Power Pushes Scott Kingery Past Former Arizona Teammate Kevin Newman
Newman was the star recruit of Arizona’s 2012 class. Kingery walked on.
Newman was the Wildcats’ everyday shortstop as a freshman, hitting .336 while walking more than he struck out. From that first day on campus, he was the capable shortstop who could put the bat on the ball.
Kingery was raw. He didn’t have a clear defensive position, and his bat was not as Division I ready. But from that first day, Kingery had more tools than Newman. He hit .261 that freshman year while bouncing around between outfield spots and even playing some DH.
For scouts, it was high floor versus high ceiling. Newman was a smooth shortstop. Kingery was a plus-plus runner with power potential. By their junior years, Newman had only added to his reputation as a college shortstop who would stay at the position, one with a lengthy résumé of hitting with wood and metal bats.
By their junior seasons, the gap between their reputations had started to narrow, even as Newman was authoring a fine college résumé, albeit one based on contact ability rather than power (he hit no home runs). He was an all-Pacific-12 Conference choice as a sophomore, then became the first player ever to win back-to-back Cape Cod League batting titles. As a junior in 2015, he hit .370/.426/.489 with a pair of homers while ranking among national leaders in being tough to strike out. He also stole 22 bases.
But Kingery was closing the gap on his teammate. An everyday center field as a sophomore, when he joined Newman as an all-conference performer, he also joined Newman on the Cape in 2014. As a junior, Kingery moved to second base to become Newman’s double-play partner and hit an even better .392/.423/.561 to earn Pac-12 player of the year honors.
That wasn’t enough to eclipse his teammate in the draft. The Pirates picked Newman 19th overall in 2015. Kingery had to wait until pick No. 48 to hear the Phillies call his name. Newman was a sure-fire steady shortstop; Kingery was a still somewhat raw second baseman.
And once again as a pro, the pattern has repeated.
Newman got off to a fast start. He hit .320/.389/.426 in his first full pro season, earning a midseason promotion from high Class A Bradenton to Double-A Altoona. Kingery was on a similar pace as he also went from high Class A Clearwater to Double-A Reading in 2016. However, his batting line was more modest at .281/.335/.388.
But in 2017, the toolsier Kingery has sped past the more well-rounded Newman.
Returning to Double-A, Newman had continued to make bushels of contact. He rarely strikes out (10.2 percent strikeout rate), but he also continues to be a singles hitter whose offensive contributions are largely tied to his ability to hit for average. With modest power and walk rates, Newman’s numbers are down because he’s not hitting for average.
"He’s more of a grinder with ability,” one pro scout told Baseball America. "He’s just OK, with some ability. He makes the routine plays and has good work habits. I don’t see any big holes; he’s got a pretty direct swing. He’s an above-average defender with above-average range. He’s a steady kind of player who will make the routine play and occasional above-average play.”
Kingery has taken the step forward that he did once before in his junior year at Arizona. He also returned to the Eastern League, beginning at Reading, but he hit his way out of there, earning a promotion to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Kingery had hit .318/.375/.624 with 22 home runs and 21 stolen bases in his first 78 games.
"I undersold him in college,” one front-office executive said, "but I also think he’s made legitimate strides since. He’s got a good tools package and a high floor.”
The scouts highest on Newman out of college saw his power developing as a pro, with several seeing him as a potential Alan Trammell type of player at his best. In today’s strikeout-heavy game, Newman’s ability to make contact at a high level could be a significant asset. However, his approach remains contact-oriented in pro ball, while Kingery has used his louder tools to bring a power-speed combination to the middle infield.
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If Kingery continues to hit like this and can stay at second base (he gets good reviews defensively from scouts), he’ll likely provide more value as a player than Newman, considering the game’s current emphasis on power.