2018 Pittsburgh Pirates MVP: Gregory Polanco
Gregory Polanco made an adjustment at the plate in early June which led to him taking off at the plate and becoming the Pittsburgh Pirates’ MVP for 2018
For the first four years of his Major League career Gregory Polanco was a maddeningly inconsistent hitter for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The former top-10 overall prospect in all of baseball made his MLB debut in June of 2014 and it did not take long for the inconsistency to kick in. After making a case for NL Rookie of the Year during his first MLB month, he struggled so much in the coming weeks that he was demoted to the minors at one point and sat out the NL Wild Card Game that season.
To start 2018, Polanco was up to his frustrating ways. On top of playing poor defense and showing a lack of hustle, the Pirate right fielder struggled at the plate to start the season. At the end of May Polanco was slashing .213/.319/.426 with a .318 wOBA and a wRC+ of just 100. However, he was about to explode offensively.
It was around this time that now ex-Pirate hitting coach Jeff Branson finally had Polanco do something that he had been in obvious need of for a long time. This change was Polanco backed off the plate, and it made a huge difference for the lefty hitter.
From June 1st through the end of Polanco’s season, which came on September 7th due to a shoulder issue that required surgery, he slashed .281/.354/.547 with a .266 ISO, .377 wOBA, and a 139 wRC+.
Overall, Polanco looked like a rejuvenated player. During the final four months of the season Polanco played plus defense in right field and was a strong, aggressive base runner. During this stretch it was obvious who the Pirates’ best player was – Polanco.
Polanco’s strong four month finish to the season led to him slashing .254/.340/.499 with a .245 ISO, .353 wOBA, and a 123 wRC+. Minus batting average, all of these were new career bests for Polanco. His 2.5 fWAR was a career best as well.
Unfortunately for Polanco and the Pirates, he will miss the start of the 2019 season due to shoulder surgery that he underwent last month. But, when he returns, if he is able to pick up where he left off at in 2018 then he should once again be one of the team’s best players and could be a key cog in a potential postseason team in 2019.