On September 4th the Pittsburgh Pirates promoted infield prospect Kevin Kramer to the major league roster. He’ll join Kevin Newman, already in the majors for two weeks, as an infield combination sure to please headline writers, comedians, and Gen Xers. We’ll get to Newman later this afternoon but here’s a look at Kramer.
Kevin Kramer was a three-year starter at UCLA and pushed into upper-rounds consideration with a fine junior year in 2015, hitting .323/.423/.476. The Pirates pulled the trigger in the second round and sent him to the New York-Penn League for his debut, where he hit .305/.390/.375.
A broken hand cost him much of the 2017 season but he hit well when healthy at .297/.380/.500 in Double-A, earning a Grade C+ ranking on the Pittsburgh Pirates Top 20 Prospects for 2018 list with this comment:
13) Kevin Kramer, 2B, Grade C+: Age 24, second round pick in 2015 out of UCLA; hit .297/.380/.500 in 202 at-bats in Double-A, though season was limited by a broken hand; makes for an interesting middle infield combination with Newman; Kramer has a lot more pop in his bat than Newman does but is rather strikeout prone and is limited to second base defensively, though he’s developed into a reliable defender there; ETA 2018.
The C+ looks a notch too low now. With a healthy hand Kramer has hit an excellent .311/.365/.492 in Triple-A with 35 doubles, 15 homers, 38 walks, and 127 strikeouts in 476 at-bats this season.
Listed at 6-0, 200, Kramer is a left-handed hitter, age 24. In college and the lower minors he as a contact hitter with a low strikeout rate and so-so power. but as he’s moved up he’s traded off strikeouts for more doubles and home runs. The more-aggressive approach has worked for him so far, boosting isolated power with no loss of batting average or OBP. We’ll have to see if that holds in the majors but he’s shown the willingness to make needed adjustments.
As a defender, Kramer doesn’t have a ton of range but is very sure-handed and makes few errors. He’s steady and reliable at both second and third base and can play shortstop if needed. He won’t be Ozzie Smith at short but he’s no butcher either.
With a proven track record and nothing left to learn in Triple-A, Kramer just needs an opportunity. He’s a very good prospect, at least a Grade B- and maybe even a straight Grade B at this point.