Sunday afternoon the nuclear winter continued for the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the third major trade of the offseason for the Bucs, they sent starting pitcher Jameson Taillon to the New York Yankees. In exchange for Taillon, the Pirates received four prospects.
One of the four prospects the Pittsburgh Pirates got in return for Taillon was outfielder Canaan Smith. The 21-year-old Smith was drafted in the 4th round, 122nd overall, by the Yankees in the 2017 draft. Now, the left-handed hitting outfielder is a member of the Pirate organization.
Smith’s most intriguing tool is his power. FanGraphs gives his game power a future value of 40 and his raw power a future value of 60. These were both factors in him starting the 2020 season as the Yankees’ 21st best prospect, according to FanGraphs.
During the 2019 season Smith played at the High-A level. In 124 games played he accumulated 528 plate appearances, hitting for a .307/.405/.465 slash line. He also posted a .158 isolate power and a 10.2% extra base hit rate.
It was at High-A in 2019 that Smith started to really flash the power he is touted to have. This led to him posting a 154 wRC+ at the High-A level. While he struck out 20.5% of the time, which is a bit higher than you would like to see, he walked at an outstanding 14.0%.
Any hitter having the eye and patience at the plate to walk at a 14.0% rate is impressive. A young slugger doing it at the age of 20 in their first taste of High-A? Well, that is just that much more impressive.
Due to a lack of a 2020 minor league season and the Yankees having a deep farm system, Smith was left without a home last season. He was at the team’s alternate training site, although there was certainly an argument to be made for him to be there.
Had there been a minor league season in 2020 Smith likely would have started at the Double-A level, and could have reached the Triple-A level. Smith’s ETA on FanGraphs is 2022, but it would not be a shock to see him play for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2021.
While there is some stiffness to Smith’s swing it is explosive and generates power. During the 2019 season he had a phenomenal exit velocity of 91 MPH, and 50% of the balls he connected with left his bat at 95+ MPH. He also comes from a great athletic family as his brother, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who is a former five-star high school football recruit and now a standout wide receiver for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Entering the season the Pirate outfield is a big question mark. Bryan Reynolds will be looking to bounce back in left field, no one knows who will be in center field and it’s now or never for Gregory Polanco in right field.
While Smith will likely start the 2021 season with Double-A Altoona, it would be great to see the Pittsburgh Pirates be aggressive and start him with Triple-A Indianapolis. Even if he starts at Double-A, he should be able reach Triple-A at some point during the season which would put him on the doorstep of the Major League level.