Best Player: It was safe to question if the Pirates made the right move in making Kevin Newman their first-round draft pick in 2015 based on his lackluster first professional season when he hit a combined .257/.318/.350 in 283 plate appearances with short season West Virginia and low Class A West Virginia.
However, Newman has lived up his pedigree as the 19th overall selection this season. He started the year with a sizzling .366/.424/.498 line in 189 plate appearances with high Class A Bradenton and followed by hitting .288/.361/.378 in 233 trips to the plate at Double-A Altoona.
Newman, 23, had also made just eight errors in 102 games, putting to rest talk that he may be better suited to play second base in the major leagues.
Best Pitcher: Good health and better command of his pitches enabled righthander Mitch Keller to have a breakthrough season two years after being picked in the second round of the 2014 draft from Xavier High in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Keller, 20, was 8-5, 2.46 in 23 starts at low Class A West Virginia. He was averaging 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings in 124.1 innings while allowing 6.9 hits, 0.3 home runs and 1.3 walks per nine with a stellar 7.28 strikeout/walk ratio. He made one start at high Class A Bradenton, pitching six shutout innings. Limited to 19.2 innings at Rookie-level Bristol last season because of a strained forearm, Keller throws his fastball in the low 90s and consistently keeps it low in the strike zone along with an 11-to-5 biting curveball and an improving changeup.
Keep An Eye On: As a teenager in Venezuela, Jose Osuna drew more attention as a pitcher before seeing a dip in his velocity. The Pirates signed him in 2009 and he has slowly climbed through the farm system, reaching Triple-A Indianapolis this season.
Osuna, 23, batted .291/.333/.482 in 233 Triple-A plate appearances after beginning the year at Altoona, where he hit .269/.329/.435 in 283 PAs. Osuna also had 13 home runs, a significant number considering he played in two hitters’ parks and is in an organization that lacks plus raw power.
“For 23 years old, you look at him and you think he’s older than he is,” Indianapolis hitting coach Butch Wynegar said. “He’s very mature. He’s a student of the game, he’s a student of hitting and he watches the pitchers.”