Team MVP – Kevin Newman
I am a huge fan of Kevin Newman, for many different reasons. Newman had an insane rookie season last year, slashing .308/.353/.446 while also adding 12 home runs and 16 stolen bases. Was it as good as Bryan Reynolds’s rookie season or Josh Bell’s first half? No. But I think that Newman has the tools to repeat his 2019 performance year after year, making him the future most valuable player on the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2020.
While some people may be underwhelmed by Newman’s 2.4 WAR (they shouldn’t be), Newman’s value rises far beyond what WAR tracks. Newman stepped into the lead off position for the Pirates last year and performed better and more consistently than any lead off batter for the Pirates in a long time. Two statistics that stuck out to me were a low 11.7% strikeout rate and a solid .353 on-base percentage. Looking at Newman’s minor league numbers and taking into consideration that player’s typically improve in their second full season, both of these are sustainable.
In addition, Newman posted fantastic consistency throughout 2019, posting a .280+ BA and .310+ OBP every month – which is a relatively rare trait in among baseball players. All of this paired with the inevitable pressure to perform well with the continued and future promotions of Cole Tucker and Oneil Cruz should lead to a stellar season from Newman.