Kramer rounds out Top 10 on 2B prospect list

January 22nd, 2018

PITTSBURGH -- Since the day he was drafted in 2015, Kevin Kramer consistently hit for average and constantly got on base. The only thing missing, it seemed, was power.
It showed up last year. Kramer slashed .297/.380/.500 with six homers and 17 doubles over 53 games for Double-A Altoona in an injury-shortened age-23 season. That promising performance, combined with his pedigree as a second-round pick, was enough to earn Kramer the final spot on MLB Pipeline's list of Top 10 Second Base Prospects, which was announced Monday.
Kramer was the Pirates' third pick in 2015, behind shortstop Kevin Newman and third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes. The Bucs selected him as a shortstop out of UCLA, but since he has spent most of his Minor League career playing alongside Newman, Kramer shifted over to second base.
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Kramer hit .291 with a .375 on-base percentage in his professional debut in 2015, but slugged just .366. His '16 output was similar, as he slashed .277/.352/.378 with Class A Advanced Bradenton during his first full season. Then he moved up to Double-A last year and slugged .500 in 234 plate appearances.
Kramer's power surge came at the cost of an increased strikeout rate. He whiffed in 21.4 percent of his plate appearances for Altoona, compared to just 12.3 percent in Bradenton and 13.6 percent in 2015. Still, he didn't sacrifice his high average and OBP just to hit for more power.
He didn't hit a home run in his pro debut. He hit four in 118 games for Bradenton. Then he went deep six times in 53 games for Altoona and twice more in the Arizona Fall League. Where did the power come from?
"My mentality switch from last year was more about driving the ball and being able to do a little bit more damage with pitches in certain counts and be more willing to risk that," Kramer told during the Fall League. "As far as that's concerned, it's about getting a good pitch to hit first and foremost, because you're not going to be able to do damage with bad pitches. So getting a good pitch to hit and trying to drive it -- not necessarily trying to hit home runs or hit doubles, just drive it into gaps. And sometimes they go out."
Kramer's season was interrupted by a fractured right hand, however, an injury that effectively ended his season on June 10. He returned for a handful of rehab games in early September and made up for some of the time he lost by participating in the Fall League.
The left-handed hitter didn't put up great numbers in the Fall League, slashing .200/.296/.317 in 60 at-bats over 16 games while spending some time at shortstop, his old position.
Kramer will be in Major League Spring Training camp with the Pirates, giving him a chance to work with the big league coaching staff. Despite his limited time in Double-A, they could push him to Triple-A Indianapolis, where he would rejoin Newman in the middle of the infield. That would put Kramer on pace to make his Major League debut later this year or, more likely, at some point in 2019.