Keep An Eye on Pirates' Outfielder Canaan Smith-Njigba

Photo credit: Brynn Anderson/AP Photo

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A lot of people have already penciled in Jack Suwinski for the starting right field spot in the Pittsburgh Pirates lineup.  However, I think 23 year-old Canaan Smith-Njigba, abbreviated for the sake of Twitter as just CSN, is someone to keep an eye on.  Both are left-handed bats so it really just may come down to who can hit right-handed pitchers better, as both CSN and Suwinski look to platoon with a right-handed bat in right field. 

Tuesday, in a spring training game against the Baltimore Orioles, Smith-Njigba had a 2-run single, eventually moving up to 2nd on a throw to home during the play.  He is now batting 1 for 3 with an 1.000 OPS with 2 RBI in his very early 2023 ST season.  

Smith-Njigba was acquired from the New York Yankees in the Jameson Taillon deal before the 2021 season.  He has great plate discipline and is a very smart baserunner.  While not someone who possesses blazing speed, we know from raw talent guys, like Starling Marte, in the past that it's nice to just have a guy with smarts and good instincts on the base paths.  CSN has also displayed great strike zone judgement and tremendous plate discipline for a guy so young.  

CSN has also shown some flashes of power when he burst on the scene in 2019 with an .871 OPS in his full-season debut.  Unfortunately a thigh injury derailed him for six weeks.  However, he has steadily remained in the Pirates Top 30 prospects list since they acquired him, and currently sits at 28th as of the update from yesterday.  I think he has much more potential to dethrone Suwinski than last year's hopeful Cal Mitchell.  

One thing that also has me keeping an eye on CSN is potentially something I'm looking much further into than I should.  The Pirates held an event called the Season Ticket Holder Winter Warm Up back in January.  I had the opportunity to attend and it was essentially Pirate Fest just on a much smaller level.  Among Pirates alumni and players considered "legends" they also had three current players signing.  The three were Andrew McCutchen, Mitch Keller, and Canaan Smith-Njigba.  

Now, potentially he was well down the list and all other players ahead of him were just busy that day, but I do think it means something that CSN was invited to sign.  I believe it means the organization thinks pretty highly of the youngster and hopes he makes the roster out of camp.  I also passed him in the hallway of the club and the guy looks like he can hit the ball 600 feet.  If CSN played linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers across the street, I don't think anyone would blink an eye.  

So we'll see.  That's what Spring Training is mostly about, right?  Just a lot of "we'll sees".  But I am definitely keeping an eye on Smith-Njigba and I wouldn't be surprised to see him make the active roster out of camp.