In a somewhat surprising revelation manager John Gibbons confirmed yesterday evening that infielder Gift Ngoepe will break camp and head north with the team.
Ngoepe became the first player of South African descent to play in the majors last season when he made his debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates in late April. The 28-year old is known as a glove-first player who has the ability to play all over the infield. Ngoepe did little with his bat to help his chances this spring hitting .152/.291/.283 with a home run and two stolen bases in 55 Grapefruit League at-bats.
Last season Ngoepe hit .222/.323/.296 in 28 games with the Bucs before being acquired by the Jays in the offseason. He is a career .231 hitter with 90 stolen bases over nine minor league seasons in the Pirates farm system.
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The Jays brought veteran Danny Espinosa into camp midway through the preseason and there was much speculation he would be the 25th man on the roster come April. Espinosa who does have the propensity to strike out at an alarming rate hit .269/.296/.462 with two home runs and five stolen bases in 55 plate appearances.
It would appear that Espinosa would be the front-runner for the final roster over Ngoepe, however, the team has not commented on where he will begin the 2018 campaign just yet.
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is scheduled to see a specialist today to shed some light on his ankle/bone spur issues. There is a possibility that Tulo will require surgery so perhaps that is somehow playing into the future of Espinosa as the Jays look to be delaying their final roster announcement.
It will be interesting to see what the Jays do to keep Espinosa in the fold as the 30-year old could provide some power and speed off the bench this season. All we know is, for now, Ngoepe will be north of the border with the big club on Thursday.