Pittsburgh Pirates: Three Prospects to Watch Early in 2023

ST LOUIS, MO - JUNE 14: Canaan Smith-Njigba #28 of the Pittsburgh Pirates against the St. Louis Cardinals during game one of a doubleheader at Busch Stadium on June 14, 2022 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - JUNE 14: Canaan Smith-Njigba #28 of the Pittsburgh Pirates against the St. Louis Cardinals during game one of a doubleheader at Busch Stadium on June 14, 2022 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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ST LOUIS, MO – JUNE 14: Canaan Smith-Njigba #28 of the Pittsburgh Pirates against the St. Louis Cardinals during game one of a doubleheader at Busch Stadium on June 14, 2022 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO – JUNE 14: Canaan Smith-Njigba #28 of the Pittsburgh Pirates against the St. Louis Cardinals during game one of a doubleheader at Busch Stadium on June 14, 2022 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

Outfielder Canaan Smith-Njigba

Had it not been for a broken wrist, Canaan Smith-Njigba might not have been on this list. Smith-Njigba made his major league debut early into the 2022 season. However, a collision left him with a fractured wrist and out for the remainder of the year. But if he’s back to full strength at the start of next year, Smith-Njigba might make the roster as an LF/DH option.

Before Smith-Njigba reached the major leagues, the outfield prospect looked very good at Triple-A. In 218 plate appearances, the prospect hit .277/.387/.408 with a .363 wOBA and 118 wRC+. His 23.9% strikeout rate wasn’t great, but he’s always drawn a ton of walks. Smith-Njigba had a 15.1% walk rate, making it the third year in a row he’s had a 14%+ walk rate. However, despite his strong raw power, he had a .130 slugging percentage and just a single home run.

Defensively, Smith-Njigba isn’t great, but he has playing time at all three outfield spots. While he’s not a fast runner, he is a smart runner with an 84% stolen base success rate in 25 attempts. Smith-Njigba has a ton of raw power, grading out at 60, but he’s consistently had trouble lifting the ball. In both 2021 and 2022, he had a ground ball rate well above 50%.

Next. Pirates Add LHP in Rule 5 Draft. dark

Next year will be the outfielder’s age-23 campaign. Even in the event Bryan Reynolds is not traded, he could be in competition with Cal Mitchell for corner outfield/designated hitter duty. The offensive ceiling for Smith-Njigba is relatively high, and the Pittsburgh Pirates likely would have given him an extended look in 2022.

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