With Jordy Mercer out, Pirates bring 1st-round pick Kevin Newman to majors
After trading away first-round picks from two of their past six drafts in recent weeks, the Pittsburgh Pirates promoted another first-rounder from that time span to the majors on Thursday.
The 19 th pick of the 2015 draft, shortstop Kevin Newman, had his contract purchased by the Pirates hours before the opener of a four-game series against the first-place Chicago Cubs.
“It’s a dream come true,” Newman told reporters hours after his Thursday morning arrival in Pittsburgh. “This is what every baseball player strives for and wants to get to. And to be here and be in this clubhouse with these guys, it’s really exciting. I’m looking forward to it.”
Newman’s arrival was necessitated – and perhaps bumped up a bit – by a left calf strain suffered by starting shortstop Jordy Mercer during Tuesday’s game in Minnesota.
Mercer, the Pirates’ six-year starting shortstop who was placed on the 10-day disabled list Thursday, is a free agent after the season. Newman is the top internal option as his successor.
But in the immediate, with the Pirates still clinging to wild-card hopes despite a three-game losing streak and seven losses in their past 11 games, Newman provides depth with Mercer out.
“He’s the most dependable shortstop that we can call up,” manager Clint Hurdle told reporters before Thursday’s game. “He gives us another option to play shortstop at this time. With the volume of work he’s gotten from opening day til now, he’s improved every facet of his game. He hasn’t blinked when other people were called up.
“The bat to ball, the base-stealing ability, the baserunning ability, and he’s a dependable defender.”
Newman, 25, hit .302 with a .758 OPS, 30 doubles, four home runs, 35 RBIs and 28 stolen bases while playing mostly shortstop in 109 games this season for Triple-A Indianapolis.
Ranked a top-10 prospect in the organization before the season began by both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline, Newman leads the International League in steals and runs (74) and he is second in doubles and fifth in batting average.
Newman has a .336 average and .866 OPS this season against lefthanded pitching. The Pirates face four lefty starters against the Cubs this weekend.
Newman was not in the lineup Thursday; recent acquisition Adeiny Hechavarria was at shortstop. Hurdle said “the game will reveal opportunities” for playing Newman.
This season was the first as part of the organization in which Newman played any position other than shortstop. He made 21 of his 103 starts at second base.
While initially that could have been interpreted as a signal the Pirates were apprehensive about Newman’s ability to be a major-league shortstop, Newman has by all indications made strides defensively in 2018.
“A lot of hard work, a lot of time (spent),” Newman said. “The coaching staff down there has given us a tremendous amount of their time hitting us groundballs when we needed it, and it shows. We were able to improve a lot of aspects of our game.”
In other roster moves Thursday, the Pirates recalled outfielder Jordan Luplow and optioned catcher Jacob Stallings back to Triple-A.
To clear space on the 40-man roster for Newman, right-hander Casey Sadler was designated for assignment.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.