The Pittsburgh Pirates have Two Rookie of the Year Candidates
Due to injuries, both Kevin Newman and Bryan Reynolds have inherited primary roles in the Pirates offense. Both are having NL Rookie of the Year worthy campaigns.
News flash: there are actually other players that are having good offensive seasons for the Pirates this year outside of Josh Bell. The Pirates are 12th in the MLB in batting average, and this is partially due to the rookie duo of Kevin Newman and Bryan Reynolds.
Let’s take a look at Kevin Newman first.
Kevin Newman was drafted by the Pirates in the first round of the 2015 draft with the 19th overall pick. While Newman has always been ranked highly in the Pirates farm system, he fell out of the top 5 list of Pirates prospects in 2017 and 2018 due to lack of development. With average defensive metrics and below average power metrics, Newman needed to rely heavily on his speed and contact swing if he wanted to make it in the MLB. In 2018, Newman struggled hitting only .209 with just under 100 at-bats, however, in 2019 Newman’s bat has come alive.
Newman is currently hitting .330/.390/.451/.841 over 91 at bats in the 2019 season. This gives Newman the 2nd highest batting average and 2nd highest OBP out of the 22 rookies with 90+ at-bats in the MLB. Even though Newman has only one stolen base this season, he is using his speed to leg out infield hits. This speed has earned Newman the leadoff spot in the Pirates lineup for the near future.
However, Newman is underperforming in both power and fielding metrics. Over his 91 at-bats, Newman has only eight extra-base hits with only one being a home run. Newman’s fielding metrics line up with the predicted average to below average defense. Newman has a -1.5 UZR at shortstop this season, which is the most informative metric out of the tracked defensive metrics. Per MLB.com’s definition UZR is:
"“A player’s entire defensive performance by attempting to measure how many runs a defender saved. It takes into account errors, range, outfield arm and double-play ability.”"
Obviously, having a negative UZR is not good. If the season ended today, Newman would have a good argument for NL Rookie of the Year offensively, but his campaign would most likely be crippled due to his fielding woes and lack of power.
If Newman is second in the MLB for both batting average and OBP for rookies, who is first? That would be Bryan Reynolds.