Despite playing on an Arizona Wildcats team that will probably not play in the postseason in any of the three years he's been in Tucson, junior shortstop Kevin Newman is continuing to draw major interest from MLB scouts and draft pundits from around the country.
It was a huge shock when ESPN's Keith Law ranked Newman as the second-best prospect in the 2015 MLB Draft. If you take just his Cape Cod League performances, where he's the only player to win two-straight batting titles, it makes sense to have Newman that high.
But as Law points out, Newman has no power:
He stays at short, has hit everywhere he's played (including two summers leading the Cape Cod League in batting average) and is a plus runner. He doesn't have any power, but his wide stance may be the reason, and closing it could unlock some doubles power in no time.
Newman's only career collegiate home run came just two weeks ago at ASU. Of his 57 hits this season, only 14 have gone for extra bases, resulting in a surprisingly low .481 slugging percentage. By contrast, his middle infield counterpart Scott Kingery is slugging .660.
But a great analytics article from Baseball America explains that Newman's lack of power is a rarity among top MLB draftees.
Baseball America does not have Newman as high as Keith Law does, ranking him 28th on their draft prospects list, and is just the fourth-best shortstop.
In the analytics piece by BA, they share that Newman has the lowest career ISO (isolated power rate) among the top 50 prospects at .078. This is calculated by how often he records an extra-base hit (14 in 154 at bats this season is .091).
That .078 number would be the second-lowest accumulated by a Top 50 pick in the last ten years, and his one career home run would be by far the lowest, with the next-highest being four career home runs by fellow class of 2015 prospects Kyle Holder (San Diego) and Richie Martin (Florida).
A couple of notable guys on these lists are Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, and Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Cliff Pennington. After being drafted out of Virginia in 2005 with a career ISO of .116, Zimmerman has put up a career slugging percentage of .475 at the MLB level. He slugged .553 in the minors. On average, MLB teams are slugging .386 this year.
Zimmerman is easily the most successful of the lowest career ISO guys getting drafted so high, as he's set to make $14 million this season.
Now we go back to what Law said, pointing out that narrowing Newman's stance may fix the issue. It also may be something like standing him more upright, like what the Yankees did with Robert Refsnyder.
If scouts see this as a simple change, now you can understand why Newman is still a guy that's going to go in the first round despite his extreme lack of power. Add to that his range and arm at shortstop, and you've got yourself a high draft pick, even though he hasn't done a lot of winning in Tucson.