Pittsburgh Pirates Mailbag: April 17, 2018

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 15: Gregory Polanco
MIAMI, FL - APRIL 15: Gregory Polanco /

Welcome back to Rum Bunter’s weekly Pittsburgh Pirates mailbag. As always, thank you to everyone who participated in this week’s mailbag!

It is time for the weekly Pittsburgh Pirates mailbag here at Rum Bunter.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are off to a great start in 2018 with an 11-5 record, which puts them in first place in the National League Central Division.

Absolutely not. Right now, Gregory Polanco is the victim of some awful luck.

Polanco is making hard contact a healthy, and career-high, 37.5 percent of the time this season. Additionally, his average exit velocity of 90.78 miles per hour is higher than the league average of 88.88 miles per hour. He also owns a stellar 14.3 percent walk rate and has drawn a team leading 10 walks this season.

At the moment Polanco’s biggest issue is a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of just .184. League average BABIP is .300 and anytime a hitter has a BABIP below .300 it indicates they have been the victim of some bad luck as a hitter. When it is .184, you have had terrible luck.

Polanco’s approach at the plate and has not changed at all from the beginning of the season and he has just been insanely unlucky in recent weeks. As long as he keeps his strong approach, the hits will start to fall again very soon.

The latest on Joe Musgrove is that he has begun to throw from flat ground in his recovery from a muscle strain. He is now scheduled to throw off a mound today and he will follow that up with a bullpen session on Thursday.

The next step after that will be for Musgrove to begin a rehab assignment. So, yes, he will make at least one or two minor league rehab starts before joining the Pirate rotation. With Steven Brault‘s struggles, the starting rotation could use a boost and, hopefully, Musgrove can provide that boost.

I believe a lot of people overlook Trevor Williams’ pedigree. On top of pitching at one of the best college programs in the country – Arizona State – he was also a 2nd round draft pick by the Marlins. Additionally, when the Pirates acquired him from the Marlins he was Miami’s top pitching prospect.

Williams is developing into a very strong middle of the rotation starting pitcher for the Pirates. In his last 27 starts, Williams has posted a 3.41 ERA, 3.75 FIP, and a 2.9 fWAR in 153 innings pitched. That is pretty darn good.

What makes Williams so successful is his ability to spot his pitches. During this 27 start stretch he has averaged just 3.00 BB/9 and has done a great job of placing his fastball on the corners. His ability to locate leads to Williams generating a lot of weak swings and this makes him one of the best pitchers in the National League in generating weak contact.

While Williams will never wow anyone with stuff, his control will always make him a strong middle of the rotation starting pitcher.

If this team is still contending come July, I have no doubt Neal Huntington will add to the roster. In 2013 he added Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau. In 2015 he added Aramis Ramirez, J.A. Happ, Joakim Soria, Joe Blanton, and Michael Morse. In 2016 it was Ivan Nova. So, when the Pirates have been contenders in July, Huntington has, minus 2014, always been active.

As for ‘adding lightly’ or going ‘all in’, it all depends on how you define these two terms. In my opinion, they went ‘all in’ during July of 2015 with the additions they made. Others, however, will claim the Pirates should have done more.

To get back on track with July 2018, if the Pirates look to add when the trade deadline rolls around three months, odds are, they will look to address the bullpen. The bench could also be a spot where the Pirates look to add help.

Usually, bullpen arms and bench bats are not sexy additions. Therefore, even if it is not accurate, a lot of people would probably view it as the Pirates ‘adding lightly.’

Next: Prospect Spotlight: Brandon Waddell

That will do it for this week. If you ever have a question for our mailbag, look for our Tweet each week asking for questions.