Jerry Seinfeld’s classic greeting to his nemesis, Newman the postman, will live on with the Pittsburgh hipster, thanks to the Pirates drafting SS Kevin Newman out of the University of Arizona. But what does this mean? He’s not young, not really projectable much and probably doesn’t have that high of a ceiling. He could be a signability pick since he’s a college player who’s never been mentioned as a tough sign guy.
In reality I think this is just a beacon to Pirate fans of the dearth of shortstops and shortstop prospects out there.
Currently in the system they have Jordy Mercer and Jung-ho Kang who can play a defensive SS and hit enough at the ML level. Pedro Florimon can field the position but will probably never hit enough to be a ML starter. Same could be said of Gift Ngeope at AA. Jacoby Jones in high A ball has power and athleticism but will probably strikeout too much and have too many errors to be a ML shortstop. Cole Tucker in low A has a chance to stick both with the glove and bat but he’s 3+ years away. That leads us to Newman. He will now be one of the two prospects in the Pirates ML system that could possibly man shortstop everyday.
The shortstop void is all over baseball and not just in the Pirates’ system. Some teams don’t have any quality ML shortstops and just get an all glove no bat guy to run out there everyday. It’s much easier to find a Casey Sadler to fill in for a rotation spot than it is to find his equivalent at SS.
This under supply leading to the over demand was obvious in this draft when the first three picks were all shortstops. It seems so similar to the way left tackles have become so in demand in the NFL. Maybe we’ll have a commensurate movie to The Blind Side and Kevin Newman will play the role of Michael Oher.
Newman himself seems to be given credit for his current and future speed as well as his future hit tool, which some say could be a 60 on the 20-80 scale. If we could have a starting shortstop with a 60 hit tool and 60 run tool that would definitely be worthy of the 19th pick.
Newman played two summers in the famous Cape Cod league (2013 and 2014) and won the batting titles both years. Peter Gammons watched him play on the Cape and was friendly with Newman’s coaching staff. Gammons stated that Newman’s team coaches said that Newman might be one of the smartest players that has ever played for them.
Finally, Fangraphs noted that Newman is one of the safest picks (if unexciting), another reason to feel good about the pick. From their Sortable Draft Database Report:
Newman isn’t especially exciting, as he has a swing that emphasizes contact and allows almost no power, but he’s hit everywhere (he won two Cape batting titles), he’s a plus runner and he can play shortstop.
With the lack of impact talent in the 2015 draft, the Pirates may be approaching this draft with the idea that they don’t want to “overpay” in the early rounds, but instead pay out money in the later rounds to tougher-to-sign HS picks. They did a similar strategy last year with Mitch Keller, Trey Supak, and Gage Hinsz getting overslot monies.