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To recap the countdown so far:
We continue the countdown with the number 11 prospect, Kevin Newman.
11. Kevin Newman, SS
Newman represents a bit of a shift in the draft philosophy for the Pirates in recent years. In their early days, they could take elite prospects in the top half of the draft, who left very little question about their future as an MLB starting pitcher or starter on the field. Now that they’re picking lower in the first round, they have been sacrificing power, while focusing on speed, defense, and the ability to hit for average.
Newman fits that profile. He was drafted as a shortstop who has a line drive stroke, great plate patience, speed, and good contact skills. However, he is never going to be a power guy, instead relying on hitting for average, getting on base, and providing speed.
There are questions about this profile. The lack of power has some scouts wondering if Newman can do all of the other things well enough to eventually be a starter in the majors. There are some who question his range, although that didn’t look bad in his time in Morgantown or West Virginia. The safe bet would be to call him a future utility player, but it’s probably too early to count him out as a starter.
Like a lot of other Pirates hitting prospects, Newman has been focused early in his pro career on sitting back in his stance and seeing the ball deeper in the zone. This makes it easier for him to hit off-speed pitches and go to the middle or opposite field with his short swing.
Newman knows the limitations of his game, and is fine with the lack of power. He’s a hard-nosed player who goes all out on every play, realizing that this is his game, and helps to make up for lacking power.
It might take some time to evaluate the drafting approach by the Pirates the last two years, especially for their tendency to go with hitters who have similar profiles to Newman. He will be a big test for this approach. Because of his advanced hitting, the Pirates will most likely send him to Bradenton at the start of the 2016 season. He won’t have anyone blocking him in Altoona, which means he could make that jump by the end of the year if his results in Bradenton are good enough.