According to press releases by both teams, the Toronto Blue Jays have acquired infielder Gift Ngoepe from the Pittsburgh Pirates, in exchange for a player to be named later. The move comes on the heels of the Blue Jays sending former Pirates prospect Harold Ramirez through waivers, and losing Rob Refsnyder on waivers to the Cleveland Indians.
Ngoepe, 27, made headlines for becoming not only the first player from South Africa to reach the majors, but also the first African born player to reach the majors since Al Cabrera did with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1913. Ngoepe went on to play 28 games for the Pirates in 2017. Ngoepe recorded 6 RBIs and hit .222 during that span. He also dealt with injuries in 2017, including a left hamstring that plagued him in June that landed him on the minor league disabled list. This ultimately kept him from making a major league impact in Pittsburgh for the rest of the year.
While Ngoepe has struggled offensively in the high minors and majors, he has gained value because of his ability to play multiple positions in the infield very effectively. When Ngoepe plays as a second baseman, he has been tremendous on defense, owning a career minor league fielding percentage of .979. He also owns a .971 fielding percentage as a shortstop. Ngoepe’s defense is the attribute that made him a notable Pirates prospect.
The Blue Jays have had success developing a number of glove first infielders, at multiple points in their career, into all around players. This includes Gold Glove winner Darwin Barney, top prospect Richard Urena and Ryan Goins. Ngoepe could be the next project they undertake. With Refsnyder on the move, Ngoepe could fill in until there are more MLB ready shortstops for the Blue Jays. The Pirates were able to clear a roster spot to hang on to a number of their promising young pitchers, including Luis Escobar and Dario Argrazal.