When I begin the process of compiling lists or formulating opinions of players, I try to speak to as many scouts as I can, prioritizing those who have had multiple looks at a player. I certainly trust my own eye—I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t—but having a chance to speak to those who work in the industry as a sort of “check and balance” system is invaluable to me, and I believe adds credibility to the lists.
While this system generally works well, it often creates headaches, as here and there I get highly variant beliefs on a player’s upside. I thought it’d be fun to take a more in-depth look at a group of players who had the widest range of opinions and show how a prospect’s ceiling and floor can vary so much between two different player evaluators.
Next up on our differing opinions series is our first 2015 draft selection: Pirates first round pick Kevin Newman. When talking to scouts about Newman I received widespread difference as to just what type of future the former Arizona Wildcat standout had, so I decided to ask two scouts who had seen him recently – one high, one low – their opinions on the 19th overall selection, and why they were high – or not so much – on his future.
Hit: Newman’s calling-card at Arizona was his ability to hit for average – he’s the only player to ever lead the Cape Cod in batting-average two years in a row – and this was a tool the scouts agreed upon – to an extent.
High scout: “You watch tape of the guy hit at [Arizona] and you just have to come away impressed with his strike zone knowledge. He’s not passive by any means but I so rarely saw him swing at pitches that weren’t strikes, and those pitches he swung at he still hit hard. Say what you will about the lack of power, but you can get away with that when you have a hit tool somewhere in the 60 to 70 range. I think Newman might have that when all is said and done.”
Low scout: “If this wasn’t at least above-average, there’d be no chance Newman is a big leaguer. The swing is solid, his bat-to-ball skills are fantastic, and he picks up spin very well. I don’t think you’re looking at a future batting champion though; I think this is more of a .270, .280 guy than someone who hits near .300. That’s solid, but maybe a little lower than what the rest of the industry thinks.
Power: Newman hit just two homers in his three years with the Wildcats, and because of his smallish stature and stance, power is not likely going to be a big part of his offensive profile. Just how little one scout believed in that part of his game though was a bit surprising.
HS: “The swing is pretty flat, and the stance is so wide that it’s really hard to imagine he’ll hit for power. All that being said, there are some adjustments I think you can make to get that power tool closer to 40 than the 30 it’s at right now, like adding some loft and making the stance less wide so he can make a stride. I don’t think double-digit homers are out of the question, but power isn’t why you take a guy like this in the first round.
LS: “I see no chance of hitting for power. I was surprised that he hit any at Arizona if I’m being completely honest, and that’s playing with an aluminum bat. He doesn’t use his lower half at all, and he’s not that strong to begin with. It’s 20 power now, and unless he changes his swing, which would hurt the overall hit tool, there’s no reason to think it’s going to get any better. Maybe he’ll pile up the doubles but the raw power is just so bare.
Speed: Both scouts believed that Newman has plus speed and can be an asset on the bases, which should come as no surprise as Newman has plus speed and can be an asset on the bases. Speed is pretty easy to scout, especially when you’re talking about 22 year olds like we are with Newman.
Defense: Whether Newman could stick at shortstop was the biggest question mark coming into the 2015 season, which shouldn’t come as a surprise considering it’s the biggest question for most collegiate shortstops. As you might expect, there was a pretty significant difference as to just how high Newman’s defensive value is.
HS: Everything about the profile suggests to me that he’ll be a quality shortstop for a long period of time. The hands are good, the athleticism is certainly good enough to stick in the middle infield, and he reads the ball off the bat very well. If he has to make the move over to second base then you can live with that, but I’d give him every chance to play shortstop, and I think he’ll end up being pretty [darn] good over there.
LS: “I am not convinced this is a shortstop long-term. The arm was average for me without much carry, and I think if he loses any speed he’s going to have to move to the other side of the diamond. The hands are fine and he gets to the ball quickly, but that can only care you so far. Even if he does stay there, I think you’re looking at a guy that’s going to be so-so there, maybe a guy you want to replace late in games. I may be too harsh on him but I just don’t know if this is a starting shortstop.
Ceiling/floor: HS: A first-division shortstop who hits near or at the top of the lineup, steals 30 bases and provides solid defense at shortstop [is the ceiling]. A utility guy that can play up the middle and pinch run for the slow guys late in the game if things don’t go the right way.
LS: If everything goes right, he’s a shortstop who hits enough to overcome the lack of power and gives you a bunch of runs and steals. The floor is a bench guy, and if he can’t stick at shortstop I think this might be an up-and-down guy who plays second base and pinch runs.
Me: I was a big fan of Newman coming into the 2015 draft, and despite the relative struggles to start his professional career I remain a fan. There’s a lot of pressure on the hit tool, but because the hand-eye coordination is so good and because he picks up rotation so well, I think there’s reason to believe it can carry him to a quality big league career, and prototypical leadoff hitter who provides above-average defense is not out of the realm of possibilities. I do agree with both scouts that the floor is a utility infielder who can be used to run for the corner players/catchers, but I think he’s the rare player who is far more likely to hit his ceiling than the floor.
Thank you for reading
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