Gregory Polanco Adjusted His Swing In 2017

Jun 22, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco (25) ) hits a solo home run in the fourth inning during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 22, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco (25) ) hits a solo home run in the fourth inning during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

Gregory Polanco had a big first half in 2016, but he has since struggled heavily, especially in the first half of this 2017 season.  He has made some adjustments to his swing and load that seem to have had negative impacts.

Polanco entered the 2014 season as the number 10 prospect in baseball according to Baseball America.  That ranked two spots below 2015 National League Rookie of the Year and 2016 National League Most Valuable Player Kris Bryant.  In this piece written by J.J. Cooper of Baseball America, he gives this tidbit of Gregory Polanco:

"“There simply aren’t many hitters in the game who can hit a towering home run and turn in a sub-4.0-second time to first on an infield grounder in the same game. Polanco can do both of those things. The power doesn’t seem all that surprising when you consider his size and strength, but his speed continues to catch teams by surprise.”"

He had high hopes, and he has shown glimpses of what made him a highly ranked prospect.  In his first month in 2014, Polanco posted a .287/.374/.375 slash, but in the final three months, which included a demotion to Indianapolis, Polanco hit just .213/.280/.330.  He showed glimpses of his promises, and also his rawness as a hitter.

In 2015, Polanco hit .233/.299/.335 from April through June.  However, in July and August Polanco hit .303/.372/.464.  Polanco was stinging the ball in those two months, having an average exit velocity of 90.5 miles per hour.  Just look at his swing in this video.  Notice the hands, he keeps himself loose while Dan Haren is getting ready to pitch.  He also keeps his hands high and ready to load quick.  Polanco is able to get on time, and use his swing to connect to the ball.   Gregory Polanco was able to control the bat head in July and August of 2015.

Gregory was able to keep this wave going in the first half of 2016, hitting .287/.362/.500 with a .213 isolated power.  Polanco was generating power with the bat for the first time in his career.  In this video on June 4, 2016 Polanco hits another home run.  Again, watch the hands.  They’re moving and Polanco is staying relaxed before he needs to get in his set position.  Once Salas separates his hands, Polanco was able to get hands into great position to be quick to the ball.  In this video, he incorporates a leg kick, something he also uses as a timing bonus, and he deposits another home run.

Later on in the season, on July 6, 2016 (Polanco hit .243/.293/.471, still showing power with a .229 isolated power, and he was unlucky with a .235 batting average on balls in play, Polanco had his hands in the same ready to go spot.  In this video, Polanco still keeps moving his hands to create a rhythm and flow and before getting ready to hit.  His hands are still in a great spot to load and drive the ball.  Polanco doesn’t have a leg kick here, but he still gets his front foot down in a good spot, and he isn’t a “front foot down early” hitter.  Polanco took the pitch and dropped in for a single.  It was not the best contact of Polanco’s career, but he was in a good position with his hands.

In August and September of 2016, Polanco struggled.  He hit just .206/.249/.386 in those two months.  So far in 2017, he has hit .241/.305/.366.  There has been a change, primarily with his hands and in his setup, which can be seen in this video.  Polanco is not moving his hands much, making him look more stiff.  His hands are also lower in his setup.  When he starts his load and swing, Polanco takes a circular motion with his hands, taking a longer route to the ball.  Polanco was not getting on time.

Then, a week ago against the Chicago Cubs, Gregory Polanco was making much better contact, and he homered off of Jake Arrieta.  Why?  Just look at the hands in this video.  Polanco has them higher up again, and he takes a direct path to the ball without a hitch.  The swing is much better.  There is also a different in his feet.  In the video against the Cardinals, his feet were more aligned, but against Chicago he opened up more, similar to how he was in the first half of 2016, added a little leg kick, and homered.  Although it was a ground out, he kept the hands higher and feet more open last Saturday.

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For Gregory Polanco, lowering his hands was not the answer.  He changed up what was working, and what he was using to barrel the baseball up.  Once he lowered his hands, Polanco had less rhythm to him, and was more set pre pitch.  He was not loose, and once he was ready to go, Polanco was reloading his hands up and attacking.  When Polanco is hitting well, he has movement pre swing, keeps his hands up so he does not reload, and his feet are opened up.  Getting Gregory back to doing this will yield better results.

*Numbers from fangraphs and video from MLB