Pittsburgh Pirates primed for hot starts

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Mar 28, 2015; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco (25) celebrates with outfielder Andrew McCutchen (22) after a first inning home run with during the spring training game against the Toronto Blue Jays at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball is a game of streaks. Players can bat below the mendoza line one month, then have MVP numbers in another. The Pittsburgh Pirates saw plenty of these streaks last season. Case and point: in 2014, Starling Marte didn’t bat .300 in any month from April through July, then hit .344 in August and .363 in September to help propel the Pirates into the playoffs. Jordy Mercer‘s average by month went from .175 in April and .225 in May to .319 in July and .284 in August. Francisco Liriano had an ERA of 4.50 in June followed by an ERA of 1.96 in July.

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Needless to say, players can get hot and cold throughout the year. Some players need time to warm up, others come out of the gate on fire. So, which Pittsburgh Pirates are primed for hot starts in 2015?

Gregory Polanco

After crushing Triple-A pitching in the first half of 2014 to the tune of a .328 average with 7 home runs and 51 RBIs, Gregory Polanco was called up to the majors and continued his torrid streak in June with a .288 average, 10 RBIs, and 4 steals in 80 at-bats. Of course, his average caved to .235 when the league’s pitching caught up to him. He only has a .171 average against lefties in the majors to date, as he didn’t have enough time to counter-adjust to the league. But Polanco has the ability to do that out of the gates this April. Why is that?

For starters, Polanco struck out at a 21% rate in the big leagues last season. This spring, he’s striking out at just a 12% clip. Less strikeouts equals more hits and walks, leading to more positive plays. That’s a good sign for Polanco.

He also added necessary weight this offseason, in the form of 12-15 pounds of muscle. For a 6 foot 5 giant, that muscle is even more important. With added muscle comes more power, and it’ll be exciting to see that power in action this season.

One other immeasurable benefit to Polanco’s repetoire: his relationship with Starling Marte. Both players are from the Dominican Republic, and the importance of having a teammate, especially one that also plays in the outfield, who speaks the same language as you, and who works out with you in the offseason in your home country can’t be understated. This offseason was vitally important to Polanco, who took full advantage of it. Expect him to get off to a hot start this year.

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