Minors: Yesterday, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded away middle infield prospect Gift Ngoepe to the Toronto Blue Jays. However, there is still another Ngoepe in the organization.
The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Gift Ngoepe in 2008 out of South Africa. He, and the Pittsburgh Pirates, hoped that one-day Ngoepe would become the first African born player to make the big leagues. Obviously coming from Africa, where sports like soccer dominate, the Bucs were getting quite a raw player. However, they believed he showed enough tools at a showcase to give him a shot.
One thing was apparent right off the bat, his glove work was quite good. From pretty much the time he debuted in the organization through this past season, he was viewed as having the best glove in the system. The other thing that was apparent was that Ngoepe would have a long way to go with his bat if he wanted to make the bigs. One thing that did stand out offensively was that he came over as a switch hitter, teaching himself.
Minor League Numbers
Still, through his career, he managed just a .231 batting average with a .320 on-base percentage and a .351 slugging. Numbers like these are not very inspiring or what a team wants to see in a future big league player. Still, he had a good start in Triple-A this past season and with impressive glove work, he got the call to the big leagues.
Big League Debut
He came up and got a base hit in his first at-bat. The fanbase immediately fell in love with the undersize, energized, middle infielder, who had just made MLB history. However, after 28 games it became apparent that he would not be able to hit well enough at the big league level, at least in the short-term. He was sent back down to Triple-A where he went stone cold and finished the year batting .220.
During the roster crunch on the 40-man deadline, the Pittsburgh Pirates decided they would be better served to trade him for something rather than expose him to the Rule V draft. He would surely be picked up by a non-competitive team simply because of his glove. So with that, Gift Ngoepe’s Pittsburgh Pirates major league career ended. This leaves many fans somewhat disappointed after falling in love with him just months ago.
Well for fans who loved Gift, there is another Ngoepe in the system. Gift’s young brother Victor is currently in the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league system. Like his brother, Victor plays middle infield. He also is known for his glove, which makes sense as he likely grew up practicing with Gift. Victor currently is 19 years of age and played in the Gulf Coast League last year. He did appear in one Short-Season A Bristol game as well. Furthermore, he put up a very similar stats to what Gift has put up through the minors, batting .235/.305/.285.
He most likely will play either in Short-Season A ball or could get bumped up to Low-A West Virginia. If his glove is nearly as good as his brothers, and he can improve on his offense slightly, there is a chance that he could make it to the upper minors in a few years. Which in turn could give him a shot at making it to PNC Park and becoming the second African born player to make the big leagues. Let’s hope so because that was one of the coolest stories of the season last year.