Gift Ngoepe became the first black South African player to sign a pro baseball contract in 2008 and nearly made his MLB debut in 2016, if not for a late-season bar brawl for which the Pirates suspended him. The shortstop spent the entire season with Triple-A Indianapolis, hitting much better against lefties (.259/.350/.380) than righties (.198/.258/.344). Ngoepe has hit just .232 with a .669 OPS in parts of eight minor-league seasons. The 27-year-old is a defense-first player who probably will never hit enough to hold much fantasy value.
Ngoepe has been suspended by the Pirates following his arrest early Sunday after an altercation outside a Toledo bar. Ngoepe was suspended seven days and will miss the remainder of the Triple-A season. He was drinking with two other minor league players -- Dovydas Neverauskas from the Pirates system and Warwick Saupold from the Tigers system -- when a disagreement with another man escalated into a large fight. Ngoepe was charged with assault and two counts of resisting arrest. Pirates general manager Neal Huntington was quick to condemn his players' actions, saying the team is "extremely disappointed" in the actions of its players. Ngoepe is scheduled to appear in court on September 13.
Ngoepe was promoted to the Pirates 40-man roster Thursday. Ngoepe made a brief appearance with Triple-A Indianapolis in 2015, slashing a .246/.313/.311 in 61 at-bats with the team through 21 games, but the 25-year-old likely won't appear in the majors until he learns to cut down on the strikeouts (he was fanned 201 times in two seasons with Double-A Altoona).
The Pirates announced Thursday they optioned elite pitching prospect Jameson Taillon to Triple-A Indianapolis. They also optioned pitcher Casey Sadler and infielder Alen Hanson to Triple-A. Outfielder Willy Garcia was optioned to Double-A Altoona, while pitchers Collin Balester, Jeremy Bleich, infielder Gift Ngoepe and outfielder Mel Rojas Jr. were reassigned to minor-league camp.