The Pittsburgh Pirates will get these three prospects back from the injured list next season and could play a key role for them.
Injuries are an unavoidable part of every sport, unfortunately. Key players and young prospects can miss significant blocks of time because of injuries. The Pittsburgh Pirates have seen their fair share of injuries this season, especially to some young prospects.
But many of those young prospects will return next season. Some may even return to play an essential role in the major league roster. The most significant addition for 2023 may possibly even be a prospect returning from the injured list. Of course, not every injured prospect is going to return and be thrust into the major leagues, but they could still be part of the team’s future, nonetheless.
Outfielder Canaan Smith-Njigba
When the Pittsburgh Pirates were struggling to find decent outfielders early in the year, Canaan Smith-Njigba looked like he may potentially solve the issue. Acquired in the Jameson Taillon swap, Smith-Njigba had followed up his quality 2021 campaign with decent numbers at Triple-A.
Through 218 plate appearances for Indy, Smith-Njigba batted .277/.387/.408 with a .363 wOBA and 118 wRC+. Smith-Njigba displayed his trademark high-end patience at the plate with a 15.1% walk rate while cutting his strikeout rate down from 24.8% in 2021 with Altoona to 23.9% this year. But he had just a .130 isolated slugging percentage. A lack of fly balls and a ground ball rate of 52.8% limited his power potential.
While his numbers may not reflect it, Smith-Njigba has excellent power potential. He has 60-grade raw power and had a 93.3 MPH exit velocity in his brief major league stint. He needs to elevate the ball more, but if he can do that, there’s a potential 30 home run hitter within the outfield prospect. Even if he bats .240 or .250, he draws more than enough walks that he could have a .350+ OBP.
In the three games and seven plate appearances Smith-Njigba received in the major leagues before his injury, he collected one hit, and one walk with five total batted ball events with an average exit velo of 93.3 MPH. One of those hits was a barrel, which means it had an ideal exit velocity and launch angle.
Unfortunately, Smith-Njigba suffered a wrist fracture in June, eliminating him for the remainder of the 2022 campaign. The outfielder is slated to make his return in 2023 and could quickly slot into an outfield spot or designated hitter. Smith-Njigba will likely compete with Travis Swaggerty, Ji-Hwan Bae, Cal Mitchell, and Jack Suwinski for regular playing time between the corner outfield spots and designated hitter.