Name: Kevin Newman
Height/Weight: 6’1’’, 180
There has been no hotter name of late as it relates to the 2015 MLB Draft than Kevin Newman of Arizona. At the start of the year, he was viewed as a late first rounder or maybe a second rounder who could hit but might have to move off of shortstop and was an okay athlete. Now he is ranked second and eighth on the draft boards of two of the more respected MLB Draft writers. So let’s take a much deeper look at Kevin Newman.
Newman is 6’1”, 180-pound shortstop from Arizona. He is a right-handed hitter and is most known for his ability to hit. He has hit everywhere he has gone. His college batting average is .336, and this year he is hitting .391. Newman is most well known for winning a pair of batting titles in the Cape Cod League, a feat which had never happened before. A lot of great players have won one, but two is quite a feat.
As a side note, I often find it funny how much is put into Cape Cod League stats. We often hear about small sample size and the need for more information on the major league level. Yet this all gets ignored on the Cape. I think one could argue draft boards people make in the fall are more based off the Cape than how a player performed the year before. I say this because until this year, this could have been the case for Newman.
I mentioned he could hit, but frankly that was all Newman did until this season. He was an okay defender. He was smart and made the right reads but he wasn’t anything other than average. As a hitter, Newman had shown 20-30 power on the scouting scale. He has the type of power where if he hit eight homeruns in a year that would be like 40 to a power hitter. His speed was average, as well. He could hit and the hit tool had the potential to be a 60, which along with the ability to play shortstop was still enough for him to be in my top 30 players and included in every first-round mock draft I have had so far.
I have not seen a lot of Arizona. The West Coast is not my friend in terms of game start and end times. Still the reports on Newman have changed a lot in three months. Now Newman is an above-average defender who is a strong candidate to stick at short and he is a plus runner, as well. If that sounds like a familiar profile, it should because he has a similar profile to Dansby Swanson, who I profiled earlier this year.
Swanson is probably the safest bet of the top-three ranked bats, but that group could now be growing to a top-four. One could now argue that Newman is the third-safest college bat because of his positional value. It is quite a rise for Newman, arguably the biggest this year in terms of first-round talent. Dillon Tate changed roles from reliever to starter, which lead to his jump. Newman just showed up quicker and it changed his outlook.
At the plate, Newman has a very wide stance. Some think he should fix it and that some doubles power might come. I am in the other camp that says messing with a highly effective college player’s stance might be asking for trouble. It is often very difficult when teams try to change something a player is used to after, in some cases, 10-15 years of doing it one way. If a team wants him to fiddle with his stance hoping to find power, it would be the wrong move to me. Best case he goes from 30-grade power to 40. Worst case you mess with his head and comfort level.
I think the team that drafts Newman needs to accept what he is: a potential top-10 shortstop who can hit, steal a few bases, and maybe collect a few doubles because of his wheels. I think to expect or hope for anything more than that would be a fool’s errand. This is not an insult at all to Newman. There were zero shortstops that hit .300 last year. If Newman turns into a .290 hitter, he would have been the second-best hitting shortstop in the majors last year (in terms of average).
Now onto the always important comparison section. I spent quite a bit if time digging before I settled on former Blue Jays, Indians, Padres and Yankees shortstop Tony Fernandez. Fernandez was an inch taller and batted from both sides, but he was a solid shortstop at his peak who could hit and steal a few bases. I was trying to find a bat who didn’t strikeout a ton, had a nice average, a little speed and no power. David Eckstein was in the running but size knocked him out. Fernandez eventually moved over to second base. I could see Newman, as he gets older, moving over to second and providing solid defense there, as well. Newman has potential as a number one or two hitter, providing value up the middle and doing it quickly.
I was thinking about my big board more and more and, as of now, I don’t have Newman in the top-10. I think he ends up in the 12-16 range. I like the hit tool and ability to play short. As long as you accept what he is and how valuable his skill set his, then Newman is a good pick. Newman might not have the sexy upside of other players, but there might not be a position player in the first-round that moves quicker than Newman through the minor leagues.