RICHMOND, Va.—Kevin Kramer has long been lauded for his feel to hit, dating back to his days at UCLA and in the lower levels of the Pirates system.
What the 23-year-old second baseman is doing now at Double-A Altoona, however, is on a whole other level.
Kramer, the Pirates No. 21 prospect and 2015 second-round pick, blasted a double off the wall for the second straight game Wednesday in Altoona's 10-3 win over Richmond (Giants).
Kramer has now reached base in all 27 games he has played this season, and boasts a .376/.475/.614 slash line.
"What exceeds expectations for me is you'll give him some ideas to work on . . . and he goes out and applies it," Altoona manager Michael Ryan said. "He has the ability to apply that plan right away or those adjustments right away and he takes what he's been taught and has success with it quickly. It's special."
The lefthanded-hitting Kramer was originally envisioned as a bottom-of-the-order, contact-oriented type. But after adding muscle and changing his approach in the offseason, Kramer has moved into the No. 3 spot in Altoona's batting order and become a bonafide slugger.
His doubles in back-to-back games at Richmond were each shots high off the wall in right field, no easy task in one the most expansive ballparks in the country. They came off of two legitimate pitching prospects as well, the first off Giants No. 5 prospect Andrew Suarez on Tuesday and the second off Giants No. 11 prospect Sam Coonrod on Wednesday.
Kramer already has three home runs this year after hitting four total in his first two seasons as a professional. His 11 doubles have him on pace to nearly double his 29 two-baggers last season.
"(Pirates hitting coordinator) Larry Sutton and I worked a ton together, especially at instructs last year, just about altering your mentality a little bit and trying to drive the ball more effectively," Kramer said. "We altered some mechanics here and there, not much, the mentality is just more so driving the ball. The mentality has been a big change for me, which I'm really happy with and bought in to completely. It was a step I was ready to take when they gave me that challenge, and it's only going to get better."
Ryan feels the same way.
"He's going to hit for power," the Altoona manager said. "You look at the doubles, that's the first sign of late power in your career. He's right on schedule. Ball comes off his bat plenty. Still a younger guy so he's going to get stronger."
It's pretty much been all success for Kramer so far at the plate in 2017. As far as he is concerned, it's just the start of things to come.
"It's really as a simple as having a plan, knowing how you want to go about the plan, and then just executing," Kramer said. "At the end of the day if you put in the time and you're working on the stuff you want to work on, good things are going to come."
NEWS AND NOTES
Pirates No. 5 prospect Kevin Newman was hit in the head by a 94-mph fastball in his first at-bat and left the game. He underwent tests at a local hospital and was diagnosed with a forehead contusion but no concussion.
Giants No. 3 prospect Chris Shaw had two of Richmond's five hits in the loss. He drove a two-run double off the wall in right in the first inning and lined a single into right in the third. He also played left field for the third time in four games, a new position for the former right fielder and first baseman.
Richmond righthander Sam Coonrod, the Giants No. 11 prospect, lasted 4.1 innings, gave up five hits and seven runs, walked two and struck out eight. Coonrod sat 93-96 mph with his fastball and used it primarily with an 85-89 mph slider. He threw an occasional 82-85 mph changeup as well. Coonrod worked almost exclusively up in the zone, and as a result got swings and misses on high fastballs but also got hit hard when he didn't get it up enough, resulting in a number of hard hits including four doubles and a home run.
Altoona starter Brandon Waddell, the Pirates No. 16 prospect, allowed his first five batters to reach base and was pulled. Staked to a 4-0 lead in the first, Waddell gave up three walks and two hits and was charged with three runs. He threw only 13 of his 29 pitches for strikes. Waddell sat 91-92 mph with his fastball but struggled to command it, while his 79-81 mph changeup consistently missed low and outside to righthanded batters by several inches.