The Pirates welcomed outfielder Canaan Smith-Njigba back to Double-A Altoona on Sept. 10, following a six-week absence with a right thigh injury.
Smith-Njigba’s presence was missed on the field. The 22-year-old was hitting .280/.398/.417 with six home runs and 13 stolen bases through 63 games. Even when sidelined, his leadership role was valuable to the Curve.
“He’s that kind of guy,” Altoona manager Miguel Perez said. “He’s a big influence on (righthander Roansy) Contreras. They’re coming from the Yankees. There’s a great relationship there. They feed off of each other.”
That deal has helped to boost the Pirates’ rebuild, and Smith-Njigba wasn’t surprised to be part of that plan.
“I know my value,” Smith-Njigba said. “I’m just happy another team saw it, and I’m happy the Pirates picked me up and saw my worth.”
The 2017 fourth-rounder out of high school in Texas has a thick frame with power potential, though his offense is highlighted by his ability to get on base.
“At the plate, he’s outstanding with his discipline,” Perez said. “He’s going to run, he’s going to steal bases. His arm is good, hits jump off the bat. He’s a clubhouse guy and team player.”
Smith-Njigba has worked this year with Altoona hitting coach David Newhan on hitting the ball with more authority, and driving the ball the opposite way. The former prep catcher moved to the outfield with the Yankees to start his pro career. He feels this was his best defensive year since the move.
Smith-Njigba’s upcoming offseason work is going to be focused on making that final development push to become a big leaguer by getting “bigger, stronger, faster.”
“I know it’s cliché, but it’s the honest truth,” Smith-Njigba said. “Just being ready to be a big leaguer. That’s just something that I’m going to take into this offseason. I’m going to train like I’m going to the big leagues next year.”
— Catcher Henry Davis, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 draft, ended his pro debut by going on the injured list with a season-ending oblique injury. Prior to the injury, the former Louisville catcher had a 1.195 OPS and three home runs in eight games between the Rookie-level Florida Complex League and High-A Greensboro.
— Righthander Roansy Contreras returned from a forearm strain after missing two months of action. Prior to the injury, Contreras had a 2.35 ERA in 46 innings, with 65 strikeouts and 11 walks. He had made two starts since his return, combining to give up one earned run in five innings with seven strikeouts and no walks.