Pirates Prospects Daily: Canaan Smith-Njigba and the Pirates Outfield

The outfield picture was already a crowded one, and the Pittsburgh Pirates added to it late in the season/offseason, claiming Miguel Andujar and Ryan Vilade off of waivers.

With so many names in the hat, someone is going to have to do something to stand out from the rest of the crowd.

A good way to stand out is to be able to do something that helps improve the major league team, and one of the things that they struggled at the most was scoring runs. The Pirates scored the fourth fewest runs in the majors last year, so that will be a big factor in whether they are going to be able to improve or not.

One of the best ways to put your team in a position to score more runs is to get on base, and that is something that Canaan Smith-Njigba has always been good at. The outfielder was a part of the Jameson Taillon trade, and after taking a look at the 2021 Altoona Curve roster, it was probably easy to overlook Smith-Njigba.

Regardless, the former fourth round pick by the Yankees has put together a solid run in the two years in the Pirates system, drawing walks 15.7% of the times he comes to the plate.

While playing in Indianapolis before getting called up, Smith-Njigba strung together a 28-game on-base streak before a pinch-hitting appearance broke it up. Despite his season being cut short with a fractured right wrist, he still finished third in the system in walk rate, as well as 14th in wRC+.

He was called up for a double-header against the St. Louis Cardinals, where he picked up his first big league hit, but was also injured later in the day and ended up missing the rest of the season.

How the Pirates plan their outfield for the 2023 season will be interesting, as they have eight outfielders currently on the 40-man roster. A good portion will be sent back to Indianapolis, but outside of Bryan Reynolds and Jack Suwinski, there aren’t a lot of guarantees when it comes to who will make the majors.

Smith-Njigba isn’t a big power hitter, but he walks a lot and doesn’t strike out — two parts of the game the Pirates need to improve on. Not only did they score the fourth fewest runs, they also finished in the bottom half in walks and struck out the third most times last year, so his presence could help improve the lineup.

Highlight of the Day

Pirates Prospects Daily

By Tim Williams

**Last week was a busy week for the Pirates, with two pitchers added, the first overall pick in the 2023 MLB draft, and the Rule 5 results. I recapped everything in First Pitch this week.

**According to Jason Mackey of the Post-Gazette, the Pirates are re-signing catcher Tyler Heineman. The Pirates have almost no catching depth for Opening Day, and they can’t rely on Endy Rodriguez to be their depth throughout the season. Heineman makes sense to boost that depth.

**John Dreker has the latest Pirates winter league report, where two Pirates homered in Australia, and a brawl took place in Colombia.

**Missed yesterday? Anthony looked at the current strengths of the Pirates’ system.

Song of the Day

Pirates Prospects Weekly

Last week was a busy one on the site. To make sure you didn’t miss anything, I recapped everything in First Pitch.

First Pitch: The First Overall Pick, Two Pitchers, and Other Pirates News

We will have our article drop on Tuesday afternoon, focusing on the Pirates’ bullpen.

Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Mblee24

Off topic but I’ve been watching some Dylan crews interviews and highlights. The guy seems like a star. I am hoping he is the first pick. It will be fun having crews and cruz leading the team in a few years. Kind of like Pickett and Pickens.

In a few years we could see a Cruz, Crews, Johnson, Davis, Rodriguez, Gonzales, and Hayes lineup that m projects as a really good lineup. A man can dream right?

HeyFred

Maybe we can turn one of these surplus outfielders into, I dunno, William f-ing Contreras and two other guys?

Y2JGQ2

okay….he walks alot and doesn’t strike out………..against minor league pitching. That doesn’t hold up very often as bat speed and pitch recognition are a whole different level.

joesolo6181

So now to help the Pirates you need a high walk rate to let them score runs. The thing missing is the players that hit in order to score those runs. Smith is another in a long list of Pirate prospects that can do one or more things well but do not have an entire package of things that they can do consistently well.

Wabbit_Season

fair

PirateRican21

We have several players for the infield and outfield and other than Cruz (potential) no one should be a lock and this is a problem, the signing of two veterans that essentially are the same, takes away the DH spot. All we could hope is that two, not one, but two players claim a spot in the outfield and infield. My wish is that Swaggerty claims the CF spot and Bae the 2b spot out of ST. Their defense and speed could really improve this team if they do. That will leave Castro as the super utility and one of Mitchell, CSN and Andujar as the 4th outfielder.

Wabbit_Season

PR21

This sounds pretty good. I like Bae a lot and see him as an obp guy with a little pop. Like Castro too, though. I hear Swags’ D is good but I don’t know what’s holding him back. I really like CSN and think he can be a good average MLB player if he takes a step forward. I can see him easily as a 4th OF. CSN (puts on moneyball voice) “gets on base.” Loved him in Altoona.

Mitchell could take that step forward too.

In this group, I think management has set up a competition to be won by the guy who DOES improve, setting up a reward for the guy who earns it.

“Woulds’t though, oh Hassan, like all of this treasure for thy very own?”

-Wabbit

leefieux

Slightly off topic, but if we trade Reynolds and get a return on him like the A’s got for Murphy, I might give up being a Pirate fan.

AdministrativeSky236

I still cant believe that trade happened

PirateRican21

Don’t set that line on the sand. I’ve done it and then came back with my tail between my legs!

James_Robert5

So true

leefieux

Was your sand warm? Or was it a northern beach? 🤔🤔

PirateRican21

California sand….I’ve lived all over San Diego and Southern California the last couple of decades. I go to Padres, Dodgers and Angels game, so after getting my fandom destroyed by Nuttin and Co. I offen ask my self why not adapt one of the local teams……can’t do it!

leefieux

Understand. Where I live I get Phil’s, O’s and Nats game for ‘free’. I have to pay extra to listen to the horrid Joe Block announce this terrible team. I must be nuts??

Wabbit_Season

can affirm last sentence

leefieux

Glass houses, buddy. 😸😸😹😹

leefieux

Our OF may be ‘crowded’, if you’re just counting bodies. 🫣🫣

AM…..How good of a fielder is CSN.?

PirateRican21

Not very, could very well be why he hurt himself. He reminds me of Josh Bell a bit, walks a lot, has power but doesn’t seem to know how to pull the ball, Bell had several transformations and change to what he is today, if CSN ever gets to his power, or just pull a few more balls without sacrificing anything else he might be a regular.

leefieux

CSN seemingly has very little power, per his MiLB stats. So, if he can’t field, I can’t see him being more than 5th OF’er material.

PirateRican21

He’s like Hayes, able to hit the ball hard, but mostly on the ground and the opposite field. So like Hayes he has shitty power stats.

leefieux

Unlike Hayes, he can’t field well, tho.

SouthernBuc

Some wishes / observations.

1) I don’t want our young players tagged as platoon players. It is easy to see some simple platoons but I hate to see that strictly done YET: RH – Andujar/Vilade LH – Suwinski/Mitchell/Smith-Njigba/Swags – obviously they can’t all be in the majors but I want the LH to face some LH pitchers etc.

2) Am I the only one that does not think Suwinski should be a lock? Favored – yes. I just have clear memories of him looking really bad and only a very small sample of recovery late in the year. I’m not saying he has to hit .400 in the spring, but if he looks like he did the 2nd half of the year, some time in AAA might be good for him – there are options!

3) Mitchell raked in AAA and I don’t see a real purpose in him going back. He may be a AAAA guy but let’s give him a real run. DH role can be an option.

4) Bae (see Mitchell) needs a regular run (I define that over a week as 4 starts).

5) Over a ten game span it is easy to get (non-platoon) playing time across OF and DH for 4 outfielders other than Reynolds. That’s 30 starts with some DH spots being lost to IFs. Assume 24 starts available that is 6 starts in 10 games for each of them. Keeps you fresh, nobody rots on the bench, and gives each player a somewhat even shot at proving themselves but also a spirit of competition.

leefieux

Agree on Suwinski and also with 3 & 4. Not sue about 1&5.

DangerWilRobnsn

I’m sure there’s another Josh Van Meter out there waiting to soak up AB’s for 120 games or so before being DFA’d while Smith-Njigba spends 2023 mostly earning frequent flyer miles between Pittsburgh and Indy.

b mcferren

sad face

Cobra

Yes I predict one frustrating part of the upcoming season will be watching Shelton try to “mix & match” with a new lineup every day — regardless of performance —- making it challenging for guys like Bae, Andujar, Castillo, Smith-Njigba to get going with regular ABs

Last edited 1 month ago by Cobra
ArkyWags

It’s crazy to lump all of those guys together, but even crazier to think they’re all stars in the making if they just got a chance. Andujar is neither good nor young. He’ll turn 28 in March, and he last posted a positive WAR in 2018! Castillo got 300 at bats and basically lost any sense of plate discipline he had in the minors. Do we really need a full season of plate appearances to wonder if he’s got anymore in there?
Bae and CSN are a bit different. They’re both roughly two years younger than Castillo, and Bae at least showed something in a small sample size last year. CSN has a great approach but zero power for some reason, thereby proving that bad things can come in big packages.
Like it or not most of these guys are the definition of fringe prospects. Which means that when they get their chances, they’ve gotta perform immediately. That’s the way it is.

Last edited 1 month ago by ArkyWags
Catch_22

My God guys. What ever happened to earning playing time?

None of these guys are top prospects. Giving regular ABs to Castillo? CSN? These guys should be in AAA and used as depth. This is year 4 of the rebuild

Y2JGQ2

Castillo hit enough homers to have 20 hr over a full season- .210 or not, that’s not a AAA player in the middle infield.

NMR

The Year is 2026, the Pirates are in Year 7 of the rebuild, Steve Cohen has a $500m payroll, and the board is apoplectic that Sergio Camapana hasn’t been handed 500 straight at bats to “see what we’ve got”.

PirateRican21

I don’t like your crystal ball, it’s a little too accurate…..

Catch_22

“Bat him 3rd and play him everyday”

NMR

“Make” it challenging?

What in the hell do we expect them to do when they actually start trying to win baseball games? Gas entire positions in order to baby along mediocre prospects with “regular ABs”, whatever that even means?

It’s been so long since we’ve seen real baseball that we’ve forgotten how the game works.

Last edited 1 month ago by NMR
Zack

That or throwing Castro out in the outfield instead of calling up an actual outfielder!

leefieux

Don’ forget Castillo!

MB21

… one of the things that they struggled at the most was scoring runs. The Pirates scored the fourth fewest runs in the majors last year, so that will be a big factor in whether they are going to be able to improve or not.”

Obviously, this is what made the team so awful not only in its record but so awful to watch. If a team can score, the games could still be interesting. For three years now I have kept telling myself, “surely it can’t get any worse,” but with last year’s roster of has-beens, never-was, post-post-prospects, and other team’s scrum on the field, it wasn’t true.

“There’s always next year.” I hope this “next year”‘s version doesn’t strike out so much. I long for fewer strikeouts, more stolen bases (in part, because there are actually baserunners), and <gasp> more runs! Here’s for hoping!

Y2JGQ2

The second half of the year with Cruz up and Castro hitting- it was not hard to watch.

Zack

Is Canaan capable of playing all three positions well? It is hard to envision him breaking camp with the Pirates, but I hope he gets an early shot.

ericgaumann

The vast majority of his games in the minors were spent in LF. Haven’t seen him play so that’s all I can add.

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