25 days until the Pittsburgh Pirates start Spring Training

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 19: Gregory Polanco
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 19: Gregory Polanco /

The Pittsburgh Pirates are less than a month away from sending their pitchers and catchers to the fields of Pirate City in Bradenton for their first workout of Spring Training 2018

In just 25 days, Clint Hurdle and the Pittsburgh Pirates will send their pitchers and catches to the fields at Pirate City beginning Spring Training 2018 for the Bucs.

Number 25 for the Pirates of course belongs to outfielder Gregory Polanco who will be transitioning from right field to left field during the 2018 season.

The now 26-year-old Gregory Polanco was once one of the most hyped prospects in all of baseball. After taking the National League by storm when he made his Major League debut in June of 2014, he slumped down the stretch that season. He also started 2015 slow, before being one of the team’s best hitters over the course of the season’s final three months.

Polanco’s hot stretch during the final three months of 2015 appeared to be him turning a corner and becoming the player he was expected to be (.330 wOBA, 110 wRC+ in his final 349 plate appearances). This appeared to be especially true when he owned a .360 on-base percentage, .495 slugging percentage, .359 wOBA, and a wRC+ of 125 at the 2016 All-Star Break.

Ever since the end of the 2016 All-Star Break, however, Polanco has not been the same player. This has largely been due to injury. In the span of the past season and a half Polanco has accumulated just 654 plate appearances due to knee and hamstring injuries, and he owns just a .295 wOBA and a wRC+ of 80. He has slugged just .399 while getting on base at just a .291 clip.

One of the major storylines to watch with the 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates will be Gregory Polanco. If he can stay healthy and duplicate the success he had from the end of the 2015 All-Star Break to the start of the 2016 All-Star Break over the course of a full season, that would be a massive development for the franchise moving forward.

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On April 5, 2016, Polanco signed a long-term contract with the Pirates. This contract will keep him under team control through 2023. This is a big reason why the long-term success of the Pittsburgh Pirates hinges largely on Gregory Polanco being healthy and productive. Hopefully, for both Polanco and the Bucs, 2018 will be the first season of many in which he finds health and consistent success.