Heat Check: 2019 Fantasy Baseball Kevin Newman

by Samir Qurashi
PNC Park, Home of Pittsburgh Pirates

Last September, Pirates fans had a legit gripe with 2B/SS Kevin Newman. The Bucs' 2015 first rounder and former Arizona Wildcat did the opposite of what most heat check subjects do.

Newman did not "burst on to the scene" in his first Major league tour. His defense was abysmal, his bat provided nothing, and baseball junkies were justifiably calling for owner Robert Nutting's head after handing GM Neil Huntington a four-year extension.

Despite struggling on both sides of the ball in his debut tour, Newman did enough to be considered a candidate to take over for the departed Josh Harrison. Three games into the season a right middle finger laceration led to an April trip to the IL. Fellow prospect SS Cole Tucker was called up and proceeded to homer in his first at bat.

No matter, never mind. Then Tucker fizzled while Newman rehabbed and since has $izzled. Batting a healthy .313, Newman finally accessed his tool kit last week, swiping his second and third stolen base on the season.

Currently, only 12 qualified batters can boast they're above the .300 line. Shoot, anyone hitting above .300, in this era, will catch the eye. It's Christmas in July at PNC Park. Across his past ten games, Newman has 15 hits, six runs, three SBs, and a partridge in a pear tree. Might as well call him Santa, delivering joy to adults and kids alike. At this writing, he's the proud owner of a ten game hit streak.

With dual eligibility either already available (Yahoo!) or potentially on course (ESPN/CBS), Newman maybe headed toward useful fantasy utility bat. That is of course if you need a boost from his stronger categories (more on this below). But in his first full season, can Newman do enough at the plate to justify being rostered for the long haul?

In this week's heat check, we take to examine the underlying numbers and determine out Newman's rest-of-season roster-ability.

Heat Check: 2019 Fantasy Baseball Kevin Newman

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Embed from Getty Images

RHB Kevin Newman, 2B/SS, Pittsburgh Pirates

AGE: 25, Rookie (Drafted in 1st Rd, 19th Overall, of 2015 Draft by PIT)
6/16 Ownership: ESPN – 2.2%, Yahoo! – 7%, CBS – 11%

Standard Batting
2015 PIT-min A-,A 61 283 257 39 66 14 2 2 17 13 19 30 .257 .318 .350 .668 90
2016 PIT-min AA,A+ 102 457 397 65 127 21 3 5 52 10 43 36 .320 .389 .426 .814 169
2017 PIT-min AA,AAA 122 552 509 65 136 29 4 4 41 11 29 62 .267 .311 .363 .675 185
2018 PIT-min AAA 109 476 437 74 132 30 2 4 35 28 31 50 .302 .350 .407 .758 178
2018 PIT NL 31 97 91 7 19 2 0 0 6 0 4 23 .209 .247 .231 .478 21
2019 PIT-min AAA 8 35 30 5 7 2 0 0 1 0 5 7 .233 .343 .300 .643 9
2019 PIT NL 44 157 144 15 45 8 1 2 19 3 11 21 .313 .363 .424 .787 61
2 Yr 2 Yr 2 Yr 75 254 235 22 64 10 1 2 25 3 15 44 .272 .319 .349 .668 82
162 162 162 162 549 508 48 138 22 2 4 54 6 32 95 .272 .319 .349 .668 177
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/16/2019.

2019 By the Numbers*

*Because of his early-season IL-stint, these stats were procured for players with a minimum of 140 ABs, a total of 270 Batters, and 32 shortstops.

  • The .313 AVG comes with a .352 BAbip, good for 6th best amongst MLB SS.
  • His 85.1% Contact rate is 31st in the Majors. And this places him in the neighborhood of Howie Kendrick (85%), Hanser Alberto (84.8%), and Jorge Polanco (84.2%). His 74.4 O-Contact % and 92.9% Z-Contact are both 3rd amongst all MLB SS.
  • 13.4 K% is 4th best amongst SS and within the top 10% off all MLB hitters. His 7.5 SwStr% is 6th amongst all MLB SS.
  • His Home/Road splits demonstrate a potential good for our purposes. PNC Park is hitter-approved (Hitter Park Factors: 9th for Hits, 9th for Runs, 18th for HRs, 2nd for 2Bs, 7th for 3Bs). Newman's 66 AB .273/.329/.364 Home slash should improve as time goes on. His .349/.393/.482 away slash is what we like to see.
  • There are some negatives, but they are obvious given his apparent power deficiency: 23.4% hard-hit rate is lowest amongst MLB SS and in the bottom 4% of all MLB hitters. He's also in the bottom 5% in Barrel% (1.6) and Exit Velocity (84.4%). You have to acknowledge you're taking a pure hit in power for the sake of contact and speed.
  • It is also worth noting that he rocks the 4th best Oppo% amongst SS (29.8%) and 12th best Medium Hit% at 46%.

Newman has the Need...The Need For Speed

That speed is real; Newman swiped 28 based across 109 games (437 Abs) at AAA Indianapolis last season before his August call-up. His 28.3 sprint speed (ft/s) has him tied with likes of Javy Baez, Xander Bogaerts, and Jose Altuve. Nice to have.

And the three SBs last week is a sign of good things to come. Our season-long excitement stems from the combination of his speed and hit tool/plate approach locking him into the leadoff spot in a Bucs order that can look like this:

1. SS Kevin Newman (R) - Currently being heat checked.
2. RF Bryan Reynolds (S) - A breakout candidate in his own right: .361/.416/.562 with 22/61 of hits are extra-base hits.
3. CF Starling Marte (R) - You know what you're gonna get. A good player.
4. 1B Josh Bell (S) - 2019 MEGA Breakout/physically resembles Greek God.
5. 3B Colin Moran (L) - Finally getting/taking advantage of the playing time he deserves in lieu of Captain DUI, Jung Ho Kang.
6. LF Corey Dickerson or the struggling Gregory Polanco (both L) - Welcome back Corey as El Coffee continues to struggle.
7. C Elias Diaz (R) - So far not so good. But respectable .286/.339/.452 split last season with 10 HRs in 252 ABs.
8. 2B Adam Frazier (L) - Has shown flashes, especially from a fantasy perspective.
9. SP

Not the worst place to leadoff. And one could point out that aside from Bell and Reynolds, the bats have underperformed thus far. The runs are coming, the stolen bases opportunities hopefully continue too. Because the talent and minor league history suggest it should.

Heat Check: Newman Takes Second to No One [on the Waiver Wire]

With his defensive improvements, we don't see Cole Tucker pushing him out of a job quite yet. Newman is only ~260 PAs into his MLB career. If this is him while he's learning I am willing to bet he continues to steadily get better. Especially in the doubles department.

PLUS Categories: Runs, Hits, SB, OBP & AVG

NEGATIVE Categories: RBI, HR, XBHs & TB (generally, power is low-end)

Is your league heavy, be it category or points, on a particular aspect? Check first if Newman fits the bill for your specific league. If you factor the above cat stats, then:

  • I would own/start Newman over: Andrelton Simmons, Jose Iglesias, Hanser Alberto, Starlin Castro. Howie Kendrick is currently a hot topic, but if you can afford the power deficit, it's worth debating the two's fantasy ceilings as we approach July.

And for league general specifics:

  • All Leagues: If not already, potential multi-position eligibility is a plus. Has appeared in LF twice this season too.
  • Points: A tick above average returns. Won't hurt you with Ks, consistent with contact/hits, should contribute more steals as the season progresses. But the lack of power means he won't set the league on fire.
  • NL-Only: Yup. This could become a broken record so simply put: winning fantasy managers make a decision like this in June. Then hit on them. His ownership is below 12% in all formats; get in now if you have space.
  • 10 Team: Not enough across the board to justify rostering yet. If you're in Yahoo! leagues, he's a suitable candidate to fill-in for Yoan Moncada at 2B/IF if he heads to the IL.
  • 12 Team: Watchlist. Would lean towards letting this week play out. If he continues to spit hot fire, I'd consider grabbing him, especially if I am SB/AVG/Runs needy.
  • 14+ Team: Roster him. Making savvy moves before the mainstreamers pick up the scent is how you win deep leagues. It's mid-June, this is when the wire begins to thing out before the slight bump in late August/early September. If he fizzles, he'll fizzle soon. As long as Clint Hurdle as him locked atop the order, the potential's there.
  • Dynasty: Tucker will push him, and right now he projects as a solid utility guy with a strong pedigree. A leadoff contact hitter with above-average speed along with this year's defensive profile and his multi-position experience is indicative of a player with the potential to stay.

If you pick up Newman, we informed you where he'll help you win. But you also have to take the strengths and weaknesses and anticipate improvement as the season moves on. It's not what he's done, it's how you anticipate he'll get better this season that should justify rostering him.

Get in early now. Wait a week, he probably won't be gone. But wait too long, you'll be out of luck and stuck searching for another new man.

Check out the rest of our 2019 Fantasy Baseball content from our great team of writers.

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