Pittsburgh Pirates News: Gregory Polanco To Play Winter Ball
By Marty Leap
It goes without saying that the 2020 season did not go the way that Gregory Polanco or the Pittsburgh Pirates hoped it would. Looking to bounce back after missing most of 2019 due to injuries, Polanco struggled mightily at the plate.
In the worst season of MLB career, Polanco hit for just a .153/.214/.325 slash line to go with a wRC+ of 42 in 174 plate appearances. These results, however, did not tell the whole story for Polanco, which is something we will discuss.
This offseason, Polanco will be looking to get back on track. As Adam Berry of MLB.com reported over the weekend, Polanco will play winter ball in his native Dominican Republic this offseason in an effort to make up for the at bats he has lost the past two seasons.
Polanco will play for Leone del Escogido. This will not be the first time he has played winter ball in the DR, but it will be the first time he has done so since he played for Leone del Escogido in the 2013-2014 offseason.
The biggest issue for Polanco in 2020 was strikeouts. He struck out an alarming 37.4% of the time, while walking just 7.5% of the time. This strikeout rate was, by far, the worst of Polanco’s career, while the walk rate was the second worst of his career.
What Polanco did well though is hit the ball hard. His average exit velocity in 2020 was 92.9 MPH which was in the 95th percentile of baseball. Polanco’s 51.6% hard hit rate was in the 93rd percentile of baseball, and his 12.6% barrel rate was in the 83rd percentile of baseball.
Polanco hit the ball with a lot of authority in 2020. The problem is, he did not make contact often enough. This is what he will need to work on most in winter ball. The left-handed hitter was also victimized by a .193 batting average on balls in play in 2020. Posting a BAbip that low when hitting the ball with the authority Polanco did is hard to believe. This BAbip also points toward Polanco being due for a bounce back season in 2021, especially if he can continue to hit the ball hard.
Hopefully, Polanco will be able to get his swing back on track while playing in the DR. Most of all, both Polanco and the Pittsburgh Pirates will be hopeful that he can cut down on the strikeouts this winter. If he does that, he could set himself up to have a bounce back season in 2021.