Pirates Name Minor League Slugger, Reliever, Baserunner and Defender-of-the-Year
The Pittsburgh Pirates today announced four more award winners as a continuation of the organization’s Young Bucs Award Week. Oneil Cruz has been named the organization’s Willie Stargell Slugger-of-the-Year. Enmanuel Mejia has been named the organization’s Kent Tekulve Reliever-of-the-Year. Lolo Sanchez has been named the organization’s Omar Moreno Baserunner-of-the-Year. Jared Triolo has been named the organization’s Bill Mazeroski Defender-of-the-Year.
The 23-year-old Cruz hit a combined .310 (84-for-271) with 16 doubles, five triples, 17 home runs, 47 RBI, 19 stolen bases, a .375 on-base percentage, .594 slugging percentage and .970 OPS in 68 games this past season between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis before making his big league debut on October 2.
Cruz entered the 2021 campaign rated by Baseball America as the “Best Power Hitter” in the Pirates minor league system along with being ranked as the No. 50 prospect in all of baseball. At the conclusion of the season, Cruz was also named as the shortstop on the Double-A Northeast League’s post-season All-Star team.
Cruz homered five times in his six games played with Indianapolis while becoming the first Indy player to go deep in four consecutive games since 2008.
The Pirates acquired Cruz from the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 31, 2017, in exchange for pitcher Tony Watson. Since the beginning of the 2018 season, Cruz is tied for the fourth-most home runs (37) and ranks fourth in total bases (453) among all shortstops in Minor League Baseball while also ranking seventh among all players at that position with 132 RBI.
Mejia, who took home Kent Tekulve Reliever-of-the-Year accolades, went a combined 5-2 with nine saves, a 0.42 ERA (42.2ip/2er), 53 strikeouts, .173 batting average against and 1.24 WHIP in 32 relief appearances between the Low-A Bradenton Marauders and High-A Greensboro Grasshoppers in 2021.
The 22-year-old Mejia began the year with Bradenton, where he went 4-1 with eight saves and four unearned runs allowed while also recording 35 strikeouts in 26.1 innings of work. At the conclusion of the season, the right-handed Mejia was also named to the Low-A Southeast League’s post-season All-Star team as a relief pitcher.
Mejia was promoted to High-A Greensboro on August 10 and posted a 1-1 record, one save, a 1.10 ERA (16.1ip/2er), 18 strikeouts and a .193 batting average against in 11 appearances while helping the Grasshoppers advance to the High-A East League championship series.
Mejia, who was signed by the Pirates as a non-drafted free agent on February 20, 2019, has now posted a combined 7-3 record with 16 saves, a 0.85 ERA (63.1ip/6er), 90 strikeouts and .161 batting average against in 50 career relief appearances between the Dominican Summer League Pirates, Bradenton and Greensboro.
The 2021 Omar Moreno Baserunner-of-the-Year Award winner, Sanchez, led all High-A East League players and the Pirates minor league system with 30 stolen bases while spending the entire season with Greensboro.
Sanchez hit .264 (96-for-364) with 18 doubles, 17 home runs, 58 RBI, 79 runs scored, 30 stolen bases, a .372 on-base percentage, .453 slugging percentage and .826 OPS in 104 games with the Grasshoppers. He ranked first in the High-A East League in runs scored and third among all players in the High-A East League in on-base percentage.
Sanchez was also one of just eight players in all of Minor League Baseball to hit at least 17 home runs and steal at least 30 bases this past season.
The 23-year-old Triolo was named the Bill Mazeroski Defender-of-the-Year after leading all High-A East League third basemen in fielding percentage (.961), games played (102), assists (163), putouts (81), total chances (254) and innings played (897.0) while spending the entire season with Greensboro. Triolo’s .961 fielding percentage also led all qualified third basemen in Minor League Baseball.
Triolo led the High-A East League in hits (128) and doubles (29), tied for the league lead in total bases (202), ranked second in batting average (.304), third in RBI (78), fourth in OBP (.369), tied for sixth in extra base hits (44), sixth in stolen bases (25), seventh in OPS (.849) and 10th in slugging (.480). Triolo also led all third basemen in Minor League Baseball with 75 RBI at that position (the next closest third baseman had 66 RBI) while also pacing all players at that position in the minors in total bases (196). He was also named as the third baseman for the High-A East League’s post-season All-Star team at the conclusion of the 2021 season.
The Pirates drafted Triolo 72nd overall with the Competitive Balance “B” round selection in the 2019 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Houston.