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Pirates Prospect Watch: Could 2023 Rookie of the Year Hail From Pittsburgh?

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Pittsburgh Pirates, Endy Rodriguez, Pirates prospects

The Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t had a National League Rookie of the Year winner since outfielder Jason Bay took home the award in 2004.

In fact, Bay is the only Pirates’ player to take home the hardware since the award was first handed out back in 1947 when the great Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers was the first ever recipient.

The Pirates have had plenty of players receive some recognition for their efforts in their rookie campaigns. Oneil Cruz finished sixth in the voting in 2022 while Bryan Reynolds finished fourth in the race in 2019.

One disadvantage facing Pirates’ players from taking home the honors is the fact that historically, the Pirates have shied away from putting their top prospects on the Opening Day roster.

The latest example of that is Cruz, who many called for to spend the entire season with the big league club in 2022. Cruz ended up playing 87 games in Pittsburgh last season after he was called up from Triple-A Indianapolis in the middle of the season.

This year, plenty of Pirates’ prospects are expected to either get called up to the big leagues for the first time or get their first extended stay in the majors, including a handful of the club’s top overall prospects.

Catchers Endy Rodriguez and Henry Davis along with second baseman Nick Gonzales and right-hander Quinn Priester are all knocking on the door to Pittsburgh. All four prospects rank in the Pirates’ top five according to MLB Pipeline.

Rodriguez and Priester are the only two with betting odds of the bunch. According to FanDuel, Priester is +4200 to take home the award while Rodriguez is +6500 — both major long shots.

For context, Cardinals third base prospect Jordan Walker and Diamondbacks outfielder Corbin Carroll are considered the favorites with +400 odds.

While the quartet of prospects face an uphill climb as it is unlikely any of the bunch will make the club’s Opening Day roster, there are a handful of Pirates’ prospects who have a shot to spend a full season in Pittsburgh.

Ji-hwan Bae is currently fighting for a spot on the roster and could end up as the starting second baseman to start the year. Outfielders Canaan Smith-Njigba and Travis Swaggerty are both looking to secure a spot in the Pirates’ outfield when the team breaks camp and heads north.

All three players received big league time in 2022, but their rookie eligibility remains in tact.

Time will tell if the Pirates will have a legitimate candidate for the award as the season marches on, but given where the Pirates are in their rebuild, there are certainly some possibilities.

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