This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: January 18th, Pirates Land Hank Greenberg

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus a transaction involving a Hall of Famer.

The Transaction

On this date in 1947, the Pittsburgh Pirates purchased all-star first baseman Hank Greenberg from the Detroit Tigers for $75,000. He led the American League in both homers and RBIs in 1946 at the age of 35, but the Tigers put him on waivers anyway, where he was picked up by the Pirates. Not only did they pay a high price to acquire him, he was also paid $100,000 for the season, the first player to reach that six-figure salary level. He would hit just .249 with 25 homers and 74 RBIs for the Pirates, but he was able to lead the National League in walks with 104, despite missing 29 games throughout the season. He finished with an .885 OPS, which was ninth best in the National League. That was his only year for the Pirates, as he retired after the season. While his offense was minimal for the cost, he contributed to the team for years to come thanks to his help with a young Ralph Kiner, who credited Greenberg with making him a better hitter. Greenberg was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1956.

The Players

Eddie Moore, utility fielder for the 1923-26 Pirates, including the 1925 World Series winning team. He started his pro career in the minors in 1922, playing two full seasons before the Pirates made him a September call-up in 1923, getting him into six late seasons games. Moore debuted in pro ball at 23 years old, splitting that 1922 season between Class-C St Petersburg of the Florida State League, and Class-A Atlanta of the Southern Association. He batted .324 with 25 extra-base hits in 61 games with St Petersburg, and he hit .251 with 13 extra-base hits in 87 games for Atlanta. He was still playing for Atlanta when Pirates scout Bill Hinchman purchased his contract on July 18, 1923 for $20,000, a huge price at the time. Moore was said to be joining the Pirates at the end of Atlanta’s season in early September, though by mid-August, the Pirates were trying to get him sooner so they could get a better look at him. He finished that minor league season with a .268 average and 33 extra-base hits in 156 games. After joining the Pirates and debuting on September 25th, he hit .269/.321/.308 with six runs in six games.

Moore made the 1924 Pirates Opening Day roster, but he was seldom used until the Pirates decided to bench a struggling Pie Traynor. In a move that ultimately helped the Pirates, Moore got injured in the middle of a hot streak, allowing Traynor to get back in the lineup, and he obviously went on to have a Hall of Fame career. Moore played just 16 of the team’s first 51 games that season, all of them off of the bench. He then hit .373 over 13 starts before the injury. They decided to throw him out in right field in late August, where he batted .385 over the next month, before ending quietly over the final week of the season. Moore hit .359 over 72 games in 1924, with 47 runs scored, 14 extra-base hits and a .901 OPS. Moore was the starting second baseman during the 1925 campaign, though he also made 15 starts in right field and three at third base. The Pirates went on to win the World Series that year, and he did his part with a .298 average, and career highs of 106 runs, 29 doubles,  eight triples, six homers, 77 RBIs, 19 steals, and 77 walks in 142 games. In the seven-game World Series, he hit .231 with a homer and five walks.

Moore’s success in Pittsburgh was fleeting. He was hitting .227/.286/.303 through 43 games in 1926 when the Pirates sold him to Boston Braves. It seemed like they were giving up on him quickly, but he was not well liked among the Pirates management for numerous reasons, including poor play, an argument with bench coach Fred Clarke, plus they didn’t like the way he handled his contract signing. After going to Boston, he finished the season by hitting .266 in 54 games. After setting all of those career highs in 1925, his final 1926 stats showed a .250 average in 97 games, with 36 runs, 14 extra-base hits and 34 RBIs. His OPS went from .793 in 1925, down to a .610 mark in 1926. Moore hit .302 with 53 runs, 19 extra-base hits, 32 RBIs, 39 walks and a .725 OPS in 112 games during the 1927 season, while serving in an utility role that had him playing six different positions. He struggled in a limited role in 1928, batting .237/.294/.307 in 68 games, then was sold to the minors prior to the 1929 season, joining Toledo of the Double-A American Association (highest level of the minors at the time), though he didn’t put in any games. The Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) purchased his contract in May of 1929. He hit .291/.365/.371 over 187 games during the 1929-30 seasons, putting up similar OPS numbers each year, but seeing a lot more playing time in 1929. He had a .296 average in 111 games that first year in Brooklyn, with 48 runs, 24 extra-base hits, 48 RBIs and a .740 OPS. He played 76 games in 1930, with his plate appearances cut in half from the previous year, going from 463 to 227 in that latter season. He had a .281 average, 24 runs, 15 extra-base hits, 20 RBIs and a .729 OPS. It seems like he rebounded from that poor 1928 season by those numbers, but those two seasons were huge years for offense. He put up just 1.1 WAR total during that time, which included above average defensive numbers.

After his run in Brooklyn, Moore’s big league time was limited to 37 games with the 1932 New York Giants and 27 games for the 1934 Cleveland Indians. He spent the 1931 season with Oakland of the Double-A Pacific Coast League, where he hit .315 in 138 games, with 45 extra-base hits. Moore had a .264 average and a .674 OPS during his time with the Giants, while spending part of that season with Montreal of the Double-A International League, where he batted .293 in 48 games, with ten extra-base hits. His 1933 season was spent down in A-Ball with New Orleans of the Southern Association, where he batted .309 in 154 games, with 50 extra base hits (40 doubles). His time with the 1934 Indians came during the first half of the year, but he was let go after putting up a .154/.267/.185 slash line in 75 plate appearances. Moore joined Atlanta of the Southern Association after his time with the Indians, and he was there for four years as a player-manager. He had a .299 average and 20 extra-base hits in 64 games to finish out the 1934 season with Atlanta. He batted .290 in 1935, with 25 extra-base hits in 103 games. Moore had a .257 average in 36 games for Atlanta in 1936. His online stats credit him with playing part of that season with Savannah of the Class-B South Atlantic League, but that was not him. He saw limited work in 1937 during his last season with Atlanta, mostly handling managerial duties. He batted .196 in 18 games.

Moore played minor league ball until age 41 in 1940, finishing off in Class-D ball, though he was also the manager at that time. After leaving Atlanta, he took a job as the manager of Spartanburg of the South Atlantic League, where he stayed until July. He resigned from the position, played some semi-pro ball, but soon signed with Syracuse of the International League. In his two pro stops that season, he hit .250 in 86 games, with 40 runs, 17 extra-base hits and 22 RBIs. He split 1939 between Baltimore of the International League and Winston-Salem of the Class-B Piedmont League. He had a .286 average in 82 games, with 13 doubles and two homers. He split his final year between Winston-Salem and his player-manager job with Gainesville of the Florida State League. He hit .273 between both stops, with 15 extra-base hits in 76 games. He spent six seasons in the minors as a player-manager and then returned in 1947 to manage for one final season. Moore was a .301 hitter in 263 games with the Pirates. He finished his nine-year career with a .285 average in 748 games, with 360 runs, 108 doubles, 26 triples, 13 homers and 257 RBIs. He had 272 walks and 121 strikeouts.

Laurin Pepper, pitcher for the 1954-57 Pirates. He was a bonus baby signing, as the Pirates paid $35,000 for him to keep him from playing in the NFL where he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers as a halfback. Under the rules of the time, a bonus baby signing had to spend two years (from the day they signed) on the Major League roster before he could be sent to the minors. Bonus Baby players usually signed right out of high school, but Pepper was already 23 years old. He attended college at the University of Southern Mississippi, and served in the military, before signing on June 15, 1954, just two days before he got married. Pepper rarely pitched during those first two seasons, getting in a total of 70.2 innings over 28 games, nine as a starter. He pitched poorly mostly due to a lack of control, but the Pirates were cellar dwellers at the time, losing 195 games combined over those two seasons. He had a combined 1-6, 8.66 record during the 1954-55 seasons, with 68 walks and just 24 strikeouts. He pitched 50.2 innings in 1954, posting a 7.99 ERA, while getting eight of those nine starts. He saw just 14 games in 1955 and had a 10.35 ERA and a 2.75 WHIP in 20 innings. Pepper actually allowed just one run in 5.2 innings through May 1, 1955, then went four weeks between appearances, and ended up allowing 23 runs over his final 14.1 innings. His first game back on May 29th was a start during a doubleheader, in which he let each of the first four batters reach base before being removed with no outs.

Pepper had better overall Major League results in 1956, but the control problems were still a major issue, with 25 walks in 30 innings. While his ERA was a respectable 3.00 that season, those 30 innings were over seven starts and four relief appearances, meaning that the walks shortened his outings. His longest start was 5.1 innings in a loss to the Milwaukee Braves on July 15th. The Pirates were still forced to keep him on the active roster during the early part of the season because of the Bonus Baby rule. Pepper didn’t pitch in the majors after August 4th that year. He was optioned to Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League on August 8th. The Pirates recalled him on September 1st, but an eye injury kept him from pitching. He went 2-1, 1.80 in 35 innings over four starts with Hollywood, during his brief minor league time. Pepper pitched with the Pirates for one month during the 1957 season, which ended up being his last year in the majors. He had an 8.00 ERA over nine innings during that final season. He began the year back in Hollywood, getting optioned on April 8th, after failing to make the big league club in Spring Training. Pepper was recalled on May 3rd and made all of his appearances between May 7th and June 6th. He was optioned back to Hollywood on June 8th, and did not return in September. He went 5-9, 4.50 in 136 innings over 20 starts and eight relief appearances for Hollywood.

Pepper was with the Pirates in Spring Training of 1958, but he got cut on April 1st. He spent the season in the Triple-A International League, splitting his time between Columbus and Rochester. He had a 9-14 record in 149 innings over 20 starts and 14 relief appearances. He then lasted a day longer during Spring Training in 1959 that he did in 1958, getting cut on April 2nd, after giving up three runs over ten innings during the spring. Pepper played for Salt Lake City of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League during the 1959-60 seasons. He went 13-11, 4.24 in 176 innings over 26 starts and four relief appearances in 1959. That was followed by a 5-7, 5.48 record in 128 innings over nine starts and 36 relief appearances in 1960. He put up solid stats in 1961, going 15-11, 3.45 in 227 innings for Dallas-Fort Worth or the Triple-A American Association, but it didn’t lead to another big league chance. He ended up playing for three different teams in 1962, seeing time back in Dallas-Fort Worth and Columbus, along with a drop two levels down to Greenville of the Class-A South Atlantic League. He combined to go 1-8, 5.58 in 71 innings over 13 starts and eight relief appearances, finishing with 56 walks and 38 strikeouts. Pepper finished his career with a 6.19 ERA in 48 innings for Hawaii of the Pacific Coast League in 1963. In his four seasons with the Pirates, he went 2-8, 7.06 in 109.2 innings over 17 starts and 27 relief appearances. He finished with 98 walks, 40 strikeouts and a 2.12 WHIP. His full name is Hugh McLaurin Pepper III, meaning he went by part of his middle name.

Charlie Eden, outfielder for the 1884-85 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. When he joined Pittsburgh in 1884, he had already played National League ball for the Chicago White Stockings in 1877, and the Cleveland Blues in 1879. Eden debuted in pro ball at 22 years old in 1877, playing for two teams in the League Alliance, during what was the first year of minor league ball. He saw time with teams from Minneapolis and Indianapolis, though no stats are available from that league. He played 15 games that first season with the White Stockings, hitting .218/.259/.255, with nine runs and five RBIs. His only extra-base hit was a triple. An article from late March of 1878 said that he was retiring to become a fireman in the Chicago area, then later in the year it was said that he would play for Indianapolis of the National League in 1879. He actually ended up playing semi-pro ball in 1878 for a team in Cleveland called the Forest Citys, where he played right field and posted a .274 average and an .801 fielding percentage. Indianapolis ended up not having a Major League team after one season in the National League, so he ended up with Cleveland. A February 1879 news item said he was a fireman in Indianapolis. Eden led the National League in 1879 with 31 doubles and 41 extra-base hits. He batted .272 that season in 81 games, with 40 runs scored and 34 RBIs. His 31 doubles stood as an NL record for three seasons. Despite that strong performance, he has no known pro ball records for the 1880-82 seasons, playing independent ball instead, just like he did during the 1878 season.

Eden played for a team from Dubuque, Iowa in early 1880, then played in Indianapolis after his team disbanded mid-season. He retired again to become a fireman in 1881, but by the end of the year in mid-November, it was said that he made it known that he was interested in signing with the Alleghenys for their 1882 inaugural season. He had multiple offers to play pro ball in 1882, but never signed anywhere. He was playing exhibition games with a team from Indianapolis in early 1883, before he rejoined in pro ranks, when played for Grand Rapids of the Northwestern League for the entire season (no stats available) and the first half of the 1884 season, before the club folded in early August. He was hitting .280 with 16 doubles, eight triples, four homers and 51 runs in 58 games at the time. The Alleghenys picked him up a little later in 1884, after he played an exhibition game for the Buffalo Bisons of the National League. Pittsburgh manager Horace Phillips promised to pay Eden double his salary offered by Buffalo, so he left for the bigger paycheck.

For Pittsburgh in 1884, the lefty hitting Eden batted .270/.341/.418 in 32 games, with 12 runs and 12 extra-base hits. He played 31 as the center fielder, plus one as a starting pitcher. He played in each of the final 32 games of the season. In his debut on August 25th against Baltimore, he had three hits and made an outstanding catch near the center field wall as he got entangled with left fielder Conny Doyle. With only one umpire at the time, Eden was asked by umpire John Kelly if he actually made the catch and Eden gave him his word that he did, so the out was called. His lone homer in Pittsburgh came on August 27, 1884, against Pete Meegan, who would be his teammate for the 1885 Alleghenys. It came during the one game that Eden pitched that season and he lost 7-5, while batting second in the lineup. In 1885, he took over full-time in left field, and hit .254 in 98 games, with 57 runs, 18 doubles, six triples, 38 RBIs and a .626 OPS. Eden was again used as an emergency pitcher, starting once and pitching in relief three times.

It was announced in November of 1885 that Eden was retiring from baseball, though he actually finished his career in 1886 playing independent ball. He tried out for Indianapolis of the National League in 1887, but while attempting to get into shape in late May, he suffered soreness in his knee, which was bothering him since a base running mishap years earlier. The Hoosiers were actually trying to sign him as an extra pitcher. He had a job working for the railroads, and was only willing to sign if they promised him that he could take his railroad job back after the season. In 226 big league games, he had a  .261 average, with 118 runs, 56 doubles, 18 triples, four homers and 77 RBIs.

Justin Thomas, pitcher for the 2010 Pirates. He was a fourth round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners in the 2005 amateur draft out of Youngstown State. He began his first full season of his pro career as a starter, before switching to the bullpen in 2009. Thomas started with Everett of the short-season Northwest League in 2005, where he went 3-3, 3.81, with 48 strikeouts in 59 innings over six starts and 12 relief outings. Switching to full-time starter in 2006, he had a 14-9, 3.73 record in 166.1 innings over 28 starts, with 162 strikeouts. He had a 3.10 ERA in 11 starts with Wisconsin of the Low-A Midwest League that year, then posted a 4.10 ERA in 17 starts with Inland Empire of the High-A California League, which was a bigger offensive league than the Midwest League. Thomas made 24 starts in 2007 for West Tennessee of the Double-A Southern League. He went 4-9, 5.51 in 119.1 innings, with 100 strikeouts and a 1.74 WHIP. He attended the Arizona Fall League after the season, where he gave up three runs over five innings in four relief appearances. The 2008 season started back with West Tennessee. Thomas went 7-7, 4.32, with 106 strikeouts in 118.2 innings, making 17 starts and eight relief appearances. He then moved up to Tacoma of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, where he had six relief appearances and one start. He had a 3.71 ERA in 17 innings, with 21 strikeouts.

Thomas made his MLB debut in September of 2008 for the Mariners, pitching eight times in relief that year. He had a 6.75 ERA in four innings with nine hits and two walks allowed in his brief time with Seattle. The entire 2009 season was spent back in Tacoma. He made 53 relief appearances, posting a 4.48 ERA in 60.1 innings, with 53 strikeouts. On October 29, 2009, Thomas was selected off waivers by the Pirates. He had a few different stints with the Pirates during the 2010 season, making a total of 12 appearances in which he compiled a 6.23 ERA in 13 innings. The rest of the year was spent with Indianapolis of the Triple-A International League, where he went 5-0, 2.48 in 54.1 innings over 40 appearances, with ten walks and 51 strikeouts. He spent all of 2011 in Indianapolis, putting up an 8-2, 3.89 record in 69.1 innings over 63 games. After becoming a free agent at the end of the season, he signed with the Boston Red Sox in late November and pitched a total of 11 more big league games, split between Boston and the New York Yankees during that 2012 season. Thomas struggled in his limited time in both spots, posting a 2.57 WHIP in seven appearances with the Red Sox, while allowing three runs over three innings with the Yankees. He had a 3.45 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 62.2 innings in Triple-A that season, seeing time with Pawtucket (Red Sox) and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Yankees) of the International League.

Thomas split the 2013 season between 16 starts in Triple-A (Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League) for the Oakland A’s, and nine games in Japan. He went 3-6, 4.48 in 84.1 innings over 16 starts for Sacramento, while going 0-6, 9.30 in 30 innings in Japan. He had a similar story in 2014, pitching for the Los Angeles Angels in Triple-A (Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League) and ten games in Korea. He went 4-8, 5.59 in 112.2 innings over 20 starts for Salt Lake City, while going 2-2, 4.44 in 46.2 innings in Korea. Thomas finished his pro career in China in 2015, where he had a 5-8, 3.83 record in 134 innings over 22 starts. His big league career amounted to 24.2 innings over 31 appearances, with an 0-2, 6.93 record and a 2.11 WHIP.

Wandy Rodriguez, pitcher for the 2012-14 Pirates. He signed with the Houston Astros as an international free agent out of the Dominican just days before his 20th birthday in January of 1999. Despite signing at a late age, it still took him six full seasons and the first part of 2015 before he made his Major League debut. Rodriguez pitched his first two seasons in the Dominican Summer League, making him one of the oldest players in the league by the end of his second year (stats aren’t available). He jumped to the U.S. in 2001, going to the short-season Appalachian League, where he went 4-3, 1.58, with 67 strikeouts in 74 innings over 12 starts for Martinsville. Rodriguez went to Lexington of the Class-A South Atlantic League in 2002, where he had an 11-4, 3.78 record in 159.1 innings over 28 starts, with 137 strikeouts. He moved up to Salem of the High-A Carolina League in 2003, where he had an 8-7, 3.49 record in 111 innings over 20 starts. His slow climb continued in 2004 with a full season at Double-A, playing for Round Rock of the Texas League. Rodriguez put up an 11-6, 4.48 record in 142.2 innings, with 115 strikeouts and a 1.51 WHIP. He made one start for Corpus Christi in the Double-A Texas League in 2005. He would end up pitching for that team in three separate season, but each time was one start, twice being rehab appearances. Round Rock became a Triple-A team in the Pacific Coast League in 2005. He made eight starts there that year, putting up a 3.69 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 46.1 innings, before making his big league debut on May 23rd. The Astros put Rodriguez in their starting rotation and stuck with him for two full years of poor pitching before he began to pay off for them.

Rodriguez had a 10-10, 5.53 record, 80 strikeouts and a 1.46 WHIP in 128.2 innings over 25 games (22 starts) for the Astros in 2005. He then saw a slight tick up to a 5.64 ERA in 135.2 innings in 2006, finishing the year with a 9-10 record in 24 starts and six relief outings. He improved to 98 strikeouts, but his WHIP went up to 1.60 that season. Rodriguez began a steady climb upwards in 2007, when he went 9-13, 4.58 in 31 starts and 182.2 innings. After failing to crack the century mark in strikeouts during his first two seasons, he picked up 158 strikeouts in 2007. That ERA improved to 3.54 in 2008, though he missed a handful of starts, limiting him to 137.1 innings. He had a 9-7 record and struck out 131 batters, while posting a 1.31 WHIP. Rodriguez finally put everything together in 2009, when he had his best season. He went 14-12, 3.02 in 33 starts and a career best 205.2 innings, while also setting a high with 193 strikeouts. His 1.24 WHIP was his best mark over a full season, though he surpassed it during a partial season with the Pirates.

While his win/loss record was mediocre over the next two years, Rodriguez has a nice ERA to go along with the full workhorse workload. He went 11-12, 3.60, with 178 strikeouts in 195 innings in 2010. He then nearly repeated those numbers in 2011, going 11-11, 3.49 in 191 innings, with 166 strikeouts. His walk and hit totals were nearly identical as well. He gave up 183 hits in 2010 and 182 in 2011, with 68 walks (2010) compared to 69 in 2011. Prior to joining the Pirates in 2012, he was 7-9, 3.79 in 130.2 innings over 21 starts. On July 24, 2012, the Pirates gave up prospects Robbie Grossman, Colton Cain and Rudy Owens in a trade to get Rodriguez. While they didn’t get what they hoped from their new pitcher due to injuries, the players they gave up didn’t amount to much. Cain was a young lefty, who threw harder in high school than he did in pro ball. Owens had multiple injuries after the deal, and only pitched one big league game. Grossman became a big league regular, but he had his first season in the majors above 1.5 WAR in 2021, nine years after the trade.

After joining the 2012 Pirates, Rodriguez went 5-4, 3.72 in 75 innings in 12 starts and one relief outing. He tied his career best with 205.2 innings that season, though he finished with 139 strikeouts. Things went downhill from there. He pitched well when healthy in 2013, but that was just 12 starts. He went 6-4, 3.59 in 62.2 innings, with a 1.12 WHIP and 46 strikeouts. He didn’t pitch after early June due to a flexor strain in his pitching (left) elbow. A knee injury contributed to poor results through six starts in 2014, which led to the Pirates designating him for assignment in May. He was released on May 30th, holding an 0-2, 6.75 record in 26.2 innings. Rodriguez went 11-10, 4.16 in 164.1 innings over 30 starts and one relief appearance for the Pirates over three season. He pitched eight years for the Astros, where he had an 80-84, 4.06 record in 1,306.2 innings over 218 starts and nine relief appearances. He last pitched in the majors for the 2015 Texas Rangers, going 6-4, 4.90 in 86.1 innings, though he signed with the Kansas City Royals, Baltimore Orioles and Astros between August 2015 and April 2016, and only saw a handful of minor league appearances from those three teams combined. After his last game in the Royals system in 2015, he pitched three seasons of winter ball in the Dominican Republic, finally retiring after the 2018-19 off-season. In his 11-year career, he went 97-98, 4.10 in 1,557.1 innings over 263 starts, with 1,281 strikeouts. He threw two complete games in his career and both were shutouts.

Gift Ngoepe, infielder for the 2017 Pirates. When he made it to the Pirates on April 26, 2017, he became the first player born in Africa to make it to the Major Leagues. He was joined by pitcher Tayler Scott in that select group in 2019. Ngoepe was signed by the Pirates as an international amateur free agent at 18 years old in 2008 out of South Africa. He worked his way slowly through the minor league system, getting added to the Pirates 40-man roster during the same off-season that he would have reached minor league free agency. He played in the Gulf Coast League during his rookie season as a pro in 2009. He hit .238 in 47 games that year, with 24 runs, four doubles, one homer, nine RBIs, 13 steals and a .622 OPS. He moved up to the New short-season York-Penn League in 2010, playing for State College, where he hit .205 in 64 games, with 30 runs, 19 extra-base hits, 20 RBIs, 11 steals, 36 walks and a .634 OPS in 64 games. He also played two games that year for Bradenton of the High-A Florida State League. Ngoepe was injured (hamate) for most of 2011, when he was limited to 27 games total, including two rehab games in the Gulf Coast League. His other 25 games were with West Virginia of the Low-A South Atlantic League, where he hit .306/.359/.459 in 93 plate appearances.

Ngoepe moved up to Bradenton in 2012, where he hit .232 in 124 games, with 66 runs, 25 extra-base hits, 36 RBIs, 22 steals (in 36 attempts), a .668 OPS and 63 walks, though he also struck out 131 times. He then saw action in the Arizona Fall League after the season, putting up a .783 OPS in 16 games. Ngoepe really struggled with the jump to Double-A Altoona of the Eastern League in 2013. He hit .177 in 72 games that year, with 29 runs, 15 extra-base hits, 16 RBIs, ten steals and a .560 OPS. He also saw brief time that year with Bradenton and did well back with his old team, posting a .292 average and an .851 OPS in the pitcher-friendly league. Ngoepe then went back to the AFL in the fall and hit just .078/.172/.098 in 17 games. He was a gifted defensive player at the time, with some power and speed, but the low average and high strikeout rates limited his prospect potential. In his second run at Double-A, he hit .238 with 135 strikeouts in 131 games, but he showed decent power (35 extra-base hits), a nice walk rate (51 walks) and he stole 13 bases. He had 58 runs and 52 RBIs that year.

Ngoepe was back in Altoona for a third season in 2015, and better results led to him being promoted to Triple-A. In 71 games for Altoona, he put up a .260/.338/.362 slash line. An oblique strain in late July cost him the rest of the season. In 21 games for Indianapolis of the International League before the injury, he had a .246 average and a .625 OPS. He combined for 36 runs, 21 extra-base hits and 26 RBIs. After showing decent stolen base numbers in the past, he went 4-for-12 in steals that year. He would spend the entire 2016 season in Indianapolis, hitting .217 in 102 games, with 40 runs, 20 doubles, eight homers, 27 RBIs and a .644 OPS. He was likely going to be a September call-up, but a bar fight and altercation with police after a game, led to a suspension and him attending the Fall Instructional League instead of playing for the Pirates. Pitcher Dovydas Neverauskas was also in that fight, and he too was on the same path as Ngoepe before costing himself a September chance with the Pirates. The two would be linked together again in 2017. In mid-April, Neverauskas was called up and became the first Major League player ever who was born in Lithuania. Just days later, Ngoepe joined him in the majors as another first for his country (South Africa) as well as the entire continent.

Ngoepe got off to a great start with three hits and two walks in his second game for the Pirates, before the strikeouts quickly caught up to him. He went 8-for-49 with 25 strikeouts in his next 26 games, before playing his final game with the Pirates on May 31st. The rest of the year was spent with Indianapolis, where he hit .220 in 77 games, with 33 runs, 26 extra-base hits, 27 RBIs and a .681 OPS. He was sold to the Toronto Blue Jays after the 2017 season ended. Toronto gave him a stint in the majors in 2018, which ended up being his final big league time. He spent most of his 2018 time with Buffalo of the International League, where he struggled with a .168/.304/.252 slash line in 48 games. Ngoepe went 1-for-18 with 12 strikeouts during his short big league time in Toronto. He spent the start of 2019 in the minors with the Philadelphia Phillies, putting up a .221 average and a respectable .706 OPS in 41 games with Lehigh Valley of the International League. He then got released and returned to the Pirates. He was around for just 31 days during his second stint in the Pirates system, but a .100 average and a .390 OPS in 14 games with Altoona cut short his time. He played winter ball in Australia in the 2020-21 off-season, then played independent ball in 2021 with Quebec of the Frontier League, where he hit .281 in 82 games, with 50 runs, 27 extra-base hits and 47 RBIs. He did not play in 2022. He is on the World Baseball Classic roster for South Africa for the 2023 tournament. Ngoepe’s actual first name is Mpho’, but Gift is his middle name. His younger brother Victor spent four seasons in the Pirates system, and will be his teammate of the WBC South African team.