In 2017, Gregory Polanco had an exit velocity issue

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 07: Gregory Polanco
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 07: Gregory Polanco /

Exit velocity was a major issue that plagued Pittsburgh Pirates’ outfielder Gregory Polanco during his subpar 2017 season

Many people thought that 2017 would be a breakthrough season for Gregory Polanco. After putting together a strong second half in 2015 and then a strong first four months in 2016 before being hampered by a leg injury, all signs pointed toward the former top-10 overall prospect putting it all together in 2017.

Unfortunately for Gregory Polanco and the Pirates, this did not happen in 2017. Part of Polanco’s issues in 2017 stemmed from multiple disabled list stints due to hamstring issues. Another factor in Polanco’s struggles came from him having an exit velocity issue.

Exit velocity is how fast the baseball is traveling after a hitter hits the ball. The Major League average exit velocity is 87.27 miles per hour. In 2017, Gregory Polanco’s exit velocity was just 86.82 miles per hour.

Gregory Polanco had just a 25.9 percent hard contact rate in 2017, the lowest since his rookie campaign in 2014 (24.3 percent). This hard contact rate checked in at 94th among 105 National League batters who had at least 400 plate appearances during the 2017 season. Polanco’s low exit velocity led to him making the least amount of hard contact since 2014 and the second least amount of his career.

The low exit velocity and lack of hard contact is why despite having a strong average launch angle of 14.88 degrees, launch angles of 10-25 degrees equate to line drives and ultimately every hitter enters an at-bat with the goal of hitting a line drive, is a major reason why Polanco struggled to the tune of a .391 slugging percentage, .297 wOBA, and a wRC+ of 81 in 2017.

In 2018, it will be up to Gregory Polanco and Pirate hitting coach Jeff Branson to work to fix his exit velocity issues. This can be done in a variety of ways, but, odds are, it will take a change in Polanco’s stance and hand placement pre-swing. This will be the top priority for Polanco and the Bucs once he gets to Bradenton.

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Gregory Polanco is still just 26-years-old and not even in the prime of his career yet. Despite his inconsistent performance the past four seasons, he still has all the tools needed to turn into the above league average hitter everyone envisioned when he was in the minor leagues.

For this to happen, however, it is up to Polanco and the Pirate coaching staff to make the changes needed to allow him to generate more swing force at the plate. And, for the team’s sake, the Pirates better hope Polanco figures it out since he signed a long-term contract in 2016 that keeps him under team control through 2023.

It goes without saying that 2018 is a vital season for Gregory Polanco.