Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Canaan Smith-Njigba Raking in the AFL


Outfield prospects Canaan Smith-Njigba has been turning heads in the Arizona Fall League showing why he could have a bright future with the Pittsburgh Pirates

Last offseason the Pittsburgh Pirates swung a five-player trade with the New York Yankees. In this trade the Pirates acquired four prospects from the Yankees, including left-handed hitting outfielder Canaan Smith-Njigba.

The 22-year-old Smith-Njigba started the 2021 season with Double-A Altoona and earned a promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis late in the season. This puts Smith-Njigba on the doorstep of the Majors and his play so far this fall has only appeared to speed up his timeline to reach the Majors.

With Altoona, Smith-Njigba hit for a .274/.398/.406 slash line to go with a 127 wRC+. Smith-Njigba hit 6 home runs, 11 doubles and he walked in 16.9% of his trips to the plate in 266 plate appearances.

While Smith-Njigba struggled in his 23 PAs at the Triple-A level, 23 PAs, obviously, is a small sample size. He was 2-for-21 with a pair of walks, no extra base hits and 9 strikeouts. He also picked up a pair of RBI with the Indians.

As a member of the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League, Smith-Njigba has looked like the hitter he was with Altoona and not the hitter he was with Indianapolis. Entering play on Thursday he had accumulated 61 PAs in 15 games played with the Javelinas. Smith-Njigba has hit for a .313/.459/.438 slash line with the Javelinas. He has hit 6 doubles, stolen 5 bases, drawn 12 walks (19.7% walk rate) and struck out 15 times (24.6%).

The high walk rate from Smith-Njigba is a positive sign. Throughout his minor league career he has been a player who excels at drawing walks and getting on base, so it is a positive to see it continue while facing improved pitching in the AFL.

Increased power from Smith-Njigba is a positive sign as well. His power has yet to develop the way one would hope in the minors, so a 10% extra base hit rate in the AFL is good to see. If Smith-Njigba can continue to get on base the way he does while mixing in increased power, he can be a very productive and valuable player at the Major League level for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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Smith-Njigba will begin the 2022 season back with Indianapolis. If he this well for Indy it will not be a surprise to see him make his MLB debut in 2022, especially since the National League will likely have the DH as part of baseball’s new CBA.