Once you’re a member of either one of those organizations, the hate is coded into your DNA and there’s no reversing it. Just ask former Yankees prospect Canaan Smith-Njigba — now with the Pittsburgh Pirates — who took exception to Sox prospect pitcher Josh Winckowski hitting him during an Arizona Fall League game.
You might remember Smith in the Yankees’ system as an outfielder before he was sent to Pittsburgh in the Jameson Taillon trade before the start of the 2021 season. He’s now representing the Pirates in the AFL with some of the game’s best young talent.
But his emotions got the best of him over the weekend and he started a benches-clearing brawl when he charged the mound to meet Winckowski.
We’re not sure if there’s any history here between the players, but Smith-Njigba wasted no time after he was plunked on Saturday. He dropped his bat, charged Winckowski, and, to put it nicely, gave him a whoopin’.
According to Baseball America, Smith-Njigba believed the Scottsdale Scorpions were exhibiting a pattern of poor behavior after Peoria Javelinas infielder Nick Gonzales was also hit on Friday.
Former Yankees prospect Canaan Smith-Njigba started a benches-clearing brawl.
If we’re being honest … it did seem a bit intentional? Winckowski telegraphed that fastball directly at Smith-Njigba and didn’t seem to have any confused reaction when he was about to get clocked in the moment. He stood there patiently, with what appeared to be a bit of a sneer, before taking a punch to the face, being brought to the ground, and then eating another fist.
Unbelievable stuff. We can’t think of the last time this happened during an AFL game, either.
Winckowski, who’s knocking on the door of his MLB debut, is Boston’s No. 19-ranked prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. He reached Triple-A Worcester after a solid showing at Double-A Portland.
However, he’s been bad in the AFL so far, with Smith-Njigba’s beatdown quite literally adding insult to injury. Winckowski has appeared in six games as a reliever (despite being a starter) and owns an unsightly 6.55 ERA and 1.72 WHIP in 11 innings of work.
On the other hand, the former Yankees prospect is hitting .283 with an .834 OPS in 14 games of his own. Win for the Bombers. Win for the Pirates. Fat L for the Red Sox, who really haven’t gotten off to a good start this offseason.