The Most Important Pittsburgh Pirates in the Season’s Second Half

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 29: John Jaso /
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PITTSBURGH, PA – JULY 02: Gregory Polanco
PITTSBURGH, PA – JULY 02: Gregory Polanco /

Gregory Polanco

Very few Pirate hitters have the potential and ceiling that Gregory Polanco does. This is why he was one of the top-10 prospects in all of baseball before making his Major League debut in 2014. However, he has yet to reach this potential.

Additionally, 2017 has been the worst season of his career since his rookie season. There are reasons though to believe he is turning things around. If he does turn things around, it would be a massive boost to the Pirate lineup.

Gregory Polanco’s overall numbers this season are not pretty. In 285 plate appearances he owns a .308 wOBA, a wRC+ of 90, and a .317 on-base percentage. All of these numbers are the worst of his career, minus his rookie campaign of 2014. As was said above, though, there are reasons to believe he could turn things around.

First off, Polanco has been making more contact than ever this season. This is evident by his career-low 13.3 percent strikeout rate. Secondly, his power is starting to come around. His .146 ISO and .404 slugging percentage are both the second best of his career.

Finally, while it is a small sample size, Gregory Polanco has been hitting extremely well in recent weeks. In his last 44 plate appearances Polanco owns a .268 ISO, .386 on-base percentage, .634 slugging percentage, .422 wOBA, and a wRC+ of 164. Small sample size, yes, but still encouraging to see.

What is most encouraging about this is that Polanco has made an adjustment in his swing during this time. As Dave discussed here, Polanco’s swing was much different than it was when he had a great 4-month stretch to start the 2016 season. In recent weeks, his old swing has returned.

Gregory Polanco has drawn a lot of criticism from Pirate fans this year and it has been well deserved. However, there appear to be signs of him coming out of his season-long funk. And if the Pirates are going to make a run at the National League Central, they need Polanco to break out of this funk ASAP.