Pirates DVR: Canaan Smith-Njigba Home Run, Javier Rivas Hit, Oneil Cruz Double

Welcome to the Pirates Prospects daily video rundown, where we pull some of the top videos of the Pittsburgh Pirates across the internet. 

Canaan Smith-Njigba

What better way to celebrate making the Opening Day roster than to flex some of that power that put him in that position to breaking camp with the Major League team.

Smith-Njigba launched this three-run home run to temporarily give the Pirates a lead.

Javier Rivas

The infielder had a really strong season in the FCL last year, and he’s a breakout candidate for the upcoming season when it comes to lower level players. He got a taste of a Major League game on Tuesday, picking up a base hit.

He flexed even more of his power potential in a minor league scrimmage game on Monday.

Oneil Cruz

With the regular season getting ready to begin and the regulars start to play a lot more, we can expect even more of this.

Pirate City Notes: Henry Davis Gets Work in Right Field


BRADENTON, Fla. – The Pittsburgh Pirates will be giving Henry Davis and Endy Rodriguez plenty of playing time behind the plate this year.

Rodriguez, the system’s Player of the Year last season, will begin in Triple-A Indianapolis. Other than MLB’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, I don’t think there’s much holding Rodriguez back from the majors.

Davis, the first overall pick in the 2021 draft, will return to Double-A Altoona, where he played 31 games in an injury-shortened season. Davis caught 20 games in Altoona last season, after 13 in Greensboro. He made up for lost time with 14 games behind the plate in the Arizona Fall League.

I wrote in Baseball America last month about all of the things that Davis has learned behind the plate. The Pirates will be giving him about four starts a week behind the plate. Davis will also get time in right field, where he was playing today at Pirate City in a Double-A Spring Training game against the Orioles.

Davis looked good on the field today. His reactions were quick, his instincts were solid, and his arm really plays in the outfield. On one play, Davis made a nice read off the wall on a double. A strong throw to the cutoff man held the runner at second, rather than giving him a chance to advance to third with no outs. The next two at-bats were a fly out and a ground out to the left side. Either one would have scored the runner, who ended up getting stranded at third.

The Pirates have a chance to do something special with Davis and Rodriguez. As I wrote at the end of last year, I think Rodriguez is more likely to be the starting catcher in Pittsburgh. He’s already the better defender behind the plate. That doesn’t mean the Pirates need to go with a traditional solo starter.

Rodriguez has worked a lot the last two years at second base, while Davis has had limited time in right. He played two games in Altoona last year, and looked good enough in right field today to be considered a future MLB option there.

The Pirates could get creative and have both players as catchers in the big leagues. Before dreaming about that, Davis will need work behind the plate, which he’s slated to get plenty of in Altoona.

Shim Throws a Side

Jun-Seok Shim threw his first side session today, after signing with the Pirates out of South Korea at the end of January. Shim has been hitting triple-digits and getting a lot of praise for his mid-90s fastball at the age of 18.

While I was talking with Pirates farm director John Baker today, he relayed a popular opinion that has been shared: If Shim was a senior in high school, he’d be a candidate to go first overall in the upcoming draft.

Of course, the Pirates have the first overall pick. They also have Shim. Best of both worlds.

Solometo’s Velocity Increase

Pirates left-handed pitcher Anthony Solometo has been hitting 96 MPH with his fastball in camp, seeing a jump from his low-90s last year.

“We didn’t anticipate it, but that’s been exciting to see him filling up the strike zone,” said Baker of the jump.

Solometo was drafted in the second round of the 2021 draft, as one of the big bonus prep players behind Henry Davis. Making his debut in Bradenton last year, Solometo posted a 2.64 ERA in 47.2 innings, with a 51:19 K/BB ratio.

Greensboro is a very hitter-friendly park, and it will be interesting to see how that impacts a pitcher who has a funky delivery and now increased velocity.

Pirates Pitching Prospects Who Could Take A Big Step Forward In 2023

Carmen Mlodzinski Embraces Bullpen Role

Carmen Mlodzinski is making the move to the bullpen this year, and has looked good in the process.

“I’m really proud of Carmen Mlodzinski,” said Baker. “Moving to a bullpen role and really embracing who he is as a pitcher. He did a lot of work on his own, came back this year, looked great, had a great showing in Major League Spring Training.”

During his time in MLB camp, the 31st overall pick in the 2020 draft had a 2.84 ERA in six appearances, striking out six and walking four. Mlodzinski will go to Indianapolis, where a strong performance will put him a phone call away from the majors.

Pirates Make Two More Cuts to the Spring Roster


The Pittsburgh Pirates announced on Tuesday afternoon that they have optioned right-handed pitcher Yerry De Los Santos to Indianapolis. They have also reassigned catcher Tyler Heineman to minor league camp. We heard earlier today that catcher Jason Delay, IF/OF Ji-hwan Bae and outfielder Canaan Smith-Njigba were all making the Opening Day roster

The 25-year-old De Los Santos had a 4.91 ERA, a 1.29 WHIP and 26 strikeouts in 25.2 innings as a rookie for the 2022 Pirates. He allowed four runs over eight innings this spring, with eight hits, three walks and five strikeouts. He was vying for the final bullpen spot.

Heineman lost out the backup catching spot to Jason Delay, though he will likely see big league time at some point this year. Heineman hit .136/.208/.182 this spring in 24 plate appearances. He had a .531 OPS in 52 games for the 2022 Pirates, though his defense pushed him to 0.1 WAR for the season.

The active roster now sits at 29. Catcher Kevin Plawecki was still part of the active roster count prior to today, though he hasn’t been with the team for a week. He had an opt out clause if he wasn’t going to make the Opening Day roster.

Opening Day is Thursday. Pirates are off tomorrow.

Final Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training Observations


With the Spring Training schedule finally coming to a close, the long marathon of a regular season is set to begin on Thursday against the Cincinnati Reds. 

As we close the books on Grapefruit League play, here are some final observations when it comes to the 2023 Spring season.

JT Brubaker, And The Importance Of Depth

I’ve already mentioned it once, and I will probably say it again this season, but with the baseball schedule being a marathon, depth is absolutely critical if you are going to get through all 162 games.

One of the standouts this spring was JT Brubaker, especially the amount of strikeouts he was getting. There was some hard hit balls still, yes, but it looked like the stuff was really starting to come together.

Unfortunately news came out that he would start the year on the Injured List due to elbow and forearm discomfort, which is always a scary reason to miss time for a pitcher. Hopefully it is a precautionary thing to make sure he can make it through the entire major league season.

It also highlights the importance of depth, especially on the pitching side. There were a lot that were upset about Johan Oviedo, and to an extent Luis Ortiz, potentially not making the major league roster, especially because it was a direct result of Vince Velasquez being signed.

The Pirates did the right thing in that, even if it doesn’t work out for Velasquez. There was no way they would only need the five original starters, and it gave some added development time for Oviedo and Ortiz, among others, who still have a few things they could have ironed out before taking on a full-time major league rotation spot.

Jack Suwinski Needs To Leave Spring Results In Florida

Spring Training is fun in the sense that we haven’t seen baseball in a few months, and a lot of the players are coming in with something new they’ve been working on and we get to see it for the first time.

Jack Suwinski came into camp with a new batting stance, but got a lot of the same results in the game. The 19-home runs were nice last year, and seems to be a big reason why his roster spot was basically secured, but weren’t really backed up by a lot of analytics. He also had a growing strikeout concern to the point he finished the season with a 30.6% strikeout rate.

Even going to Indianapolis didn’t do much, because he struck out 37.7% of the time there too. That’s carried over into spring, with him striking out 23-times in 50-plate appearances. Maybe spring stats don’t mean much, but I’d be more willing to buy into a swing and miss issue that was existent the previous year, over someone who is flashing more than their usual amount of power.

He’s a strong defender, although some of that value gets lost playing center. Despite the strikeouts, he still was able to hit plenty over the fence.

I’m just not sure hitting a home run and then looking lost over the next couple of days will be enough to keep his job going into the season.

Bullpen Still Has Question Marks

The bullpen has plenty of options to go with this upcoming season, but you would have liked to see someone step up and really grab ahold of a late inning role going into the season. 

Jarlin Garcia would have been one of them, but there’s no time table when he will return. Jose Hernandez has shown flashes, but might need to be sheltered a bit early on in the season as he grows his sea-legs. 

He may have started the spring on the outside looking in, but Dauri Moreta has really looked good this spring, and even if he doesn’t make the club originally, he could be one of the first options.

Pitching may be the side of things where stats may mean the least, shorter outings and small sample sizes mainly why, but there was just so much hard contact allowed throughout sprint. 

For the sake of not burning out David Bednar for the second straight year, hopefully the results were due on the bullpen working on something new or something they’ve previously struggled with.

Final Thoughts

Some more rapid fire thoughts as spring closes up;

— Catching is the one position maybe where defense still beats out offensive production. That defense has to grade out high enough to make up for that drop off though, and not sure at this moment it is.

Travis Swaggerty not making the roster had to be a gut punch for a lot of people, especially with the lack of a ‘true’ center fielder on the current roster. Between his performance in spring, along with his better-than-it-looks 2022 in Indianapolis, I get the feeling we see him sooner than later, and could still be among the plate appearances leaders on the team by the end of the season.

— Health seems like the last obstacle for Ke’Bryan Hayes, and if he stays healthy, and keeps pulling the ball the way he’s been in spring, this could be the season for him. 

Canaan Smith-Njigba Showing Complete Hitting Ability This Spring

While it’s not always in the hands of the player, if there is one guy who did absolutely everything in his power to try and force his way into some playing time at the major league level, it’s been Canaan Smith-Njigba.

Acquired in the Jameson Taillon trade, Smith-Njigba spent the majority of the 2021 season in Double-A with the Altoona Curve, getting a brief look in Triple-A towards the end of the schedule. 

After being added to the 40-man before the 2022 season, he began the year in Indianapolis, raking to a tune of .277/.387/.408, with a wRC+ of 118 in 52 games. He was an on-base machine, and despite not showing power in the traditional sense, was driving the ball very hard off the bat.

He made his major league debut later on, playing in three games — and picking up his first career hit — before a wrist injury forced him to miss the rest of the season.

Coming into spring, it seemed there was a general idea of who might make up the outfield to start the season, with maybe a lone spot up for grabs when it’s all said and done.

Smith-Njigba has been one of the standouts in spring, batting .326/.404/.522 in 46 at-bats entering the last day of exhibition games, picking up five extra-base hits (two home runs), 11 RBI, drawing five walks and swiping a pair of bags.

While regular counting stats don’t always tell the whole story, it’s been his overall pitch recognition, the plate patience, and the way he’s driven the ball when he’s gotten the opportunity.

Even though he’s hit the ball hard, it hasn’t translated into the power numbers you would expect, mainly due to a low launch angle — much like Ke’Bryan Hayes.

We’ve seen Smith-Njigba drive the ball in the air more this spring, which is leading to the more traditional numbers you look for. 

Taking a look at Smith-Njigba in the batter’s box, he looks like he should be tackling running backs on Sundays (he did tackle a pitcher in the AFL a few years back, so maybe that counts?). You can really see him use that to his advantage this spring, using his entire body to generate the power behind his swing.

When he’s able to get in position to load up, his swing is quick and compact (with a bit of lift) that can just turn and destroy a baseball.

We’ve seen and heard about the power, but that isn’t the only thing that he’s doing to impress in spring. He’s also showing his ability as a complete hitter and take things the other way when needed.

The first hit was a near perfect example of waiting and taking a breaking ball the other way, finding a hole and scoring a runner. We’ve seen some prospects in the system struggle to keep their hands back, but Smith-Njigba has repeatedly showed that ability this spring.

I mentioned on Twitter the other day in reference to Wil Crowe allowing a home run to Austin Riley, that if you throw three straight fastballs in the same spot, especially to a quality hitter, odds are they are going to make you pay.

The third clip shows the two pitches prior to the hit, and while it didn’t end up a home run, Smith-Njigba did pick up his third hit of the day — all of which going the other way.

Spring may be the time for most players to come in and work on some things in preparation for the season. It’s also where some of the younger kids can really make a name for themselves.

There may not have been a player who truly flashed their potential to make an impact with the bat quite like Smith-Njigba. While the first bit of attention will point to the power, he’s shown a far more well-rounded effort this spring. 

The Pirates Opening Day Roster is Nearly Complete


While it hasn’t been announced by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Alex Stumpf broke the news that Ji-hwan Bae, Canaan Smith-Njigba and Jason Delay will be on the Pirates Opening Day roster. Jason Mackey has also confirmed these names. Opening Day is Thursday.

Bae had a slow start to the spring, before picking things up. He came into camp with minimal big league time, so he likely won his spot in the last two weeks. He’s hitting .244/.292/.267 through 49 plate appearances.

Smith-Njigba has played well all spring, putting up a .326/.404/.522 slash line in 52 plate appearances. He also has minimal big league time, though that was due to a mid-season injury costing him more time with the Pirates.

Delay was battling it out for the backup catcher spot with Tyler Heineman, who split the majority of last year’s innings with Delay after Roberto Perez got hurt. Neither Delay nor Heineman did well at the plate this spring, but both are known for their defense. Delay is hitting .150/.261/.300 in 23 plate appearances.

Today is the final Spring Training game. The Pirates are off tomorrow. The open up on the road against the Cincinnati Reds.

Fangraphs Ranks the Teams by Every Position


Fangraphs wrapped up a series on Tuesday morning that looked at the team rankings for positions around baseball. All 30 teams were ranked based on their playing time estimate for each position. Here’s a look at how the Pittsburgh Pirates fared in these articles. They are posted in the same order as Fangraphs wrote them up. Click on the positions for the links to the articles.


The Pirates rank 21st here, with Austin Hedges and Endy Rodriguez seeing most of the time. They had Kevin Plawecki third, but with minimal at-bats, so he can just be replaced by the combo of Tyler Heineman and Jason Delay for the purposes of this ranking.

First Base

Pirates rank 20th, with Carlos Santana and Ji-Man Choi playing a large majority of the time.

Second Base

Pirates rank 28th here with Rodolfo Castro and Ji-hwan Bae seeing a large majority of the time, while Mark Mathias, Chris Owings and Tucupita Marcano split the small remaining time.


Pirates rank 11th here with Oneil Cruz seeing about 80% of the time, followed by Bae getting around 100 plate appearances, and a group of three players splitting about 50 plate appearances.

Third Base

Pirates rank 13th here with Ke’Bryan Hayes getting about 85% of the time. Castro and Jared Triolo split a majority of the small remaining time.

Left Field

Bryan Reynolds sees about 60% of the time here, leading the Pirates to a 13th place ranking. Andrew McCutchen and Connor Joe see most of the rest of the playing time, with a few others playing sparingly.

Center Field

Jack Suwinski and Reynolds have a nice 40/40 split here for playing time. Travis Swaggerty gets a majority of the rest. Those estimates lead to the Pirates ranking 16th.

Right Field

McCutchen gets about 40% of the time here, followed by approximately 20/20 splits for Canaan Smith-Njigba and Cal Mitchell. That trio, plus a few other names filling in, led to a 28th place ranking.

Designated Hitter

Santana, McCutchen and Choi see most of the work here, but a bunch of other previously mentioned players take some DH turns. That equals up to a 21st place ranking.


I won’t go through all of the names here, but the top seven for mound time are David Bednar, Wil Crowe, Chase De Jong, Colin Holderman, Duane Underwood Jr, Robert Stephenson and Dauri Moreta. That group leads them to a 27th place ranking.

Starting Pitchers

The injury to JT Brubaker could change this once we see how much time he will miss, but for now the top five starters are Mitch Keller, Brubaker, Roansy Contreras, Rich Hill and Vince Velasquez, with Johan Oviedo and Luis Ortiz also seeing decent time. That setup ranks 24th according to Fangraphs.

The easier to read summary shows:

Catcher: 21st

1B: 20th

2B: 28th

SS: 11th

3B: 13th

RF: 28th

CF: 16th

LF: 13th

DH: 21st

RP: 27th

SP: 24th

With 11 positions averaged out here, that puts them at an average ranking of 20th place per position.


Pirates Prospects Daily: The Difference Between Injury Prone and Freak Injury


As far as Pirates news, there have certainly been better days when it comes to the injury report.

After a fantastic spring that saw him among the league leaders in strikeouts, it was announced that due to forearm/elbow tightness, JT Brubaker would start the year on the injured list. 

Lonnie White Jr. also had surgery after breaking his thumb sliding into second base. His estimated return time frame is about seven to nine weeks.

It’s another unfortunate blow for the 2021 draft pick. Since being drafted with the 72nd overall pick, White has picked up just 40 plate appearances, and none since July 25, 2022.

This is after missing the majority of last season with an elbow injury and a hamstring injury. For someone that the Pirates invested so much in due to an incredible amount of upside, this is probably the furthest from ideal thing.

At this point, the obvious ‘injury prone’ label would be easy to throw out there, but breaking a finger sliding into second base is more of a freak accident than anything else.

The kid has a massive amount of talent, but when he does hit the field, he’s got to hit it running to make up for the time lost.

Jared Triolo Also To Have Surgery

When it comes to hitters, the one of the last injuries you want to get is one to your hamate bone, as that can linger long after you return. 

It seems especially worrisome if power isn’t already one of your featured tools, which is the case for Jared Triolo.

The struggles during spring would make more sense if it was lingering while he was playing. We already know he’s fantastic with the glove, so how well he’d hit in Triple-A, and eventually the majors, was going to be key for Triolo to carve out any role with the Pirates.

Pirates Prospects Daily

By John Dreker

Final Spring Training game this afternoon. Pirates host the Minnesota Twins at 1:05 PM. TV game. Then they are off tomorrow, before Opening Day on Thursday. Lineup will be posted below once it becomes available.

**Injury Updates for JT Brubaker, Lonnie White Jr and Jared Triolo 

**Pirates Make Four More Cuts on Monday Afternoon Still 32 players left on the Spring Training roster.

**Pirates Draft Prospect Watch: Have Yourself a Weekend, Dylan Crews Did you miss our weekend draft recap?

**Pirates Prospects Daily: Chris Owings Adds To Depth In Indianapolis By Not Opting Out

**Pirates DVR: Omar Cruz, Noe Toribio, Eddy Yean

Song of the Day

Today’s Lineup

Looks like an Opening Day lineup, minus the starting pitcher

Pirates DVR: Yordany De Los Santos, Connor Scott Catch, Maikol Escotto Home Run

Welcome to the Pirates Prospects daily video rundown, where we pull some of the top videos of the Pittsburgh Pirates across the internet. 

Yordany De Los Santos

One of the Pirates big international amateur free agent signings from a couple years back, De Los Santos has found his way into a couple of Major League spring training games during the last couple of days.

He certainly has the frame to be a major leaguer, it will be about filling out and getting experience. 

Connor Scott

It’s another season, so means another opportunity to see Connor Scott make some great plays in the outfield. 

Playing in Altoona last year, he was no stranger to coming up with a big grab in key situations.

Maikol Escotto

There’s a lot of power in the bat of Escotto, as evident by this three-run home run that registered an exit velocity of 104.2.