Connor Kaiser

CONNOR KAISER, SHORTSTOP
Born: November 20, 1996
Height: 6′ 4″
Weight: 195
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Drafted: 3rd Round, 86th Overall, 2018
How Acquired: Draft
College: Vanderbilt University
Agent: N/A

WTM’S PLAYER PROFILE

In the 2018 draft, the Pirates went with a college position player in the third round for the sixth year in a row.  Three of the previous picks were used to save slot money for prep players later in the draft.  That could be the case with Kaiser here, although he does have some skills that could allow him to reach the majors, so his selection wasn’t all about signability.  He has the ability to stick at shortstop, with average range and an above-average arm.

Offensively, Kaiser has shown some power due to a good frame and strength.  He has a big load and leg kick, but Baseball America noted that he hits more ground balls than fly balls.  He hit for a .284/.388/.402 line in 2018 and finished his season with three homers in one game.  He also hit well in the wood bat Cape Cod league in 2017, with a .300/.403/.470 line.  The big frame makes Kaiser interesting, as it separates him from Stephen Alemais and other college shortstops that the Pirates have drafted in previous years, and could give him some power potential if he can hit for more fly balls.  Kaiser signed for a little under the slot amount of $673,200.

2018
A-:  212/303/260, 104 AB, 2 2B, 1 HR, 13 BB, 31 K, 7-8 SB
A:  302/338/381, 63 AB, 2 2B, 1 HR, 4 BB, 15 K, 0-1 SB

Once he signed, Kaiser became the regular shortstop at Morgantown.  He showed good range and committed only one error in 28 starts.  His hitting was a different story, as he struggled badly.  Kaiser got a break when Oneil Cruz suffered a hip injury and the Pirates moved Kaiser up to West Virginia in mid-August to replace him.  Once he got to West Virginia, Kaiser suddenly started hitting, although his plate discipline remained poor.

2019
A:  200/331/325, 280 AB, 12 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 51 BB, 77 K, 4-6 SB

Kaiser spent the season at Greensboro, although he missed most of May and half of August with injuries.  Other than three games each at second and third, Kaiser stayed at short despite the presence most of the time of Ji-Hwan Bae.  Kaiser played very well defensively but did little at the plate beyond drawing walks, which has little predictive value for college draftees playing at this level.  He had just a .628 OPS against RHPs, compared to .729 against LHPs.  He struggled all year, with his best month (apart from two May games) being April, when he had a .690 OPS.  Kaiser’s struggles were part of the increasingly standard pattern for the Pirates’ college hitting draftees in low A, which is a level they should dominate.

The Pirates will be reluctant to sidetrack a third round draft pick, but Kaiser’s first two seasons have not been encouraging and Bae is one of the team’s top prospects.  An unfortunate situation would be Kaiser playing short and Bae second at Bradenton in 2020.

CONTRACT INFORMATION
2020: Minor league contract
PLAYER INFORMATION
Signing Bonus: $625,000
MiLB Debut: 2018
MLB Debut:
MiLB FA Eligible: 2024
MLB FA Eligible:
Rule 5 Eligible: 2021
Added to 40-Man:
Options Remaining: 3
MLB Service Time: 0.000
TRANSACTIONS
June 5, 2018: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 3rd round, 86th overall pick; signed on June 22.