Pittsburgh Pirates Shortstop Kevin Newman is a Regression Candidate for 2020


Despite a strong rookie campaign in 2019, Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Kevin Newman enters the 2020 season as a regression candidate

During the 2019 season a pair of rookies burst onto the scene for the Pittsburgh Pirates. These two rookies were outfielder Bryan Reynolds and shortstop Kevin Newman. However, moving forward, these are two players that project in completely different directions.

Reynolds 2019 season was no fluke. The outfielder owned a 89.6 MPH exit velocity in 2019 and he had a hard hit rate of 41.7%. Both of these were above league average. As for Newman, however, these numbers are not as promising.

On the surface, Newman had a strong rookie campaign. He slashed .308/.353/.446 with a 110 wRC+ and a 2.4 fWAR. However, with a deeper dig, Newman’s season was not as strong as it appears on the surface.

Newman owned a 84.7 MPH exit velocity and a 24.4% hard hit rate in 2019. Both of these numbers were well below the league average. In fact, according to Baseball Savant both of these numbers were in the bottom 5% of all hitters in baseball.

Without an increase in hard hit rate or exit velocity, the odds of Newman repeating his 2019 season are slim. Combine this with Newman having struggled at the MLB level in 2018 and throughout much of his minor league career, and there is reason to believe he will regress offensively in 2020.

Newman also struggled defensively in 2019. At the shortstop position, he was responsible for -7 defensive runs saved. His UZR/150 was -9.8 and his outs above average was -8. Believe it or not, being in the negatives is bad!

Adding to the intrigue with the Pirate middle infield whenever the 2020 season starts are shortstop Cole Tucker and second baseman Adam Frazier. Tucker has been written about extensively on the site this off-season, and Frazier is coming off a season in which he was a Gold Glove Award finalist.

Newman’s best defensive position long term appears to be second base. Offensively, however, he may be a utility man. It will be interesting to watch what happens with Newman in 2020. If he regresses the way signs point toward, it would not be a surprise to see Tucker supplant him as the team’s shortstop.

That said, there is also the possibility of Newman sliding to second base. If he repeats his 2019 season and Frazier continues to be average at best offensively, you could see Newman slide over to make room for Tucker.

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Newman will enter the 2020 season, whenever it begins, as a regression candidate. With the Pittsburgh Pirates having multiple middle infield options, if Newman does struggle it would not be a surprise to see a change made and in a hurry.