Over the last month or so, the Pittsburgh Pirates have let their younger players get more playing time. One is starting to take advantage of it.
If there was one area that lacked in the Pittsburgh Pirates offense this season, it was the middle infield. Josh Harrison has been hurt off and on all season, and he was eventually replaced by Adam Frazier. Frazier has already unofficially been deemed the starting second baseman for the 2019 season. On the other side of second base was Jordy Mercer. Mercer brought his usual consistent self, playing relatively average defense and being rather average at the plate. Unfortunately, in a league full of impact shortstops, Mercer did not meet that this season.
So the Pittsburgh Pirates called up one of their top prospects in Kevin Newman. However, Newman did not see the starting lineup for nearly his first week of being recalled. So it did not seem that the team was ready to commit to seeing what they had in Newman for 2019. It did not make any sense, especially being that Mercer is going to be a free agent at the end of the season.
When Newman did finally get in, it was rather obvious that he had not seen much live pitching and struggled out of the gate. Newman batted .302/.350/.407 with 28 stolen bases. He was elected to the Triple-A all-star game and hit for the cycle. The former Arizona Wild Cat had quite an impressive year at Triple-A, so many thought he would quickly be put in as the starter over Mercer. The Pittsburgh Pirates recalled Newman in the middle of August.
Instead, the team put Mercer on the disabled list and inserted Adeiny Hechavarria as the everyday starter. Newman was called up on the 16th and did not receive his first start until the 20th. He played sparingly through the rest of August, only getting 24 plate appearances in 15 days. Through those games, he only batted .125/.222/.167 with nine strikeouts and three walks.
Then came September, with Jordy Mercer coming off the disabled list and Hechavarria being dealt to the New York Yankees. However, General Manager Neal Huntington made it publicly known that he expected the young players to get the bulk of the playing time down the stretch.
This has led Kevin Newman to play in 11 games already in September and has 37 plate appearances. Since gaining more playing time, he has boosted his overall numbers. This is because he has posted a much-improved slash line of .270/.282/.297. While these numbers are still not overly impressive, they definitely are starting to turn towards more of a productive player. He has looked more comfortable at the plate, and, hopefully, he will continue to hit and improve as the season winds down. If he does, he should be given a chance to be the Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop next season.