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Arizona Diamondbacks

Kevin Newman Emerging as an Option at Shortstop for the Diamondbacks

Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Kevin Newman (18) throws the ball across the diamond against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.
May 12, 2024; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Kevin Newman (18) throws out Baltimore Orioles left fielder Ryan O'Hearn (not pictured) after fielding a ground ball during the eighth inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Before his walk-off single against the Cincinnati Reds Monday night, Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo identified Kevin Newman as someone who’s emerged for them recently. Newman signed a minor league deal with the team in the offseason but was ready to move on when he didn’t make the Opening Day roster as the backup shortstop. A strong spring by Blaze Alexander resulted in him getting selected to the roster. However, a couple of injuries at the position necessitated his return to the organization and he was on the big league roster on April 7.

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The Diamondbacks tried to give Alexander chances to secure the shortstop job, but his defensive struggles got to the point where it was costing them games. Instead, the starting shortstop role has increasingly gone to Newman, who has run with this opportunity of late. The bat has been off to a slow start, hitting .179 with two home runs and a .501 OPS in his first 24 games. He has eight hits in his last three games, pushing his season average to .253 with a .710 OPS. Newman’s recent offensive surge has lengthened the Diamondbacks lineup, allowing the bottom of the order to build innings and set the stage for the top of the order to put up crooked numbers.

Those numbers will play at the position, especially considering his solid glovework at the position. Entering play, Kevin Newman has been one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball with +5 defensive runs saved and +4 outs above average in just 27 games. Having a shortstop who is not only a good defender, but also gives competent at-bats at the bottom of the lineup is something the Diamondbacks missed when Geraldo Perdomo went down with a torn meniscus last month.

When Perdomo completes his recovery from his meniscectomy, the team will have to make some tough decisions for the shortstop position. Perdomo was named the starter by Lovullo at the beginning of Spring Training. At the minimum, he is their best option to start at the position against right-handed pitching, where he slashed .246/.362/.374 in 424 plate appearances in 2023. Kevin Newman would likely become the backup shortstop and get most of his remaining starts against left-handed pitchers. Newman has been above-average against left-handed pitching the last three seasons, with a .314/.363/.459 slash in 249 PA.

In theory, the team could shift to a platoon to try to maximize the offense at shortstop, or they revert back to the initial plan of Geraldo Perdomo as the everyday starter getting 80% of the remaining starts at the position and Kevin Newman being the backup. Those decisions will likely need to be made over the next couple weeks when Perdomo is close to being activated from the injured list.

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Michael McDermott covers the Arizona Diamondbacks and Arizona Cardinals for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on X via @MichaelMcDMLB

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