Shortstop prospect Kevin Newman is one of the top prospects not just in the Pirates’ system, but in all of baseball. His 2017 campaign should begin at Triple-A Indianapolis.
In the 2015 Major League Baseball Draft the Pittsburgh Pirates owned the 19th pick in the first round. With this pick Neal Huntington and the Pirates drafted Arizona shortstop Kevin Newman. Since being drafted Newman has done nothing but hit.
While there are some questions about Newman’s future position, some people believe he will stick at shortstop while others believe he will end up at second base, there is no question about his ability to hit. Newman hit well at Low-A, High-A, and last year at Double-A. Now, it is time for him to make the jump to Triple-A.
Kevin Newman’s professional debut came shortly after he signed in the summer of 2015. He got 173 plate appearances with the West Virginia Black Bears and it did not go well. In these 173 plate appearances he slashed .226/.281/.340/.620. This included a 5.8 percent walk rate, 12.7 percent strikeout rate, a .296 wOBA, and a wRC+ of 85.
Newman then spent the final month of the 2015 season with the Low-A West Virginia Power. During this time at Low-A is when he began to hit. In 110 plate appearances he slashed .306/.376/.367/.743. He also posted an 8.2 percent walk rate, 7.3 percent strikeout rate, a .351 wOBA, and a 118 wRC+.
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In 2016 Kevin Newman made the jump to High-A, and he picked up right where he left off at Low-A. In 189 plate appearances for the Bradenton Marauders Newman slashed .366/.428/.494/.922. He also continued to walk a lot (9.0 percent walk rate) and not strikeout very often (6.3 percent strikeout rate). Additionally, he also posted a career best .426 wOBA and 171 wRC+.
A lot of people will tell you the biggest jump in the Minor Leagues is the jump from High-A to Double-A. Well, Kevin Newman made this jump last summer. He would then go on to accumulate 268 plate appearances for the Double-A Altoona Curve.
In these 268 plate appearances his numbers regressed from what he did at Low-A and High-A, however, he was still an above average hitter. At Double-A Kevin Newman slashed .288/.361/.378/.739, he had a career best 9.7 percent walk rate, a 9.0 percent strikeout rate, a .339 wOBA, and a 108 wRC+.
While Newman’s power dipped at Double-A, his walk rate improved. Additionally, his strikeout rate remained strong. Furthermore, his .308 BABIP at Double-A is much more sustainable than the .333 and .375 BABIPs he had at Low-A and High-A.
Finally, take it from someone who lives in Altoona and goes to plenty of Curve games, no one hits home runs at that ballpark. The only player I have ever seen hit home runs there with regularity was Pedro Alvarez. So, a dip in his power was to be expected at Double-A due to the ballpark.
One other big question swirling around Kevin Newman does not even deal with him. Instead, it deals with Jordy Mercer. It has been reported by multiple outlets, Rum Bunter included, that the Pirates and Mercer have had preliminary talks on a contract extension this offseason.
If the Pittsburgh Pirates and Jordy Mercer agreed to a contract extension, it might make the Bucs more inclined to trade Kevin Newman. Newman’s name is one that has popped up in trade talks for pitchers such as Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi, and Jose Quintana.
Kevin Newman needs to start the 2017 season at Triple-A. Barring an injury to Jordy Mercer he may spend the entire season there. However, that would not necessarily be a bad thing. This would give him an entire season of facing the best pitching he has ever faced in his entire life. Additionally, he will always be just one call away from the Major Leagues.
Kevin Newman might be the Pirates’ starting shortstop as soon as 2018. Hell, he might be another team’s shortstop of the future if the Pirates use him to acquire starting pitching help. But to start 2017, he needs to be at Triple-A. In my opinion, he has nothing left to prove at Double-A.