All going according to plan for Newman

Bucs prospect, drafted in 2015, will report to big league camp

All going according to plan for Newman

PITTSBURGH -- Kevin Newman is only a few months removed from his first full professional season, about a year and a half past hearing his named called in the first round of the 2015 Draft. In a few weeks, he'll report to big league Spring Training with the Pirates.

Feels like he got here fast, doesn't it? Not for Newman. This was the plan.

"It was a goal for me after my first full year," Newman said at minicamp two weeks ago. "Thankfully, the Pirates rewarded me the opportunity to achieve that."

Spring Training schedule

This spring will be an introduction for Newman, a non-roster invitee, his first exposure to Major League camp. The Pirates aren't expecting him to crack the Opening Day roster, so he will look to learn from coaches and teammates as he prepares for the Minor League season.

"It's an honor," Newman said. "It'll be really exciting to see everything they do, how they go about their day. I'm excited to learn and watch them."

The 23-year-old shortstop is coming off another strong season as one of the Pirates' top prospects. He beat up on opponents in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, slashing .366/.428/.494 and only striking out 12 times in 189 plate appearances. In mid-June, almost exactly a year after his professional debut, the Bucs promoted Newman to Double-A Altoona.

Newman didn't miss a beat, batting .288 with a .739 OPS in 61 games and walking more than he struck out. He was charged with only two errors in 504 innings at shortstop for the Curve, finishing with a .992 fielding percentage.

"Just kind of stuck with my approach, didn't try to do too much," Newman said. "I didn't feel like an outsider. They made me feel welcome. A lot of that transferred onto the field, too."

Newman thrived at the plate last year after making a slight adjustment to his swing. The Pirates drafted him 19th overall in 2015, signed him a week later and, even then, mentioned the possibility of "closing up" the right-handed hitter's wide stance to add power. Last spring, he moved his feet about six inches closer.

Newman's bio, stats

It felt unnatural at first, Newman said, but he stuck with it until it felt right. The tweak won't transform him into a big home run hitter -- that's not his game -- but it should help him hit with more authority without affecting his natural ability to make contact.

"It feels like the way I hit," Newman said. "I made that adjustment, and it's paid off. It feels good."

The Pirates believe Newman will stick at shortstop, but he is still working to improve defensively. Last season, he focused specifically on his pre-pitch setup. Newman said he would step and jump his way into position in the past, so he watched video of Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer and learned from his example.

In a few weeks, the two shortstops could be taking ground balls together. No surprise, Newman named Mercer as the player he's most excited to work with during Spring Training.

"I'm not going to try to annoy him," Newman said, smiling. "He's a big league shortstop, so it'll be cool to pick his brain and talk to him.

"I'm going to keep my head down and watch from a distance. Even just being here [at minicamp], around some big leaguers here, everybody's so inclusive. They're so easy to talk to. If it's going to be the same, it's going to be awesome."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.