Examining a Pirates Potential Future Double Play Combo

Feb 27, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates hat, glove and sunglasses lay in the dugout against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 27, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates hat, glove and sunglasses lay in the dugout against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pirates had a very successful 2015 season that included another postseason berth, the surge in production from players such as Jung-Ho Kang and Starling Marte, and the rise of Gerrit Cole as one of the top-tiered aces in all of baseball. All of these accolades helped the Pirates launch into the postseason, and while we celebrate current success, we also look forward to and hope for future success within the Pirates organization.

To fuel the hope for future success, let’s enter the 2015 MLB Draft and the 19th and 62nd overall selections, belonging to the Pirates. With a bountiful amount of pitching in the system and the selection of OF Ke’Bryan Hayes (Round 1, pick 32 overall), a hole was left for some middle infield help. With the 19th overall selection, the Pirates selected INF Kevin Newman (University of Arizona), and with the 62nd selection, INF Kevin Kramer (UCLA) was selected.

Though the names of this tandem may sound like an obvious pun to any Seinfeld fan, the hopes of Newman and Kramer becoming future mainstays in Pittsburgh should be somewhat high and definitely not a joke for Pirates fans worldwide. Both players started their professional careers in short-season Low-A with the West Virginia Black Bears, and both earned their way to a promotion to the Low-A West Virginia Power. The Black Bears won the New York-Penn League Championship after clinching a Wild Card Berth on the last day of the regular season, and even though Newman and Kramer didn’t get to hoist the trophy with the rest of the club, they still played a factor in the team’s regular season successes.

Newman hit for a combined .257/.318/.350 line between his stints with the Black Bears and Power with 2 HR, 17 RBI, and a .668 OPS. He struck out 30 times and drew 19 walks, and he showed off some speed and gap power with 14 doubles and 13 steals in 61 games played – 38 with the Black Bears and 23 with the Power. Though the offensive numbers may not jump off of the paper, Newman’s scouting report shows he is a line drive hitter who hits to all fields, but does not show much power in his stroke yet. He was drafted as a shortstop, but questions on whether he can maintain that position adequately may earn him a spot at second base. Newman also has an aggressive approach at the plate, which attributes to his low walk total and somewhat below-average OBP clip. Newman hit .375 in 2013 and .385 in 2014 with the University of Arizona, so the signs of his approach should develop further in 2016.

Kramer turned in a fair outing for his first year of professional action. In 58 combined games – 46 with the Black Bears and 12 with the Power – Kramer hit for a .291/.375/.366 line with no home runs, 20 RBI, 9 doubles, and a .741 OPS. He struck out 36 times and drew 30 walks while stealing 12 bases. His .305 batting average with the Black Bears ranked 6th in the New York-Penn League, and he ranked in the league’s top 10 In OBP, as well. Kramer’s scouting report shows he is a natural shortstop with quick hands and the ability to hit the ball to all fields. His defense is what he is known for on an overall scale, with his range and hands being focused on as assets to his game. Kramer may have fallen down on teams’ draft boards due to a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder suffered back in 2014. All in all, he seems as if a prospect that can develop into a fine middle infielder, given there are no setbacks to his shoulder. He didn’t suffer any major injuries in 2015, but fans that are following closely may want to monitor that.

With Neil Walker getting shipped to the Mets for pitching, could that further invoke the organization’s belief in these two young middle infielders? It could, but we more than likely won’t see either of these two until 2018 or 2019, given their development and growth as players. Both figure to start the season at Low-A and get a full season in with the Power, but we shouldn’t rule out the possibility of seeing them advance to High-A Bradenton at some point. What can we hope for in 2016 from these two? With Newman, one might want to see the batting average and walk rates increase a bit. If he gets full playing time at second base, with Kramer manning shortstop, we might see the start of what could be the starting middle infield for your Pittsburgh Pirates.