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Kevin Kramer is the Pirates Prospects Player of the Month for April

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This spring we named Kevin Kramer as our pick for the breakout prospect this year. While it’s too early in the season to say we were right, he is certainly the front-runner for that title. Kramer is second in the entire farm system in batting average, first in on base percentage, first among everyday players in slugging percentage and the leader in OPS. He has reached base safely in all 20 games played this season, 18 times collecting at least one base hit, nine times with multi-hit games. In one of the two games he didn’t collect a hit, he was hit by a pitch three times and also drew a walk. When you add all of those things up, that makes Kevin Kramer our Player of the Month for April.

The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Kramer in the second round in 2015, going heavy with infield bats at the top of the draft. The two players taken ahead of him that year, Ke’Bryan Hayes and Kevin Newman, haven’t disappointed, but the best hitter of the group this season is Kramer. He was considered to have an advanced approach at the plate when he joined the Pirates and he put up solid stats after the draft, splitting his time between Morgantown and West Virginia.

Kramer began last season with Bradenton, after putting up strong results in Spring Training. We thought he could be a breakout prospect last year, but the pitcher-friendly Florida State League did a number on his stats. He made consistent hard contact last year and showed off that advanced approach at the plate. The numbers were still respectable at .277/.352/.378 in 118 games, but they fell short of what we were seeing on the field. That’s happened before to middle infielders in Bradenton, with Adam Frazier and Max Moroff being the prime examples. Both looked much better than the final stats, then each of them put up big numbers the following season with Altoona.

This spring was a lot like last spring for Kramer, with one slight improvement. He was crushing the ball this spring like a power hitter, showing some added pop compared to last year. During 2016 spring, he was really driving the ball well, picking up his share of extra-base hits. This spring those long drives were going over the fence instead of off the fence. He hasn’t miss a beat since arriving in Altoona, already putting up 11 extra-base hits, including three homers. He hit four homers total between the 2015-16 seasons. The stats you see so far for the Curve, match the performance at the plate. Even many of his outs are well hit balls right at fielders. He’s clearly not going to keep up a 1.091 OPS this year, but you shouldn’t expect a sharp decline over the rest of the season.

Kramer previously looked like his minimum upside would be a utility player in the majors, who is solid enough defensively that he could take turns at shortstop and third base. That shouldn’t be a tough level to reach at this point, but he’s looking more and more like he could be an average everyday second baseman in the majors someday. You obviously want to see more of his April success before you think that far ahead, but what you’re finally seeing is stats that match the bat we have seen since last March.

PLAYERS OF THE MONTH BY LEVEL

Indianapolis – Chris Bostick, IF/OF (.337/.368/.542, 87 PA, 2 HR)

Altoona – Kevin Kramer, 2B (.373/.478/.613, 90 PA, 3 HR)

Bradenton – Logan Hill, LF (.274/.337/.547, 104 PA, 6 HR)

West Virginia – Ty Moore, LF (.377/.429/.532, 85 PA, 1 HR)

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John Dreker
John Dreker
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball. When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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