By Jason Shetler
In the 2015 MLB Draft, the Pirates chose Kevin Newman out of the University of Arizona with their first round selection. He was one of the best hitters among the college players. ESPN.com’s Keith Law gave very high praise to Newman, as he considered him the second best prospect going into last year’s draft, despite the fact he was taken 19th overall by the Bucs. He began his pro career in Morgantown for the West Virginia Black Bears, and struggled initially, posting just a .281 on base percentage. Newman was then moved up to the West Virginia Power where he put up a much better .376 on base.
Entering 2016, MLB Pipeline ranked Newman as the Pirates 11th best prospect in the system. He’s been off to a very strong start in High A for the Bradenton Marauders, as he’s posted a .422 OBP, which is fourth highest in the Florida State League, and tops for a shortstop. Not only is his on base the highest for a FSL shortstop, it’s fifth best among all minor league shortstops right now. Newman can make consistent contact and has been tough to strikeout with a very impressive 5.6% strikeout rate. While most shortstops tend to struggle defensively at the lower levels of the minors, Newman has held his own with a .953 fielding percentage and a very good 4.52 Range Factor. Barring injury, he should be given a promotion to AA Altoona by seasons end. The Pirates haven’t had themselves a solid all-around shortstop since the days of Jay Bell, and if Newman is able to put up these numbers as he climbs the minor league ladder, he could end up being an elite level shortstop for them in the near future.