The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed infielder Gift Ngoepe to a minor league deal. Ngoepe was with the Philadelphia Phillies this season, playing for Triple-A Lehigh Valley, before being released six days ago. He was hitting .221/.296/.410 through 41 games at the time.
The 29-year-old Ngoepe spent his first nine seasons of pro ball with the Pirates, making it to the majors in 2017, as the first African-born player to reach the highest level. He hit .222/.323/.296 in 28 games with the Pirates in 2017. He was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays prior to the 2018 season and went 1-for-18 in 13 games, spending most of the year in Triple-A before being released in mid-August. He signed a minor league free agent deal with the Phillies back in January.
Ngoepe will provide minor league depth, which has been tested recently with injuries to Ke’Bryan Hayes, Pablo Reyes and Jake Elmore. Hunter Owen left Monday’s game early after a hit-by-pitch near his wrist, so that might be something to watch as well. Ngoepe is a plus defender at shortstop, who always plays well at third base and second base. He has above average speed and some power in his bat, but has always been held back by his strikeouts. More than half of his Major League at-bats have ended in strikeouts, so his real value to a team is as a bench player with the strong defense, speed and some versatility. His younger brother Victor Ngoepe is currently with Morgantown. The older Ngoepe will start off with Altoona.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.