We continue to recap the 2021 season for top Pittsburgh Pirates prospects by examining the season that was for another player acquired in the Jameson Taillon trade – outfielder Canaan Smith-Njigba
On Wednesday we started to recap the 2021 season for some of the top prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system. The first player we took a look at was infielder Maikol Escotto who spent the season with Low-A Bradenton.
Next up is another player that was acquired along with Escotto from the New York Yankees in the Jameson Taillon trade. This player is 22-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder Canaan Smith-Njigba.
According to FanGraphs, Smith-Njigba ranks as the 19th best prospect that the Pittsburgh Pirates have. FanGraphs gives his raw power a future value (FV) of 60, to go with a 35 hit tool, and aFV of 40 in both fielding and speed. Overall, his FV on FanGrpahs is 40+, which indicates that FanGraphs projects his long-term ceiling as a solid bench/platoon player. However, with his power and on-base ability the potential is certainly there for Smith-Njigba to be more than that at the Major League level.
Smith-Njigba accumulated 266 plate appearances in 66 games with the Curve. In these 266 PAs he hit for a .274/.398/.406 slash line to go with a 127 wRC+ and 6 home runs. While his 24.8% strikeout rate was a new career high, his 16.9% walk rate was borderline elite and his best since he was in rookie ball during the 2017 season.
This performance at Altoona earned Smith-Njigba a late September promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis. In his first taste of Triple-A ball, Smith-Njigba had 23 PAs in 7 games with the Indians.
Now, obviously, 23 PAs is a small sample size and what mattered most was getting Smith-Njigba his first taste of pitching at the Triple-A leave. But in these 23 PAs he struggled to the tune of a 0.95/.174/.095 slash line. He was just 2-for-21, with both hits being singles, with a pair of walks during his September call up to Triple-A. He also struck out 9 times (39.1%) while with the Indians.
Again, the struggles should be taken with a grain of salt due to how small of a sample size it was. What was most important was just getting Smith-Njigba his first taste of the next level and getting him on the door step of the Majors.
This offseason Smith-Njigba will get to refine his skills further by playing in the Arizona Fall League. In fact, he kicked off AFL action on Wednesday by going 1-for-3 with a double and pair of walks to kick off the AFL season.
Smith-Njigba will begin the 2022 season back in Indianapolis. If he can improve over his offensive struggles, that, again, came in a small sample size in September, he should be able to play his way into a potential MLB call up during the season.