The 2022 season could see outfield prospect Canaan Smith-Njigba make his Major League debut for the Pittsburgh Pirates
Prior to the start of Major League Baseball’s work stoppage the Pittsburgh Pirates protected for prospects from the Rule 5 Draft. In case you missed it, the Rule 5 Draft is still expected to occur after the work stoppage ends.
One of the four prospects the Pittsburgh Pirates protected was outfielder Canaan Smith-Njigba. The left-handed hitting Smith-Njigba was acquired by the Pirates last offseason in the Jameson Taillon trade. He is also the older brother of stud Ohio State wide receiver, and Rose Bowl star, Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
Smith-Njigba spent the majority of the 2021 season with the Double-A Altoona Curve. With Altoona, Smith-Njigba hit for a .274/.398/.406 slash line to go with a 127 wRC+. He accumulated 266 plate appearances in 66 games for the Curve, walking in 16.9% of his trips to the plate while striking out 24.8% of the time.
The best trait Smith-Njigba displayed at Altoona was his ability to get on base. A 16.9% walk rate is a well above average walk rate. While he posted just a .132 isolate slugging (ISO), he is a hitter who is expected to develop power down the road, with a raw power future value of 60 via FanGraphs.
Smith-Njigba finished the season with Triple-A Indianapolis. While it came in just 23 PAs in 7 games played, Smith-Njigba hit for just a .095/.174/.095 slash line to go with a -24 wRC+ with the Indians. However, Smith-Njigba bounced back with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League posting a .452 on-base percentage and a .908 OPS in 73 PAs.
So, what does the 2022 season hold for Smith-Njigba?
First and foremost, he will start the season back with Indianapolis. With the Pirates having plenty of questions about their corner outfield positions there should be opportunity available for Smith-Njigba during the 2022 season.
Odds are, Smith-Njigba will make his MLB debut at some point during the 2022 season. Again, the Pirates have plenty of questions about their outfield situation entering 2022 which should open the door for Smith-Njigba if he plays well at Triple-A.
Furthermore, the National League will almost assuredly have the designated hitter in 2022 as part of the new CBA. The designated hitter is another position that could fit Smith-Njigba as he is a prospect that is best known for his bat, with his defense being the big question mark about his game.
Regardless of how things shake out, Smith-Njigba should make his MLB debut at some point during the 2022 season. Smith-Njigba’s future at the Major League level may be that of a fourth outfielder, or potentially a solid DH, either way, fans should get their first taste of him in the Majors in 2022.