Kevin Kramer Learns To Elevate For Power

The Pirates will have their potential future double-play duo of Pacific-12 Conference middle infielders named Kevin together in big league camp in 2018 for the first time.

The Pirates selected Arizona star Kevin Newman and UCLA’s Kevin Kramer in the first and second rounds, respectively, of the 2015 draft, both as shortstops.

Newman appeared at big league camp a year ago, but the 24-year-old Kramer will be there for the first time. He shifted to second base upon turning pro, and his development reminds some of former Pirates stalwart Neil Walker.

The lefthanded-hitting Kramer has always been known for good bat control going back to his days with the Bruins, when he helped them to a College World Series title in 2013 and hit .323 as a junior. In recent seasons, however, he has been working on elevating the ball to improve his power numbers.

He hasn’t become a home run hitter yet, though he launched six while batting .297/.380/.500 in 53 games at Double-A Altoona in 2017 before his season was shortened by a hand injury.

In the Arizona Fall League, Kramer continued to swing for elevation, hitting a pair of home runs and a double in 16 games.

“The guy can hit,” Altoona manager Michael Ryan said. “He’s a gap-to-gap guy. He gets the barrel of the bat on the ball and his strike-zone awareness is excellent. He sticks in there against lefthanded pitchers. He knows what he’s doing. The power potential is going to be there, and he hits a ton of doubles.”

And Kramer is showing power to the opposite field as well as the pull side.

“Altoona is a big park to right field, and he’s hitting the ball over the fence there,” Ryan said. “He was going out of the park to left field, too . . . Long-term, he’s a doubles guy, but he can be a 15-20 home run guy.”

Kramer will likely spend 2018 at Triple-A Indianapolis, but he could have a clearer path to the big leagues if the Pirates decide to trade Josh Harrison. He spent time at shortstop in instructional league to prepare him to play multiple positions.

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