Pittsburgh Pirates: Options To Replace Gregory Polanco
The Pittsburgh Pirates starting right fielder, Gregory Polanco, has struggled. The club has a few internal options to replace him in 2021 and going forward.
Gregory Polanco was the Pittsburgh Pirates top prospect in the organization entering 2014 and expectations were sky-high for the former number 10 prospect in baseball per Baseball America. Polanco got off to a great start, posting the longest hitting streak in club history to start their career. However, as the season progressed, Polanco was optioned back to Triple-A Indianapolis in what was an omen to the rest of his career.
Polanco has always shown glimmers of hope. He posted 2.2 fWAR in his second season of 2015 and hit .258/.323/.463 in 2016, increasing his wRC+ from 92 to 106 and again posting 2.2 fWAR. Injuries limited the outfielder in 2017 but he hit .254/.340/.499 in 2018, posting a career best 123 wRC+ and 2.5 fWAR in 2018. However, Polanco got hurt at the end of the year on a slide and he has struggled ever since.
Polanco hit just .242/.301/.425 in 42 games in 2019 post injury, never really looking the same and followed it up with a .153/.214/.325 line and -0.7 fWAR in 2020. After posting below average strikeout rates, Polanco has struck out 29.3 percent of the time (2019) and 37.4 percent of the time (2020). He had struggled in Spring Training, hitting .231/.302/.513 and has started this season 1-10 with four strikeouts.
The Pittsburgh Pirates owe Polanco $11.6 million this season and he has two club options for 2022 and 2023, with 2022 coming with a $3 million buyout. That appears to be the likely outcome given his results but the Pirates have some options to replace him. Marty mentioned Troy Stokes as a player fans will see in 2021, and he could easily replace Polanco if things continue to go south this year. The club could also start Dustin Fowler in a corner everyday or recall Jared Oliva and have him make some starts.
In terms of prospects, Travis Swaggerty should be ready soon, though the bat still needs to develop some. Swaggerty is considered a plus defender and could help the Pirates defense out. Additionally, Oneil Cruz should be ready soon and as he is not likely to stay at short, right field opens up a spot. He’s one of the Pirates best hitting prospects and can take the reins as the club’s everyday right fielder by June 2022.
Gregory Polanco’s time as the Pittsburgh Pirates starting right fielder is going to come to an end sooner rather than later. He has struggled in two seasons and didn’t hit that well this Spring. With a manageable $3 million buyout and internal options available to replace him, Polanco will need to start producing to remain.