressed at the plate in his first full season, ranking first in the Florida State League in triples (seven) and runs scored (79), second in on-base percentage (.376), fourth in batting average (.270) and fifth in OPS (.794).

The Omar Moreno Baserunner of the Year award goes to the stolen-base leader among Pirates Minor Leaguers.