After playing in Japan's NPB in 2022, former Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco will have a new home in the league for the 2023 season
At one time few prospects in all of baseball were more hyped than Gregory Polanco. Following a strong start to his MLB career that led to a long-term contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Polanco began to struggle with consistency and injuries causing his career to fizzle out.
These issues led to Polanco being out of Major League Baseball following the 2021 season. As a result Polanco played in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball Organization in 2022. For the 2023 season, Polanco will remain in the NPB. However, Polanco will now have a new home in the NPB as he has signed with the Chibba Lotte Marines.
During the 2022 season Polanco played for the Yomiuri Giants in the NPB. Polanco hit for a .240/.306/.457 slash line in 484 plate appearances during his first season in the NPB. He hit 24 home runs and struck out at a 22.4% clip.
Polanco finished his MLB career with 3220 PAs in eight seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. In his MLB career, Polanco hit for a .241/.309/.409 slash line with a 92 wRC+ and an OPS+ of 94. In addition to injuries, strikeouts were always a major issue in his MLB career as Polanco owned a lifetime 21.6% strikeout rate. While a 21.6% strikeout rate is not high enough to be a problem.
Offensively, Polanco's best MLB season came in 2018 when he hit for a .254/.340/.499 slash line with a 123 wRC+. His 2.6 fWAR in 2018 was the second highest of his MLB career next to his 2.7 fWAR in 2016. At this point, it appeared that Polanco, who had just completed his fifth MLB season, was turning a corner as a hitter. Unfortunately, injuries would go on to plague his final three seasons with the Pirates.
Polanco is still just 31-years-old. If he has a strong showing this season he could play his way into another chance in the United States in 2024. It may have to come as a minor league free agent, but it's a scenario that could unfold.