Canaan Smith-Njigba

Born: April 30, 1999
Height: 6’0″
Weight: 215
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Drafted: 4th Round, 122nd Overall, 2017 (Yankees)
How Acquired: Trade (from Yankees for Jameson Taillon)
High School: Rockwall Heath (TX) HS
Agent: N/A

A high school quarterback, Smith-Njigba is athletic and has a very good eye at the plate.  He’s a stocky player who’s very strong and has good bat speed, but much of his career has been a wait for the power to show up.  The patience is a quality he cultivated in high school, when opponents rarely pitched to him.  He steps in the bucket on his swing, which may account for consistently bad numbers against LHPs.  He hits the ball very hard, but the problem has been an extremely high groundball rate, which is why the power hasn’t shown up.  He’s strictly a left fielder.  He runs well enough under way — he’s even shown some base stealing ability — but he’s below average in the outfield, with a fringy arm.  The Pirates acquired Smith-Njigba in the Jameson Taillon trade.

R:  289/430/422, 187 AB, 10 2B, 5 HR, 46 BB, 44 K, 5-8 SB

Smith-Njigba had a good debut, showing some power and a lot of patience.  He had a very big platoon split.

A-:  191/281/316, 152 AB, 8 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 19 BB, 52 K

The Yankees moved Smith-Njigba up only to the New York-Penn League and he had a very rough time there.

A:  307/405/465, 449 AB, 32 2B, 3 3B, 11 HR, 72 BB, 108 K, 16-20 SB

Smith-Njigba had a breakout season in the South Atlantic League, still playing at just age 20.  He got on base a lot, hit for power and did well stealing bases.  He again had a very large platoon split.


AA:  274/398/406, 219 AB, 11 2B, 6 HR, 45 BB, 66 K, 13-14 SB
AAA:  095/174/095, 21 AB, 2 BB, 9 K

The Pirates pushed Smith-Njigba to Altoona.  He showed excellent plate discipline there but didn’t hit for a lot of power, as he had an extremely high groundball rate.  The Altoona ballpark seems to have played a role; he had a .690 OPS there and .823 on the road.  He had a mild platoon split, although he hit for no power at all against LHPs.  Smith-Njigba  missed nearly half the season with leg injuries.  The Pirates moved him up to Indianapolis after the AA season ended and he struggled in seven games there.  He played left field almost exclusively.  After the season, the Pirates added him to the 40-man roster.

AAA:  277/387/408, 184 AB, 15 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 33 BB, 52 K, 8-11 SB
MLB:  200/429/400, 5 AB, 1 2B, 1 BB

Smith-Njigba had another season disrupted by injury.  Through mid-June, he played mostly in the outfield corners for Indianapolis, although he also started seven times in center.  He hit well without breaking out, as he didn’t show much power.  He improved steadily and showed very good patience, although he also struck out a lot for a guy who hit only one home run.  LHPs held him to a  .594 OPS.  The Pirates called him up and he got into three games, then went out for the year with a fractured wrist.

Injuries have hampered Smith-Njigba in making his mark with the Pirates.  Other prospects, most notably Jack Suwinski and Cal Mitchell, got extended looks while he was hurt in 2023.  There’s the added problem that the team is heavy with left-handed hitting outfielders, and Smith-Njigba struggles with LHPs.  As it turned out, Smith-Njigba had a big spring and made the opening day roster.  Hopefully, he’ll stay healthy and get enough playing time to justify the team’s belief in his combination of patience and (untapped) raw power.

2023: Major league minimum
Signing Bonus: $497,500
MiLB Debut: 2017
MLB Debut: 6/14/2022
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2027
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 11/19/2021
Options Remaining: 2 (USED:  2022)
MLB Service Time: 0.115
June 13, 2017: Drafted by the New York Yankees in the 4th round, 122nd overall pick; signed on June 17.
January 24, 2021: Traded by the New York Yankees with Miguel Yajure, Roansy Contreras and Maikol Escotto to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jameson Taillon.
November 19, 2021: Contract purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates.