The Pirates have selected Arizona shortstop Kevin Newman with the No. 19 pick in the draft.
This was an outside-the-box pick, with Daz Cameron, Mike Nikorak, Ashe Russell, Walker Buehler and others still available, and this marks the second consecutive year that the Pirates have seemingly reached for a shortstop from Arizona with their top overall pick. (Newman is a college guy; Cole Tucker, last year's first-rounder, was drafted out of high school.)
Newman has a very good hit tool and appears to have an advanced approach at the plate, and he's performed well at a top college program and in the Cape Cod League, where he was a two-time batting champion. As a group, I really like college position players, and the Cubs have shown in recent years that there's a lot to be gained from picking guys who've proven they can hit at a high level.
Newman is no Kris Bryant or Kyle Schwarber, though (although there wasn't someone obviously of that caliber available at No. 19). Newman didn't hit a single home run at Arizona (at least not according to The Baseball Cube), and while a player's college statistics don't always provide the best indication of what he'll do as a pro, MLB.com doesn't seem optimistic Newman will develop much power. He also doesn't have great speed, which means his contact-oriented approach might not play very well with high-quality defenders around the infield -- think of how Jose Tabata has struggled to get established in the big leagues.
That might not matter so much if Newman can stick at shortstop. He doesn't have a great arm, though, so he might eventually have to move to second. Baseball America ranks Newman the No. 29 prospect in the draft (suggesting that he's a reach at No. 19, but not much of one) and sounds somewhat more optimistic than MLB.com about his ability to stick at shortstop, noting that he doesn't stick out at that position but that he gets the job done.
We've seen lately, though, that teams sometimes value players very differently than outside analysts do. This might be one of those cases. And not even all analysts agree on Newman. Keith Law actually ranked Newman the second-best player in the entire draft back in May.
The best college hitter in the class, Newman can stay at shortstop, is a plus runner and has hit everywhere he has played by employing great hand-eye coordination and excellent bat speed. The lack of power might turn off some teams, but he's strong enough to drive the ball once he closes his stance.
Also, with so little consensus on the top talents in this draft, the Pirates might well have some agreement in place with Newman that will allow them to save a bit of money against their bonus pool that they can use to splurge on later picks. Let's see what they do at No. 32.
Here's some video.
1. SS Dansby Swanson (Diamondbacks)
2. SS Alex Bregman (Astros)
3. SS Brendan Rodgers (Rockies)
4. P Dillon Tate (Rangers)
5. OF Kyle Tucker (Astros)
6. P Tyler Jay (Twins)
7. OF Andrew Benintendi (Red Sox)
8. P Carson Fulmer (White Sox)
9. OF Ian Happ (Cubs)
10. SS Cornelius Randolph (Phillies)
11. C Tyler Stephenson (Reds)
12. 1B Josh Naylor (Marlins)
13. OF Garrett Whitley (Rays)
14. P Kolby Allard (Braves)
15. OF Trenton Clark (Brewers)
16. P James Kaprielian (Yankees)
17. P Brady Aiken (Indians)
18. P Phil Bickford (Giants)