On Thursday, the Pittsburgh Pirates promoted one of their top prospects from Triple-A when they called up Kevin Newman. Now, it is time for the team to see what the former first round pick can do
With the 19th overall pick in the 2015 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, the Pittsburgh Pirates selected middle infielder Kevin Newman out of the University of Arizona. While Newman can play both shortstop and second base, upon being drafted he was viewed by many as the shortstop of the future for the Pirates.
After hitting his way through the minor leagues, Newman was promoted to the Major Leagues for the first time on Thursday. While he did not start for the Pirates on Thursday, he did make his MLB debut as a defensive replacement for shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria in the top of the 9th inning.
The door was opened for Newman when starting shortstop Jordy Mercer was placed on the disabled list on Thursday with a left quad strain. Now that Newman is in the Majors there is only one thing the Pirates can do with him, and that is to play him every day.
Last night, Hechavarria got the nod over Newman at shortstop. While he recorded a pair of hits, Newman should have gotten the nod. Hechavarria is a plus defender at shortstop, but his lifetime .292 on-base percentage, .276 wOBA, and wRC+ of 73 leave a lot to be desired. He is also set to hit free agency at the end of the season.
Winning the National League Central has been out of the question for the Pirates for some time now, and their recent slide has caused the team to fall 6.5 games out in the NL Wild Card race. With the odds of securing a Wild Card berth now looking bleak, it is time for the Pirates to focus on 2019. The team is set up for success in 2019 and beyond, and the final 40 games of the season can be a good test for Newman to see where he stands in terms of being part of that future.
Newman’s range at shortstop has always been a question mark as has his power. But he has the tools to be a good hitter. At Triple-A this season Newman was slashing .302/.350/.407/.757 with a .339 wOBA, a 113 wRC+, and his 30 doubles rank second in the International League. Newman also brings a speed element ranking among the league leaders in the IL in stolen bases with 28.
It’s time for Clint Hurdle and the Pirates to see what Newman can do.
Even when Mercer returns, Newman should be playing every day. Like Hechavarria, Mercer is set to hit free agency this offseason and is not part of the future for the Pirates. Mercer, again like Hechavarria, is a below average hitter. In addition, Mercer is one of the worst defensive shortstops in baseball owing a NL worst -11 defensive runs saved (DRS) this season.
If we’re being honest, the Pirates should have promoted Kevin Newman to the Big Leagues before Thursday. Between injuries and poor play from Mercer, Josh Harrison, and Sean Rodriguez, the Bucs have been in need of a middle infield boost all season.
But, there is no sense crying over spilled milk. However, make no mistake about it, now that Newman is in the Majors doing anything but playing him every day would be a huge mistake by Hurdle and the Pirates.